Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mexico: The New Destination for Dentistry?

los algodones mexico

Dental tourism mecca, Los Algodones, B.C., Mexico

Is this a new reason to travel to Mexico from the United States?

Cheaper dentistry.

The sales pitches start just a few steps after you cross the border into Mexico. They come in the same half-whispers familiar to tourists who have been offered time-shares and T-shirts.

“Excuse me, sir,” a Mexican man politely asks in accented English. “Are you looking for a good dentist?”

“Got one,” a silver-haired American says, not even breaking stride.

This is the kind of commerce that has turned a sleepy village on the U.S. border into the latest boomtown of medical tourism, the term for traveling abroad to get medical care. From face-lifts in Costa Rica to heart surgery in India, medical tourism has become a $60 billion enterprise by one estimate.

Los Algodones, population 4,000, is home to about 350 dentists geared to foreign patients, including snowbirds from Chicago and elsewhere in the upper Midwest. Their treatment comes at a huge discount — 70 percent or more — from what Americans pay at home, a reality that many patients call an indictment of U.S. health care.

But U.S. medical authorities warn that this desert outpost is a medical Wild West, an unregulated environment where substandard providers can hang their shingle without the same oversight offered in the United States.

Rubbing his jaw after getting a dental implant, Wisconsin native Carl Zeutzius downplayed those worries, saying he was pleased by the care and by a final bill 75 percent cheaper than in the U.S.

“We’re in favor of helping the economy in the United States, but we don’t want to be ripped off either,” said Zeutzius, who winters in Arizona with his wife, Chris.
Flap warns folks to be careful and scrutinize these dental offices. Here are suggestions:
  • Pay a visit: Ideally, take time to visit the dentist in his or her office before committing to a procedure. Check to see whether the staff speaks English and make sure the dentist follows infection-control guidelines — clean surgical gloves, mask and sterilized equipment. Interview the dentist and ask for photos of similar procedures performed.
  • Check it out: If possible, check out the dentist’s stated credentials. U.S. educational degrees can be verified with the institution. Also, make sure the dentist is certified by the Mexican Dental Association. The group has a registry (in Spanish) at
  • Don’t be cheap: Don’t necessarily go for the cheapest deal. You often get just what you pay for.
  • See a U.S. dentist first: Go see a U.S. dentist for an initial consultation. It will save time once in Mexico because you will know exactly what treatment you need. In Mexico, obtain a plan for treatment in writing.
  • Ask around: The best resources are often the other patients. Don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with other tourists in Mexico and ask about their experiences, positive or negative. Those evaluations generally are more honest than an anonymous Internet review.

I have seen the "GOOD, BAD and UGLY" from Mexican dentistry. Notwithstanding the quality, training and cleanliness issues, building a relationship with your local American dentist may PREVENT major dental problems in the first place.

And, remember: you get what you pay for.......

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1 comment:

  1. Wow. I don't know what to make of this one. It sounds too suspect to attract many people but you never know what one will do to save a buck...