Mexico Dentistry - The Good & The Bad

The purpose of this article is twofold. First it is designed to improve your chances of satisfactory results in Mexico. Second, you may consider getting an additional opinion in the U.S. for lower cost options than what you have heard about from a dentist in your hometown. Please contact my office if that is your situation.

It is fairly often that I hear that someone in my area has traveled to Algodones, Mexico for dental treatment. It is no wonder! The cost of dentistry can be considerable; there are some huge savings. Or at least there appears to be.

This article is not designed to put down those dentists earning a living in their native country. In fact, some of the finest dentists in the world are located in Mexico City and Guadalajara. The article will make you a better shopper if do decide to go to Mexico.

With so many dental clinic websites and blogs extolling the virtues of Algodones dentistry, I feel obligated to present a couple of cautions. Be sure to read this entire blog to catch them all.

I recently read about the advantages and disadvantages of traveling south for dentistry, as appeared on a website for a dental clinic in Algodones. So let’s start with that.

1.  There are big savings, due to the lower costs of operating a business in Mexico.
My comments: This is the primary reason for lower prices. Rent, salaries, and laboratory work cost less. Malpractice insurance is not required, because there essentially is not malpractice. In all dentistry, there is a big, big difference in the top materials from the low end materials. For example, the lab cost to the dentist a crown made with a base metal under it can cost under $100 in the U.S in Mexico. The dentists in the U.S. who choose to use these materials are in managed care offices. The savings compared by the Mexican offices, though, are the savings  of having a non-precious crown in Mexico over having a semi-precious crown done in the U.S. I am sometimes surprised that patients who consult with a dentist in Beverly Hills, Palm Springs or Scottsdale choose Mexico as the affordable option when just a little research can locate a dentist who can provide a less costly but quality option, with savings of 30-70%.

2.  Mexican dentists receive the same training as U.S dentists.
My comments: Whoa! The challenge of completing dental school in the U.S. usually means being one of ten or twenty applicants for each position, passing all classes and U.S. clinical standards, passing two sets of National Board Exams and State Board exams, followed by rigorous continuing education requirements. A foreign dentist can take a continuing education course at Harvard and then claim he was “Harvard trained” or can get into a foreign dentists program at UCLA that takes not much more than money for entry and receive a dental degree that looks the same as a four year graduate.

3. The clinics are clean.
My comments: Most are. This is a big turn off or judgment tool so the better clinics work hard at this. Walk out quickly if the office isn’t clean.

4. Consultations are long so they can get to know you.
My comments: The main emphasis on this point was that consultations are short in the U.S. Although I am accustomed to one and one-half hour consults here in the U.S., I understand that many dentists have half hour consults in the U.S. The difference, in my opinion, is that if you go to Mexico for major work, they are likely to lose you if you have to travel back for a second consult. In the U.S. we may have the luxury to study your records (models, x-rays) and consult with specialists as we develop the best treatment options for your case. In this regard, be aware that if you have any gum issues, need implants or tooth movement (minor orthodontics) is necessary, these options are likely to be treated in a less desirable manner for the results that will please you.

Speaking of time, this blog promoting Algodones dentistry speaks about a half hour cleaning as a good thing. In our office, a cleaning appointment is an hour, so the stated savings over a good U.S. cleaning is not 70%, but 30%.

5. Algodones dentists and staff members speak English and communicate well.
My comments: Perhaps. This was not the case for my patient who says he went in to have his upper teeth removed and woke up to find all his lower teeth missing as well.  Nor was it the case for the patient on this forum:

6. It is good to have all the specialists in the same office.
My comments: There are some advantages, particularly time advantages to this arrangement. There are also some disadvantages. Dentists who work with outside specialists and, in turn, those specialists working with the dentists are highly motivated to impress each other so they continue the relationship. This is a good scenario. Within a multi-specialty clinic situation the motivation is more around getting along with each other. Be cautious of U.S. offices that operating under this model, especially if they give you the feeling of a “dental mill”. And never pay for both the implant and the finished restoration at the same time, regardless of the incentive you are given to do so no matter where you choose to have your dentistry done.

Regarding specialists, there is a difference in the U.S. and Mexico. In the U.S. a Specialist is trained with two or three additional years of school in their specialty. A dentist who says s/he "specializes" in implants or cosmetic dentistry does not need this training but may not call her/himself a "Specialist".  In Mexico, there are not such distinctions. Also, be wary of organizations like Board Certified Mexico Dental Association which is a trumped up for profit organization created to promote individual dental offices.

7. Work is guaranteed in Mexico.
My comments: This one is news to me. I have heard and read countless stories of reasons why stated guarantees are not valid. It guarantee is generally misleading. In the U.S. we don’t offer guarantees, but most of us “stand behind” our work. If something fails with our work, we usually replace it or offer an adjustment. Occasionally, a patient will tell me I guaranteed (a word I am careful not to use) work that does not feel right to them in their mouth. It’s usually not worth arguing with the patient. Ethical standards are still quite high in the U.S.

With this knowledge you should be better prepared as you move forward. Most of the patients in my practice would not choose to go this route, but I have seen many (usually after the fact) who have. I understand and have a heart for those who need more affordable options. I am at a point in my career where I can often offer something suitable here in the U.S. Don't hesitate to contact me for a consultation.

Finally, here is a list of some of the issues with Mexican dentistry that I have personally seen:

1. Ill-fitting restorations with open margins or remaining decay
2. Poorly matched or opaque, unnatural veneers
3. Remaining cement that inflames gums around crowns and veneers
3. Root canals incomplete or filled into the nerve canal
4. Additional teeth extracted, not agreed to by patient
5. Implants place too close together to restore
6. Mini-implantsthat cannot function placed rather than full-sized implants
7. Implants placed at angles that cannot be restored
8. Implants placed with inadequate bone, placed into sinus or into nerve canal
9. Fee disagreements mid treatment


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