Mexico's low costs make 'dental tourism' a growth industry
Most tourists won't even drink the tap water in Mexico for fear of water-borne illnesses, but it seems that doesn’t stop hordes of them from heading to Los Algodones, across the border from Yuma, Ariz., looking for inexpensive Mexican dentists to fix their teeth.
They make the trek from Alberta and other parts of Canada largely because their insurance, assuming they have any to begin with, requires them to pay a significant share of the costs of procedures beyond standard preventive care.
Needless to say, Canadians dentists suggest caution when travelling abroad for treatments because standards for training, licensing and care can vary widely.
But is it worth the trip? With more than 300 dentists in Los Algodones alone, how do you find a good one? And what happens when something goes wrong?
While reputable dentists in Mexico offer warranties of their work and/or materials, it's a long and costly trip back to have the dental work repaired and problems corrected. And there’s no shortage of horror stories floating around.
Yuma dentist Craig Barrows says he sees many disappointed patients after they had a bad experience in Los Algodones.
"I can give you example after example of patients who have permanent damage in some shape or form, and there's no recourse," he told the Edmonton Journal. "The amazing thing is the patients know it before they go, but they are willing to take that risk. They say: 'I knew what I was doing.' "
Phoenix-based Dayo Dental offers a free service to link patients with Mexican dentists, promising referred patients discounts, warranties and a door-to-door shuttle service.
Vinluan says Mexican dentists can offer services much more cheaply than their North American counterparts because the average Mexican dentist earns about a quarter of what American dentists bring in.
Lab costs, which make up a large portion of the cost of dental services, are also lower in Mexico than in the United States and Canada, he adds.
Is dental tourism for you? Have you ever built some low-cost dental work into your holiday plans?
By Gordon Powers, MSN Money