Mexico: The New Dental Destination; 70% Savings
CHICAGO TRIBUNE -- Los Algodones, Mexico 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% or more—from what Americans pay at home.
This kind of commerce has turned a sleepy village on the U.S. border into the latest boomtown of medical tourism, the practice of 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.
Longtime dentists in Los Algodones say that, two decades ago, there were only about a dozen dentists, and the village drew only the occasional visitor looking for cheap trinkets or R-rated pastimes. But as health-care costs in the U.S. rose and Arizona began drawing retirees and snowbirds, more foreign visitors began coming for dental care. The boom began in the late 1990s as dental offices began displacing cheap bars known as cantinas.
A recent survey reported about 350 dentists working in 160 offices. While pharmacies and eye doctors also share the sidewalks with quesadilla stands and souvenir vendors, dental care is the real engine. A Phoenix company, Dayo Dental, organizes van rides to make the three-hour run each way. TLC Dental has even opened a bed-and-breakfast adjacent to its dental office for visitors who want to make an overnight trip of it.
MP: In Los Algodones, one out of every 11 residents is a dentist!