Thursday, March 26, 2009

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!

21 Comments:

At 3/26/2009 9:29 AM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

I just hope that too many of the "cantinas" aren't gone before I go down to Mexico to the dentist. Nothing better than a Corona after a root canal!

Isnt most of the cost difference atrributed to differences in liabilty law?

 
At 3/26/2009 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real question is what can we learn from this to make our system better? Liability may be a part, but lets not let preconcieved dogma prevent accurate analysis. Quality control might be an issue, too.

 
At 3/26/2009 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A competitive global market for health care would be good for everyone. It would lower costs by putting pressure on the U.S. health care market and would force tort reform. What's needed is reliable, independent review and analysis of the quality of doctors and hospitals in every country.

 
At 3/26/2009 10:27 AM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

A competitive global market for health care would be good for everyone

Tell that to the "Buy American!" crowd. Next thing you know there will be tariffs on Mexican health care.

 
At 3/26/2009 10:30 AM, Blogger Paul said...

My wife had excellent dental work done in Medellin, Colombia for about 20% of the cost, I think, of our local dentist. He was a better dentist, too, trained in the US.

 
At 3/26/2009 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking here as a dentist. At a practical level, you get what you pay for. Many of these dental tourists believe that fillings, crowns, extractions and dentures are simple widgets stamped out of a factory in China and think that receiving dental care is like going to the auto mechanic to swap out an alternator. Assuming for the moment that these Mexican dentists are the equal of their American colleagues; even the most technically competent dentist needs to be relatively accessible to the patient when things need attention, adjustment or intervention, as they so often do. For example: What if that root canal you had done last Friday flares up and now you're swollen and 100 miles away? The Mexican dentist cannot call your pharmacy for antibiotic coverage, and you can't exactly go back to the office first thing in the morning. Or what if that filling is high and your bite is "off" and needs a routine adjustment? I could go on. Buyer beware.

 
At 3/26/2009 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've had dental work done in Mexico and are fairly happy with the results. The price is about 1/3rd the cost in the USA. Cleanings and fillings are done well.

However, I had a root canal and the results weren't good. The dentist felt terrible that she couldn't extract all of the root due to a twist in the root (and she didn't have the tools to get past the twist).

Once back in the US, I went about two months and the tooth began acting up. A local endodontist had the specialized tools required to get to the root; $1400 later and the tooth is doing much better (pain free).

We'll still get most of our work done in Mexico at 1/3rd the price, but we'll always have plan B waiting if the work done needs supplemental USA work.

BTW, my wife's sister had a face lift in Mexico with incredible results (uh, no, not at the dentist's office...). Again, about 1/3rd the cost. She truly looks like a movie star now; just an amazing transformation.

 
At 3/26/2009 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From HotAir.com:

Yesterday, Congress looked into reports that bureaucrats at the Department of Labor showed little enthusiasm for investigating complaints of “wage theft” and unfair labor practices. Independent investigators found that calling the complaint line usually resulted in no action at all, as workers at the agency openly complained about a lack of resources and advised callers to just find another job. The GAO issued a stern report about the failure of the DOL to act on behalf of workers, and Gregory Kutz, Managing Director of GAO’s special investigations unit, testified before Congress to the issue.

This gave Rep. Tom Price, the chair of the Republican Study Committee, an opportunity to point out the basic problems in expanding government power. Watch this colloquy and enjoy Kutz’ obvious discomfort:

VIDEO

Think long and hard about letting the government take control of your health care.

 
At 3/26/2009 2:11 PM, Blogger 1 said...

Hey ExtremeHobo, thanks for the link to the Daily Finance and that article in particular...

Real nice find...

 
At 3/26/2009 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing the author did not mention is the insane amount of drug war viloence happening on the Mexican border. It is happening in broad daylight, in very public places, and innocent bystanders are killed as well. I would not want to be hit by a stray bullet during my dental vacation.

I have gone to Mexican Dental Vacation in the past, for my dental work. I saved more than 70% on the price I was quoted here in Canada. I also got a beachfront vacation, as they are located in the resort city of Mazatlan. It was a good break from the Canadian cold!

It has been 5 years now, and all of my dental work is doing great, including the 2 implants I had done. I would highly recommend them.

 
At 3/26/2009 3:41 PM, Blogger ExtremeHobo said...

Im glad you enjoyed it 1. There is so much info out there for us economics junkies!

 
At 3/26/2009 5:42 PM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

In my San Diego area, visits to Tijuana, Mexico for dental work are become more common every year. Savings run from 70% to 85% over U.S. dentists.

TJ is an awful place, with kidnappings, crooked cops and occasional drug war shootouts. But the savings are so great that many people weigh risk vs. return (savings), and still chose to go.

The chance of actually getting kidnapped or shot are rather small. But it’s sad that our tort plagued medical system has become so expensive that people are choosing to take their chances in TJ for the substantial savings.

I think a somewhat more interesting approach would be to combine a vacation into one of the safer resorts in Mexico (or elsewhere), and combine that visit with dental work. Or plastic surgery. Or both!

After we institute national health care, this foreign medical vacation option will probably grow by leaps and bounds. Oh joy!

 
At 3/26/2009 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have been going to Mexico for dental AND non-emergency surgery since 1960's. Now we live here in Veracruz and enjoy excellent medical care for a fraction of US costs.
Why? 2 reasons; there are too many doctors here competing(and no strong AMA) AND there is no tradition of lawsuits for every little problem.

 
At 3/26/2009 9:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Better yet, let's give those dentists H1-B visas and bring them into the U.S.

 
At 3/27/2009 8:02 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

The same thing has happened in Europe. If you're looking for inexpensive dental treatment abroad at British private clinic standards, you can check out http://www.dentalholiday.co.uk for an accredited dental clinic where Brits can save 70% on regular dentist costs, and not have to be on a waiting list.

 
At 3/27/2009 5:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is this any different than why it's cheaper to make cars in Mexico?
- much less overhead and lower operating costs; they're perfectly happy with much lower salaries/wages which apparently go much further in the Mexican economy.

 
At 4/07/2009 3:16 PM, Blogger My_Dental_Clinics_connections_Progreso_Mexico said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/08/2009 2:16 PM, Anonymous blake said...

I find it interesting that I could not find anywhere on a web search about complaints people have filed from substandard work done in Mexico. Of course, all of the dental tourism sites with their 'consumer reviews' have nothing but raving fans. Sounds a little too good to be true. Also, I would imagine that the cost of dentistry also has something to do with the fact that it takes 8+ years of post secondary education and mounds of borrowed money just to become a dentist so figure that into the cost as well. I would much rather have someone who is readily available should a problem occur and support my local community, not another countries economy.

 
At 6/15/2009 4:38 PM, Anonymous Ann said...

I did a serious bunch of dental work in Mexico... and I had a situation where I experienced The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. --[ Well, wasn't that ugly, but since the "Mexican Dental Vacation" folks in Mazatlan had promised to pay me back partial for poor work, and did NOT, that was kind of ugly.]
I had a poorly trained dentist start the work there, and when I got nervous about a couple of things, I went to another Mazatlan dentist for a specialist perspective. He informed me that the prep work being done for my procedures was indeed incorrect. He referred me to yet another dentist for a second opinion- and then I (re-)began the work on three bridges, a root canal and a surgical extraction. All done by three independent Mexican dentists, one who had trained in the US and I was VERY happy with the final outcome. So while I had a bad dentist south of the border.... I also had three good ones. Kind of like here in the United States - but at least I could afford to get all the work done!

 
At 7/16/2009 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's very sad that dental work is so expensive in the US and you can go just across the border or abroad and get it for so much less. That should tell us something about the true costs. I admire anyone who does denistry work, but I do think it's too expensive and that is the reason most people don't get the dental work they need. It's true in my case. Going abroad has it's drawbacks, but I think the good far out-weighs the bad.

 
At 1/06/2010 1:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had horrible work done in Algodones, TLC dental to be exact. It is costing me triple the amount to get fixed. After being bruised, infected and in pain for several months with no remedy. I am now forced to seek help in the US, where we can have REAL ANTIBIOTICS AND PAIN MEDICINE prescribed by real dentists. DONT DO IT, NOT WORTH IT

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home