Millions of people travel abroad each year for low-cost dental care; a trend known as “dental tourism”. Many Americans choose to get dental work in Mexico because it’s so close to home, with hundreds of clinics operating at high standards just across the border.
Common treatments include:
- Dental implants (including All-on-4)
- Crowns, bridges and root canals
- Other cosmetic dentistry
If you’re considering visiting a dentist in Mexico, chances are you have some questions. You’ll find lots of useful information in this guide including the best places to go, what to expect, and some precautions to be aware of. You’ll also find out how much popular treatments like dental implants in Mexico cost.
We hope you find this information useful and it helps you decide whether going to Mexico for dental work is right for you.
Table of contents
- 1 Why get dental work in Mexico?
- 2 What treatments do people get in Mexico?
- 3 Mexico dentist prices
- 4 Where to get dental implants in Mexico
- 5 Finding the best dentist for you: considerations
Why get dental work in Mexico?
Mexico welcomes over 1 million medical tourists a year, with around 70% coming from the southern US states of California, Texas and Arizona. The majority travel for dental work including implants, braces, veneers, and other cosmetic dentistry.
The reason why so many people cross the border or catch a flight there is simple: dental care in Mexico is up to 80% cheaper than in the US and Canada.
Even if you have dental insurance, your plan likely won’t come close to covering the cost of cosmetic dentistry and elective treatments. Major restorative work will probably exceed your annual limits, too. Some Mexican clinics do accept US dental plans to help towards your treatment cost, so it’s worth asking your chosen clinic about this.
Aside from the cost, though, visitors are generally impressed with the standards of hygiene and care they experience. There is heavy competition, particularly in the towns known for dental tourism, and this pushes dentists to constantly invest in the best equipment and training. The majority of dentists in Mexico speak very good English and take pride in the work they do.
You can also benefit from shorter wait times, especially if you need to see a specialist like an endodontist (for a root canal) or periodontist (for gum problems). Many clinics have dentists from all specialties working in one place, so you don’t need to wait weeks and travel miles for an appointment.
Is it safe?
It’s natural to be concerned about safety, particularly if your treatment involves invasive oral surgery which carries a greater risk of infection. But remember that there is always a small chance of complications, no matter how good your dentist is.
There are certain precautions you can take to minimize any risks, including researching your chosen dentist’s training, accreditation, and previous work. You should also make sure the dental clinicians follow basic hygiene best practice, for example by wearing face masks and sterile gloves. There is more information about what to check and research towards the end of this article.
You might also be concerned about your general safety when visiting Mexico. You’re right to exercise caution since many of the towns and cities we mention below have a not-too-distant history of drug crime and street violence. However, they have made a big effort in recent years to clean up their acts and become safer for visitors – usually with the aim of attracting more medical tourists.
To put your mind at rest, check plenty of reviews – especially about the town or city you’re planning to visit. You might also consider booking through a dental tourism agency which has its own approval process for dentists and offers insurance, accommodation and travel as part of a package.
Check out our Mexico dentist reviews article if you want to know what other people thought when getting dental treatment including dental implants in Mexico.
Undergraduate dental programs in Mexico last for four years, with a fifth year of ‘social service’. This final year gives the student dentist practical clinical experience before they begin work independently.
Dental school is subsidized in Mexico. This gives dental students more time to focus on their training rather than having to work hard to pay their fees. It also means they have little or no student debt to pay off when they graduate, and this is reflected in their prices.
One downside of dental education is that dentists aren’t required to take any continuing education. In the US and Canada, dentists must demonstrate continuing education and up-to-date knowledge in order to retain their license. In Mexico, however, a dentist may continue to practice without ever refreshing their training.
You might be impressed with your dentist’s 15 years’ experience, but have they taken courses to stay up-to-date with the latest technology and practices? The best dentists in Mexico choose to invest in their education even though it is not a legal requirement. Ask your dentist for evidence of continuing education.
There is no obligation for dentists practicing in Mexico to register with a governing body. This lack of regulation means that there is a wide variety of standards in clinics across the country.
However, those dentists involved with the dental tourism industry recognize the need to prove their expertise. Therefore, many register with the Mexican Dental Association (ADM) which assesses and monitors dental skills. They must complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain this certification, so it’s certainly worth looking for in your search for a good dentist.
Some dentists may have an American Dental Association (ADA) membership. Be aware that this doesn’t mean they are endorsed by the ADA; only that they have a valid licence and pay the membership fee.
What treatments do people get in Mexico?
Here is an overview of some of the most common dental tourism treatments in Mexico. Following this section you’ll find approximate prices for this dental work so you can see how much you might save by traveling abroad.
The price of dental implants in Mexico compared to North America means you can save hundreds of dollars on a single implant and tens of thousands on full mouth implants.
Teeth implants in Mexico often use the same systems available in the US, but you should check this before having any work done. If your implant system is one that your home dentist is unfamiliar with, it can be harder to maintain.
The dental implant process usually requires three visits. On your first trip you’ll have the implant itself screwed in your jaw bone. A few months later, after it has settled, you can return for the abutment and, if applicable, a temporary crown. Finally, you get your permanent crown and the process is complete.
When comparing dental implant costs in Mexico to the price quoted in the US, remember to factor in transport and accommodation for all of these visits.
If you don’t want to wait months for your new teeth, consider All-on-4 dental implants instead. This system has several benefits over traditional implants:
- It uses 4-6 implants per jaw so costs less
- Temporary dentures are fitted at the first visit
- Treatment is complete in two visits
All-on-4 is not for everyone, though. Read more in our complete guide to decide which type of implant would suit you.
If you have lost one or more teeth, dentures are a more affordable option than implants. You can get porcelain and acrylic dentures in Mexico, just like in the US. You’ll probably find they are made much more quickly so you can have a complete smile even sooner.
The cost of veneers in Mexico depends on the type of veneer you choose.
Composite veneers are built up around your existing teeth using a soft material which is then hardened. These can be done in a single visit and they are the cheapest option. The downside is that they only last around five years before the material starts to erode.
Porcelain veneers are much longer-lasting but also more expensive. They also usually require more of your natural tooth to be removed for fitting. The exception is Lumineers, which are an ultra-thin type of porcelain.
When people get dental veneers in Mexico it’s most often porcelain veneers, since these have a better aesthetic appearance and are more durable. You can read more about different types of veneers here.
On the whole, braces are not a suitable treatment for dental tourism because you need to visit your dentist every month or so to check your progress and have adjustments.
However, getting braces in Mexico can still be cost-effective if you live very close to the border and each visit only takes a few hours out of your day. Just be sure to check how long your treatment will take and how often you’ll need to go for checkups.
Ask yourself whether you’re prepared to travel to Mexico, say, 15 times over the course of your orthodontic treatment. Is the extra time worth the money you’ll save?
If you need to wear a retainer at night to keep your teeth in position, you may also consider getting this from a Mexico dentist. Retainers usually only need to be replaced once a year, unless they get damaged.
You can get other cosmetic dentistry in Mexico, including professional teeth whitening. This might be something you want to bundle in with other treatment while you’re there. Do keep in mind that whitening won’t affect the color of any artificial teeth (i.e. implants, veneers, crowns and bridges).
Root canal work is also much more affordable in Mexico, as are any dental crowns you might need to cap damaged teeth. Crowns usually take 1-2 days to produce – much quicker than you’ll usually find in the US. Be wary of dentists offering same-day dental crowns in Mexico (unless they are CEREC crowns) because they may be cutting corners.
You may even find that routine dental care like cleanings, root scaling, and fillings work out cheaper if your travel costs and times are not too great.
Mexico dentist prices
By now you have probably visited your local dentist to get a quote for the work you need. If not, it’s a good idea to do this so you can accurately compare prices and work out if it’s worth going overseas, considering cost and time needed to travel.
Either way, chances are you’re reading this article because you can’t afford to get the work you need back home. Even relatively simple procedures can stretch to thousands of dollars. If you need extensive work, especially teeth implants, you’re easily looking at five figures.
Well, there’s good news because dental implant costs in Mexico can be 75% cheaper than in the US while still using the same high-quality materials. The same goes for a lot of other common dental procedures.
Note that your dentist in Mexico may recommend a slightly different treatment plan to your US dentist. This can be for a number of reasons, but sadly it’s sometimes the case that certain dentists recommend more expensive treatment to bolster their profits. If you’re unsure, get another opinion.
Here are some approximate dental costs in Mexico for common treatments:
|Single tooth implant||$700 - $1,200|
|All-on-4 implants||$6,000 - $12,000|
|Acrylic dentures (upper or lower)||$350 - $600|
|Dental bridge (3-unit)||$600 - $1,000|
|Porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crown||$250 - $400|
|Porcelain veneer||$300 - $600|
Why is it cheaper?
You needn’t worry that the lower prices equate to lower standards. Reputable clinics work to the same standards as dentists in the US and use the same materials.
The main factor that makes prices so much lower is the cost of living. When rent, staff wages, and business overheads are all reduced, the dentist doesn’t need to charge as much. One dental clinic in Tijuana, for instance, pays dentists around a third of the standard US salary. It has also been able to reduce costs by bringing certain services like claims processing in-house rather than paying a third party to do them.
Remember that your dental plan may include coverage (in or out of network) for some dentists in Mexico. Check your policy to see if you are eligible for any extra discounts through your insurance company.
Where to get dental implants in Mexico
Mexico is one of the few countries that patients can drive – or even walk – to for cheap dental work. Because of this, many “dental towns” have sprung up along the border catering almost exclusively to Americans crossing from the US. If you live further away and are planning to fly, there are other locations which have more convenient airport access.
Also consider what you want from your trip. Some patients go purely for the dentistry while others prefer to add a few extra days to their trip and turn it into a vacation. If you’re planning a dental holiday in Mexico, you probably want to choose a location that’s a tourist destination in its own right.
If crossing the border
Los Algodones (bordering Arizona)
Known as ‘Molar City‘ because of the high concentration of dental clinics, Los Algodones is just the other side of the border from Yuma, Arizona. People often come here for major dental work, particularly seniors who are uninsured and have neglected their teeth for decades.
Dental work in Los Algodones is usually completed very quickly – even if you need to have an implant, crown, or denture made to order – thanks to the number of clinics and dental labs there.
Because of the competition for dental patients in Los Algodones, many clinics offer shuttle services to patients. Pick-up points can be as far as the Phoenix area, almost 200 miles away.
If you choose to make your own way, the quickest way is to walk across. Most clinics are just a couple of blocks from the border so it’s easier to park and walk than to face hours stuck in line for customs on your return journey.
You’ll find a fair number of opticians and pharmacies in this town too, so your dental trip could be a good opportunity to see to some other needs at the same time.
Tijuana (bordering California)
If you visit a dentist in Tijuana Mexico, you can catch the San Diego Trolley to the border. It’s about a half hour ride from downtown San Diego. Most dental clinics are not within walking distance of the border, so you’ll need to take a taxi or public transport from there. Alternatively, ask your clinic if they can pick you up once you cross the border on foot.
It’s best to avoid driving across unless you want to spend hours in line getting back across the border.
If you’re planning to do this trip, take a look at the video below. This couple have been travelling to a Tijuana dentist for the past 10 years and this video gives a good idea of what it’s like crossing the border for a day trip.
Tijuana had a bad reputation as recently as a decade ago because of violence, but it is now a much safer place and there is a lot of investment going into the medical tourism industry there.
Other locations (including Texas border)
65 miles south of Tucson, Arizona you’ll find the city of Nogales which is another popular destination for dental patients. Its clinics are clustered right on the border which makes it convenient to cross by foot.
For a dentist in Mexico near the Texas border, take a look at Juarez (near El Paso) and Nuevo Progreso and Nuevo Laredo (nearer the east coast).
If taking a flight
Cancun and Progreso
If you’re flying to Mexico from further afield, you’ll be in good company if you head to Cancun. The city boasts a wide range of top-quality clinics offering dental implants, cosmetic dentistry, and all other types of dental work.
Visiting a dentist in Cancun Mexico is also a great excuse for a vacation. The area is known for its beautiful beaches and rich history, including nearby Mayan ruins.
Just along the coast, you’ll find plenty of dentists in Progreso too. Both these cities are good options for people traveling from east-coast states, with flights from Miami taking around two hours.
Another destination you might choose for a dental vacation is Puerto Vallarta. Clinics all over the city cater to visiting tourists, some offering all-inclusive accommodation within walking distance of the beach.
The country’s capital also boasts its fair share of dental clinics with international standards. It’s not such a popular holiday destination, but if you’re there for business or another reason you may as well take advantage of the cheap dental treatment.
It’s also easy enough to take a connecting flight to a more picturesque location as part of your trip.
Finding the best dentist for you: considerations
Choosing the best dentist in Mexico can be a daunting process; even after you have selected a location you may still have hundreds of clinics to choose between. The key is to do as much research as possible into:
- The dentist
- The clinic
- Your particular treatment
- What is included and excluded from your treatment package
- Travel practicalities
Here are some of the main things you need to consider as you make your selection:
Qualifications and accreditation
As mentioned earlier, ask to see your dentist’s qualifications, including continuing education, and check which regulatory bodies they are registered with. This is not a guarantee of the level of care, but it does confirm they meet certain standards.
Ask to speak directly to the dentist if possible so you can ask any questions and also check their level of English. Clear communication is one of the most important factors for putting patients at ease.
Check online reviews on independent websites and ask to see before and after photos of past patients. You may even be able to speak to a former patient to ask them about their experience.
If your chosen clinic is one of the more popular ones you’ll probably find some video reviews on YouTube, too. It can be reassuring to hear from a real patient and see exactly what their treatment involved.
Find out what aftercare (if any) is included with your treatment cost – and where this will take place. How long will you have to stay during your initial trip, and are any further visits required?
Also ask what would happen in the case of complications – either while you were still in Mexico or once you returned home. The clinic may offer you free treatment to fix the problem, but would probably require you to travel there at your own expense. Check how long your treatment is guaranteed for and what insurance the clinic has.
It’s a good idea to consult your local dentist before getting treatment abroad so they are aware of your plans. Also make sure you get a copy of your medical notes in English so you can receive any necessary follow-on care.
The following news report shows interviews with some patients and dentists in Nogales. It also offers some good advice about what to check before you go ahead with any work:
For a more comprehensive list of precautions and considerations, view our full article on dental tourism.
Alternative destinations for cheaper dental work
Mexico is not the only destination that’s popular with North Americans seeking quality dental care at affordable prices.
Costa Rica is easily accessible, particularly if you live along the East Coast. Flights from Miami to San Jose take just three hours.
Dental prices are comparable to Mexico but Costa Rica offers more opportunities for a dental vacation in places like Playas del Coco and Tamarindo. You’ll find the best choice of dentists in San Jose, though, so you might choose to get your teeth done there first before heading to the coast to recover. Read more about dental tourism in Costa Rica.
If you’re after an even more exotic vacation, you could head to Thailand for dental work instead. Thailand has a long-established reputation for high-quality, low-cost dentistry. The cities of Bangkok and Phuket offer a wide range of dental clinics operating to international standards, but you can also get dental treatment in the smaller cities and tourist destinations.
Next door to Thailand, the Philippines also has a thriving dental tourism industry. After getting your treatment in one of the larger cities like Manila or Davao, there are thousands of islands just waiting to be explored.
Many patients report that getting dental treatment in Thailand or the Philippines, including the cost of flights and accommodation for two or three weeks, is still cheaper than paying for just the dental care in their home country.