Why A Dental Vacation Overseas Makes Sense

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By Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher, InternationalLiving.com

We live in Mexico, and when we recently needed dental work it didn’t take much asking around our little community to get several recommendations for good dentists.

And while we do have health insurance, it doesn’t cover dental work. You may be in the same boat…it’s rare for any health insurance policies to cover dental health.

<p>Guanajuato, Mexico</p>

Guanajuato, Mexico


It’s estimated, in fact, that 108 million Americans have no dental insurance. And that one in four non-elderly Americans has untreated tooth decay. That’s despite that, as the U.S. surgeon general has reported, poor dental health can lead to or exacerbate diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and more.

Medicare, as you likely know if you’re of retirement age, does not cover routine dental care. According to government estimates, 70% of seniors do not have any dental coverage.

As you also likely know if you do have a dental plan, those plans don’t come cheap. They often don’t cover much beyond routine preventative care and require hefty copays for procedures beyond preventative care. Typically, you can’t get coverage for dentures, bridges or periodontal work.

The added cruelty is that in recent years, the cost of dental care has reportedly increased faster than the cost of other medical care.

So what’s a smart American in need of some dental work to do? We’d suggest you travel overseas…to a country like Mexico or Costa Rica…where you can get your dental work done for a fraction of the cost in the U.S. Pay for your dental work and have a vacation while you’re at it.

And of course, if you retire overseas, you’ll see savings like this every day and in every way.

And now back to our story….

<p>Puerto Vallarta, Mexico</p>

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico


Once we’d received some recommendations, we stopped in one of the many local dentist’s offices here where we live at Lakeside on the shore of Lake Chapala just south of Guadalajara.

This dental office is within walking distance of our home, so during our morning walk, we stopped in to make an appointment. The English-speaking receptionist said our first step would be a general cleaning and exam during which we’d bring up any specific issues we were having.

And it just so happens they were running a special…just 300 pesos each, or about $17…for a cleaning.

She put us both on the schedule for the following day. No fuss, no waiting. Try that in the States…

We noticed that the reception area was clean and modern, and the next day, in the chairs for our cleanings it was obvious that the equipment and surroundings were the equal of (in truth, better than) any dental office we’ve seen in the U.S.

Our cleanings were done with pain-free ultrasonic equipment (no numbing required) and took less than 20 minutes.

We discussed our other dental issues with the dentist—one of two young doctors in the office who, as the receptionist and the other doctor, speaks excellent English—and made follow-up appointments for additional work. (We’re in our 60s, so we’re getting used to there always being some needed work.)

In the meantime, we decided to take advantage of the professional whitening service the office offered and made appointments for both of us for the following day (again, at the same time…they never seemed to have a problem seeing both of us at once).

The whitenings took about an hour, and when we were finished we went to settle our bill. Fortunately for us, they were also running a special on the teeth whitening procedures…just 1,400 pesos each, or about $82.

So, for everything—the cleanings, initial exams and consultations, and whitenings—our total cost was about $100.

<p>Town of Chapala on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico</p>

Town of Chapala on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico


And this leads to our reasoning. If you lived in the U.S. and need dental work, it can actually be cheaper to come to Mexico and have the work done while you enjoy a little vacation south of the border than to see almost any dentist we know of in the U.S.

The technology here is first rate, at least at our dentist’s office here in Ajijic. It’s actually better than we’ve experienced in the States. The expertise and skill of the dentists is excellent. The weather and surroundings, of course, are completely different…the central highlands of Mexico are beautiful at any time of year and especially so now that the rainy season has made the surrounding mountains green and lush.

And the prices are a far cry different. In the U.S., depending on where you live and the exact service and technology involved, professional cleaning averages $127 and can be as much as $300, and in-office whitening averages from $600 up into the thousands.

Let us repeat: Our costs for the cleaning and the whitening was just $100 each for what would have cost an average of $727 each back in the States.

That leaves more than $627 (or $1,254 together) on the table for airfare and accommodation to have all this done in sunny Mexico. And if you need more than just a routine cleaning and whitening, imagine how much you can save.

This article comes to us courtesy of InternationalLiving.com, the world’s leading authority on how to live, work, invest, travel, and retire better overseas.