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Saving on Dental Care South of the Border

Apr 04, 2014

By Dean George

For years, American cancer patients and others seeking alternative or unconventional treatments for different health issues have visited foreign countries as “medical tourists.”

This trend also extends to those seeking dental treatment, especially to the United States’ southern neighbor, Mexico.

One such dental operation is Washington Dental Clinics, just 10 minutes from downtown El Paso, Texas and about a block from the border in Juarez. The dental chain also has two offices just minutes from San Diego and the California Port of Entry to downtown Tijuana. Washington Dental has been serving the southwestern United States for 30 years and asserts that 90% of their business comes from north of the border.

Another popular dental clinic with American medical tourists is Rio Grande Dental in Juarez. Owned by American doctors, the clinic even offers free round-trip transportation from El Paso to Juarez.  Both Mexican clinics offer a full line of dental services, including implant and cosmetic procedures.

“I know people who have done medical tourism in the past are really, really happy with it so I checked it out,” said Megan Ahmed of Austin from the waiting room of Rio Grande Dental. Three other patients in the waiting room at the time were also American.

Mike Bowyer of Phoenix told KHOU-11News of Houston that he had been seeing his dentist in Ciudad Juarez for seven years for the “cost, convenience and the quality of work.”

Prices are definitely lower in Mexico for several reasons: Mexican dentists don’t have to buy malpractice insurance, they don’t have as much student debt, they have less of a regulatory burden than American dentists and the cost of living is less in Mexico.

The return of Americans crossing the border for dental care is welcome news after both clinics saw business decline sharply due to years of drug violence in border town Ciudad Juarez.

Robert Guerra, manager of the Washington Dental Clinic’s Juarez office, said patient traffic was down by 70% during those dangerous times. Since last fall he said patient visits are up by 20%. “Many, many Juarez dentists did not survive,” Guerra said.

Joe Andel, the American owner of Rio Dental, says he feels safe personally but acknowledged that the drug violence of the past few years scared many Americans away. “We have to have super good quality,” he admitted.

Apparently word about that quality has reached many places up north.  Andel said dentists at his Rio Dental clinic see patients from many states, including three recent visitors from Hawaii and 20 from Alaska.

If you are considering traveling to Mexico for dental treatment, here are a few things to consider:

  • Check travel warnings from the U.S. State Department for where the dental clinics are located. While U.S. authorities have loosened the restrictions for the business and shopping districts in northeast Juarez, they still warn travelers to avoid all non-essential travel elsewhere in that city.
  • If you have dental coverage now and hope to use it in Mexico, check with your dental plan to see if they pay for procedures outside the continental United States. Also check with the clinic you will be using to see what insurance they accept.
  • If you don’t have a passport, get one. If you already have one, check to confirm it is up to date and valid. If you need one in a hurry you can apply at
  • Since many people traveling to Mexico travel by air, flight delays are unavoidable. Check with the dentist office regarding their policies for late appointments or cancellations.
  • Confirm how many office visits will be necessary to perform the procedure you need.  Both clinics advertise extensive procedures in a couple of days to a week, but if you are traveling a great distance, you want to ensure what you hope to save cost-wise on your dental procedure is not negated by unexpected travel costs.

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Copyright 2014, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC

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