How to save up to 75% on your dental costs
We should all take the best care of our teeth. But in the USA, costs are outrageous. Insurance doesn't cover most dental procedures and patients are often presented with $10K+ bills for basic dental work. If they realized there was a better option right on their doorstep, this could all be avoided. Welcome to medical tourism, and the border town of Los Algodones, Mexico.
You have probably heard about Medical Tourism. That you can save as much as 70% of your medical costs by going overseas. But did you realize that the largest medical tourist town is in walking distance from the US border, just south of Yuma, Arizona? The little town of Los Algodones, Mexico!
What's so special about this place? Well there are 117 dentists in about a 4 block area all competing for the business. These are often US trained and certified dentists. They offer their services directly to the clients - no insurance companies, etc. so you pay cash (typically) and you get dental work at about 25-30% of the US price. I've done it, my wife & daughter have, you can too.
Today I went there for a routine dental cleaning. Total cost was $50 and that's with one of the more expensive dentists. But the quality of care I get there is 3x better than the US dentist I was seeing. Why? Because they have to compete to get the clients and its a true free market. A bad Yelp review will stop their clients coming from the US. Most of the dentists have active Facebook accounts, etc. so any bad feedback is visible to all. You get to research them heavily before you choose the one to use, and you get peer reviews to work with. They all speak perfect English and you get a chance to have a tourist experience in a great little Mexican town.
I'm going to detail the process of getting there from Phoenix, but it would be as simple to get there from San Diego (just head east on the 8 freeway). But if you are considering saving a HUGE amount of money on dental, optical and pharmaceutical, then don't be intimidated about going there. No one will kidnap you, murder you, etc. No cartels, etc. That's all pure BS spun by other parties that have a vested interest in you not taking advantage of the great opportunities, kind people and wonderful experiences you can have south of the border in Mexico.
It is a 3 hour drive from Phoenix
First, before you head out GET YOUR PASSPORT and BRING IT WITH YOU. You won't get back without one. Gone are the days that you could do this with a US drivers license. Now (like all international travel) you need a US passport to get back into the USA, so don't forget to bring yours. You will be in a world of hurt if you don't have one and try and get back to the USA after crossing the border. You've been warned!
Getting there is a simple trip from Phoenix (about 3-3.5 hours drive). Basically drive to Yuma, Arizona. Here's a map:
Take the 10 freeway west out of Phoenix, to the 85 Fwy exit. Then the 85 to Gila Bend, and onto the 8 Freeway. Then its a straight run to Yuma. The drive is really pleasant:
Go through Yuma to the California border (just on the west side of Yuma). You will start to see billboard signs advertising the dental, optical and pharmaceutical companies in Los Algodones:
Take exit 166, Algodones Road. At the end of the off ramp, turn left (south) for the 1 mile drive to the border.
As you cross over the bridge you will see the Q Casino on the right. This is a great (and inexpensive) place to stay on the US side if you need work that will take multiple days.
Follow the road towards the border. Just before you get there, you will see a large parking facility on the left. You can park there for $6 a day (cash only):
It's safe parking.
Then walk to the Mexico border gates.
That's it. There is no immigration on the Mexico border side to deal with (stark contrast with the US side coming back). Once you walk through the 50 foot path, you will be greeted with Los Algodones.
Medical care, shopping, etc. in Los Algodones, Mexico
There will be many vendors trying to court you for your business. Hopefully before you go there, you have already done your research and called and got an appointment with a dentist. For optical or pharmaceutical, you don't need any appointment. If you need prescription glasses made, just make sure you get there before about 11AM because they normally can be made in 2-3 hours for you, so you can pick them up same day.
They FAR prefer cash. So make sure you bring what you need ahead of time. Some do take credit cards, but few accept checks. Cash is definitely the preferred currency. With it, you can negotiate on price. Remember this is a free market. They are free to price services and you are free to haggle. Most of the time you will find you won't need to, however, because their prices are so inexpensive to begin with, that it will definitely put a big grin on your face.
Also you will be surprised the level of technology they have for dental work. Whereas most US dental practices (other than the larger ones) won't have 3D x-ray machines, etc. my dentist there did and provided me with honest and accurate diagnosis and recommendations. The other thing that is super popular and they are really good at is cosmetic dentistry. Veneers are very popular because they are affordable. But keep in mind that its probably a week of work, so you will need to plan ahead of time. The Q casino is your friend if you need a large procedure like this 😊
While in Los Algodones, take advantage of the street vendors and stroll through the stalls. Some really interesting stuff there.
If you keep heading down the main road, about 2-3 blocks, you will eventually come across the Sani dental group. Just past their offices, there is a large courtyard with coffee shop and a GREAT Mexican Cantina. Lunch is super cheap (I paid $8 for breakfast):
Getting back to the USA
Getting back is easy as long as you have your US passport. You will line up to get through the US border security.
You can drive in and drive back, but consider how close it is to walk to the parking facilities, you probably don't need to. The line can take 30-60 minutes depending on the time of day & year. Its peak season there in the winter months because of the great weather and that the "snowbirds" are in town from the colder winter regions. There are also a HUGE number of Canadians that go, and January is definitely the busy time. You might find that if you go there in the summer months (remember it can be 120F there on a hot day), its quiet, few people and you may be able to get better deals with the dentists there.
You simply show the border patrol officer your passport and if you are bringing anything back, just declare it. They typically won't sell you any pharmaceuticals that can't be brought into the USA, so Class 1 narcotics are not likely to be available. But most other pharmaceuticals that you are used to paying big bucks for in the USA can be had. I've not had any issues with purchases there.
So in summary, for a small amount of effort to get there, the advantages are huge. My wife was quoted about US $17,000 to get some major dental work done (6 crowns, cosmetic work, etc.) and the same work was done for $4500 in Los Algodones. Its been 1 year later, and no issues, no problems, etc. We've also purchased multiple pairs of glasses (both single vision, as well as polarized prescription sunglasses, etc.) for about 25% of the US price including eye exam. And we are stocked up on pharmaceuticals to avoid paying big at Walgreens.
No matter where you are, Phoenix is generally an easy flight in. You could fly into Yuma Arizona if you wanted, but I'd be inclined to fly into Phoenix and rent a car and drive the 3 hours or so to the border. Staying at the Q Casino is great and inexpensive (when I last checked it was about $90 a night for a gorgeous hotel room).
The reason for all of this? The FREE MARKET is alive and well in Mexico. Its been co-opted and poisoned in the USA. Medical costs are out of control and people choose to avoid dental work. In the end it probably costs them quality of life as well as major expenses to fix what could be a simple, routine procedure here. By avoiding it, you are just amplifying the pain and costs later. There is no reason not to take advantage of medical tourism given the costs of healthcare in the USA and other regions.
Maybe going to the dentist doesn't have to be something you fear if it is as easy and inexpensive as in Los Algodones, Mexico.