Monday, August 10, 2015

LOS ALGODONES, Mexican Dental Tourism Mecca (AP)

 By A. Galvin
LOS ALGODONES, Mexico (AP) — Mark Bolzern traveled 3,700 miles to go to the dentist. The 56-year-old Anchorage, Alaska, native left home this spring, made a pit stop in Las Vegas to pick up a friend, and kept heading south, all the way to Los Algodones, Mexico, a small border town teeming with dental offices.
About 60 percent of Americans have dental insurance coverage, the highest it has been in decades. But even so, the nation's older population has been largely left behind. Nearly 70 percent of seniors are not insured, according to a study compiled by Oral Health America.
A major reason is because dental care is not covered by Medicare and many employers no longer offer post-retirement health benefits. What's more, the Affordable Care Act allows enrollees to get dental coverage only if they purchase general health coverage first, which many seniors don't need. At the same time, seniors often require the most costly dental work, like crowns, implants and false teeth.
As a result, many are seeking cheaper care in places like Los Algodones, Tijuana & Puerto Vallarta where Mexican dentists who speak English offer lower prices for everything from a cleaning to implants. Dentists in Los Algodones say a large portion of their clients are seniors.
In the desert outpost near the border of California and Arizona, men in white shirts stand outside of offices with signs advertising root canals and teeth cleanings.
For Bolzern, seeing a dentist in Los Algodones meant a savings of up to $62,000. He was told the extensive dental work he needed — his teeth needed to be raised and he needed a crown on every molar — would cost $65,000 at a private dentist. He looked for lower rates, finding a dental school where the work was less expensive because it was performed by students. But it still cost $35,000.
He paid $3,000 in Mexico and has been back several times.

                 Many dental tourists visit Cabo (above) and Puerto Vallarta for savings and a real dental vacation.

The cost of dental care has surged in the last two decades and continues to increase at a rate of 5 percent annually. Many dental plans have high deductibles and don't offer extensive coverage. Many people opt out.
Mexico has lower costs because of cheaper labor and fewer regulatory requirements. Residents in border towns like El Paso, Texas and San Diego California, often make the short drive to the Mexican side for basic medical needs and prescription medications that are much costlier in the U.S.
Going abroad for cheaper health care is nothing new. Americans have been doing it for years, for everything from elective, cosmetic procedures to major, life-saving surgery.
Matthew Messina, a practicing dentist and consumer adviser on behalf of the American Dental Association, said Americans who visit dentists in foreign countries should do a lot of research before they go.
Different countries use different types of equipment, and some items, such as implants, may not have warranties. Malpractice lawsuits may not be an option.
Aiti Gutierrez left her home in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, 1,400 miles away, to practice in a Los Algodones office that has four patient rooms and a lobby with a water-stacked mini-fridge. In the busy season, the dentista sees about a dozen patients a day, and 12-hour work days aren't unusual.
"They like to feel comfortable and that they're safe," Gutierrez said of her clients.

Editor's comments:
  When visiting a dentist in Los Algodones or elsewhere in Mexico, you can be safe and comfortable knowing you will be getting the best dentistry if you go with a Board Certified Mexico Dentist Association recommended dentist. Their association dentists all have many years of advanced dental college training in their specialties.

  • You can also check if your dentist in Mexico  is board certified easily with them. Just email Board Certified  Mexico Dentist Association at:
  • Most dentists in border towns are all general dentists are far less-trained in the procedures many dental tourists require. 
  • If you plan on flying - take a real dental vacation for a few bucks more in airfare and go to Cabo, Puerto Vallarta or Tijuana (stay and play in San Diego). 
Los Algodones is over-rated and the same low prices are available everywhere in Mexico. Los Algos is fine if you live within driving distance of the border, but not anyplace you want to vacation for a week while the dentist and lab do their work.   -ed

COMMENTS: Share you Mexico denture adventures with our readers. The good and the not so... Your thoughtful and helpful comments are appreciated. All comments will be moderated. -ed

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