So we finally went to the dentist in Mexico and I know many of you are very, very interested in the results. I’ll start off by saying I don’t necessarily have the fear that many might have of getting care in a “foreign country”. I was born in a foreign country, grew up in Asia, have been to the dentist in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, UK, US, S.America and have received both good and not-so-good care in my past. So going to get work done in Mexico is not that big a deal. But I do think there are general precautions everyone should take up-front and there are some significant $$ advantages which makes it worth looking into.
What I want to do in this first post is try to clarify some Myths and Facts about Mexican Dentists before I delve into details about our own experience and how you can go about making your own choice in dentist. This post will be mostly related to the town we visited, Los Algonodones although I will try to touch on some general points too.
1/ Myth Or Fact: It’s Not Safe At All To Go To Mexico
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that all of Mexico is a safe place to visit, the same way I’m not going to gell you that all parts of New York are safe to visit. There are certainly many towns that are not safe at the moment, and (just personally) I won’t be taking any RV trips to Mexico anytime soon. But I can absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt tell you that Los Algodones is fine. This is a tourist town right by the border of only ~5 square blocks with literally thousands of people coming through everyday. There are more tourists than locals here, and everyone depends on the business. We did not feel the faintest touch of worry down there and I would be quite happy to visit by myself (which, in fact, I’m going to do next Monday for my last appt).
2/ Myth Or Fact : You Can Get Any Kind Of Dental Work Done in Mexico
Yes, you can get just about anything done in Mexico. The border town of Los Algodones caters specifically to dental, prescription drug and eyeglass tourists. In this small 5-block town there are over 300 dentists with every kind of specialty imaginable from basic cleaning to full dental implants. Many tourists actually go for major work mostly because of the cost advantages (see #3 below) so it’s common to see people having multiple implants and other large cosmetic procedures down there. Paul and I both had cleanings in Mexico yesterday and I’m in the middle of having some more serious work to remove a crown, re-do the root canal and re-do the crown (work I’ve been putting off for a long time). It will be a week before my work is complete so I will report back fully at that time.
3/ Myth Or Fact: Dentist Work Is Alot Cheaper In Mexico
Typically any work you get done in Los Algodones will cost ~1/3 of US prices and this is true of most Mexican border towns. How are they able to do it? Mostly because of lower operating costs, lower insurance, lower labor costs etc. As an example here are some costs:
Root Canal $200
Fully porcelain (no metal) Crown $300
Dental Implants $1200-$1700
And for more major work? We know a couple who were quoted ~$50,000 for a major restoration (with implants) in the US and got them done for $17,000 in Los Algodones. Work costs will vary somewhat from office to office, so ask around before setting-up your appt.
4/ Myth Or Fact: All Dentists in Mexico Have Been Trained In The US
This is actually a common myth that’s perpetrated on the internet forums. The vast majority of Mexican dentists are trained in schools in Mexico. They may come to the US for specialty training or post-grad training, but almost all the dentists in Los Algodones will have degrees from Mexico, and you’ll see these hanging right on their walls.
5/ Myth Or Fact: All Mexican Dentists Are Good
This should really be self-evident and applies to any dentist in any country. You can get good and bad care just about anywhere. In fact my botched crown job that I’ve been living with for ~15 years was originally done in the US (this dentist also destroyed some of my other teeth, unfortunately). Not that that says anything about US dentists in general. I simply made a bad choice and was stupid enough to stick with it. The same is true in Mexico. You can certainly get bad care there, perhaps more easily than in the US since they don’t have the same agency oversight that you have here. So, you do have to be picky about your choices. In Los Algodones many dentists are specialists, so if you’re looking to have implant work done, for example, I would look specifically at dentists with specialties in implants. And further, I would go with established dentists with an established reputation. There is alot of competition in Los Algodones and literally thousands of tourists travel there everyday. If your dentist has been operating for many years with a good reputation and is still in business he/she is likely to offer pretty good care.
6/ Myth Or Fact: You Need To Make An Appointment
I would say if you’re just travelling down for a dental cleaning, you can get by without an appointment. There are plenty of offices offering this simple service and you can walk in right off the street to get it. If, however you’re travelling down for specialty work, then I would definitely do your research beforehand and make an appointment. In fact I would go one step further and make sure you get to see the exact dentist you want. Some of the larger offices (e.g. Sani Group) house several dentists and each may have their own speciality. Make sure you book the actual dentist, not just the office.
7/ Myth Or Fact: You Can Get Everything You Need Done In A Day
Some work can be done right away, but Mexican dentists are no more miracle-workers than American dentists. I was able to get my root canal re-done the same day my dentist took off the crown (and saw what was underneath), but I have to wait a week for things to heal up before I can get my crown. If you’re coming for implant work you WILL need time. Sometimes the mouth requires significant healing time (6 weeks to 6 months) before you can take the next step and you should be aware of that before you start the process.
8/ Myth Or Fact: You Need To Bring Foreign Currency
Answer: Myth (but do bring cash)
Los Algodones, like many tourist border towns, will happily take US$ for everything you do down there. Many dentists offices will ony accept cash or check so do make sure before heading down (some will take credit cards, but often there is an extra charge). All the local vendors and shops will deal in US$. You won’t need foreign currency, but DO remember your passport. The border crossing will require it on your way back.
9/ Myth Or Fact: There Are Horror Stories Of Care In Mexico
I know I kind of addressed this in #5, but I want to touch on it again since this is probably the number one issue that comes up regarding dentistry in Mexico. Yes, you will find plenty of horror stories on the net, and yes, you can most certainly have a bad experience. But you can also find thousands of people who’ve had very good experiences and rave about their results. Simply speaking, if all the care in Mexico was that bad, no tourists would come and these offices wouldn’t exist. DO YOUR RESEARCH before you go -> get recommendations, ask around on the forums, look at experience, how long the dentist has been operating, credentials, what his/her specialty is etc. Don’t just go down, walk into the first office you see and expect to get great results on major dental services. I wouldn’t do that in the US and I certainly wouldn’t do it in Mexico.
My next post will cover specifically our personal experiences in Los Algodones and how we found our particular dentist. Feel free to comment on your own experience or myths/facts that I missed.