Getting Dental Work in Mexico & Latin America!

I was traveling alone in Antigua, Guatemala when something unexpected happened: I bit into an apple & felt something funny.  When I looked in the mirror, I realized that 1/2 my right front tooth was MISSING!!!  Just…G-O-N-E.  With several weeks left in my trip ~ I took to the streets to find a dentist ASAP!!  After asking for recommendations & striking out at a few offices that weren’t open: I found a female dentist, just off Antigua’s main square.  And for $25, she fixed my right front tooth!  I was ecstatic.  Getting dental work in Mexico & Latin America is something I’ve had to do, many times, by necessity, & this article discusses when & where I’ve had work done, plus the advantages & disadvantages of doing so.

Getting Dental Work in Mexico & Latin America, Girl Who Travels the World

This photo was taken at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, just a week AFTER Dr. Luisa fixed my right front tooth (which had chipped in half)! Can you tell a difference between my two front teeth??

Getting Dental Work in Mexico & Latin America!

This article has been on my “To-Do” list for some time: but frankly, I’ve waited to write it because I wanted to see how all the work I’ve had actually holds up.  If I had written the article immediately after having the work done, there would simply be no way to gauge its long-term success.  But now, since all my Latin American dental work was done in 2016 & 2017 ~ I feel comfortable writing this article, as all the work (minus a crown, which I’ll discuss below) has held up just fine.  The photo below, which clearly shows my front teeth, was taken in 2019….& obviously that $25 fix is still holding up today! 

Below, I’ll detail exactly where I’ve had dental work done ~ which in my cases were in Mexico & in Guatemala.

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This photo was taken last year, & that $25 front tooth fix is STILL doing just fine ~ THREE years after the procedure!! I call that a win.

Where Have I Had Dental Work Done?

  • In Merida, Mexico: At CODY, the Central Odontologica de Yucatan ~ within walking distance from Merida’s Main Square.  I had a cleaning, X-rays, & four fillings taken care of at a total cost of: $225.  My cost in the States for these procedures would have been $1,130.  SAVINGS = $905!!
  • In Antigua, Guatemala: At Clinica Dental de Luisa de Marillac ~ a one-block walk from Plaza Mayor.  My right, chipped front tooth was fixed in a same-day service by Dr. Luisa, at a cost of: $25.  Cost in the States = Unknown, but my guess is minimum: $250.  SAVINGS = $225!!
  • In Cozumel, Mexico: At Cozumel Dental Services, with Dr. Nora.  I needed a crown on a back right-side tooth.  After taking an impression & waiting for my crown to come in (which took about 5 days, over a weekend), the crown was put in, at a cost of: $350.  My cost in the States would have been $1,200 for a crown.  SAVINGS = $850!!! 

TOTAL SAVINGS = $1,980!!!

The only one of these procedures I was not 100% happy with was the crown.  A year later, the crown needed to be replaced by my dentist in the States, as it wasn’t fitting properly.  I don’t blame Dr. Nora for this necessarily; because she squeezed me into her schedule, her assistant was the one who shaved the crown down to fit properly ~ & either the assistant lacked confidence or wasn’t experienced enough: because she just couldn’t get the fit right.  Once Dr. Nora came in, she got the fit right immediately.  But something about that procedure didn’t work or didn’t last for me.

If I went back, I would insist on having ONLY the actual doctor/dentist work on me.

 

Popular Places to Get Dental Work in Latin America

Popular places to receive dental work south of the border are: Mexico (Los Algodones & the Yucatan Peninsula are both very popular spots for affordable dental work); Costa Rica, especially in capital, San Jose (I met numerous people during my Costa Rica travels who came there specifically for major dental work ~ & they were returning to doctors they’d already worked with); Ecuador, in larger cities like Quito & Cuenca; & in Colombia, where there are many renowned dentists working out of big cities such as Bogota & Medellin.

Why is Dental Work Cheaper in Latin America?

Dental work tends to be cheaper in Latin America because both labor & real estate are far cheaper than in the United States.  And with dentists buying materials typically from identical sources as those in the States: labor & real estate are HUGE factors in making dental work in the States cost three to four times MORE than dental work received south of the border. 

But Is it Safe? 

Aside from cost, this is probably the #1 concern people have about getting dental (or any) work done outside the U.S.  From my perspective, the dental offices I visited in Merida (at the CODY Clinic) were as nice, if not nicer, than my dentist’s office in California.  Their equipment was state-of-the-art, & I felt 100% comfortable in their office & with their staff, most of whom spoke excellent English.  In Guatemala, the office was less sophisticated ~ but the dentist was clearly proficient at her job, as her work on my front tooth has lasted perfectly for 3+ years. 

I think the truest thing you can say about the safety of dental work in Latin America vs. dental work in the States is: there are GREAT dentists in both places, & there are also likely TERRIBLE dentists in both places.  Listen to & read reviews, talk to other patients who’ve dental work done at specific clinics, & call the office(s) to get a feel for both their competence in dealing with foreign visitors as well as your overall confidence in their clinic as a whole. 

Do your homework to eliminate potential bad results! 

Advantages to Latin American Dental Offices 

When you actually get down to brass tacks, it turns out there are many advantages to getting dental work outside the States. 

  • With Latin American dental work costing about one-quarter of equivalent work in the States, you have the potential to save thousands of dollars ~ particularly for high-dollar or extensive dental work. 
  • Most Latin American dental clinics have several specialists ALL working out of the same practice.  This means that if you need to get a cleaning, take care of fillings, get a root canal, or even need a crown ~ multiple dentists means you’re able to see someone who specializes in each aspect of the work you need.  Check out this page for the clinic I visited in Merida, which is a perfect example: they have 6 dentists: two who specialize in surgery, one in orthodontics, one in periodontics, one in endodontics, & another in oral rehabilitation.  Essentially, anything you need done can be handled by someone who is an expert in that field. 
  • You get dental work done more quickly.  Because there are typically multiple dentists in each clinic: work generally gets done faster.  They’re also used to working with ex-pats & foreign patients ~ most who can’t stay in town for several weeks; therefore, offices are used to handling & scheduling multiple procedures within a tight window. 
  • Mexican dentists typically provide a one to three-year GUARANTEE on their dental work, & if they’re within the Dayo Dental Network, that guarantee extends to five-years.  This is NOT typical practice in the States, or even in Canada, for that matter. 
  • It’s easier to get immediate appointments in Mexico & Latin America, whereas most dentists in the States have longer wait times (my current dentist is booking one month out for a simple cleaning).  This again goes back to having more dentists/specialists in each clinic, & Mexican dentists in particular tend to work longer hours than their American counterparts.  Many clinics are also open on Saturdays, which is rare in the States. 
  • Most clinics can quote you prices right over the phone!!  This benefit is HUGE.  Pricing in the States gets so convoluted with different insurance plans & premiums, etc. ~ I know very few doctors or dentists here who will quote any prices over the phone.  They always give the caveat: “Well, we need to see what’s going on with you before we quote anything.”  This is NOT the case in Mexico, where pricing is straight-forward: a cleaning costs X, a crown costs X….etc.  One price tend to fits all in Mexico.

Disadvantages to Latin American Dental Work 

Here are a few:

  • You need a passport, & you need to travel. Depending on the procedure(s) you need, these costs may not be worth the travel expenses.
  • The language barrier may be an issue.  Every dentist I worked with in Latin America spoke English ~ but their assistants didn’t always speak the best English.  When calling a particular clinic, ASK & make sure your doctor(s) speaks English, & insist on working with them, not assistants.
  • Mexican dentists aren’t required to do continuing education like dentists in the U.S. ~ though some do anyways, in order to keep up with new technology.  This is another good question to ask prior to your visit.
  • There is no dental financing in Mexico & most Latin American countries ~ you need to pay with either cash or credit card (though because of reduced rates, this isn’t usually a major problem).
  • Just as in the States, you may end up with a dentist who doesn’t do good work ~ & if you need to get it fixed, traveling back could potentially be a huge hassle.  The remedy for this is to get dental work done at the beginning of your visit, & if you can: stay a week or so after.  This way, any immediate problems can be dealt with before you leave the country.  After all: why not take advantage of a sunny Cancun beach vacation while you have the chance…??!

Getting Dental Work in Mexico & Latin America

Bottom Line: Getting dental work in Mexico & Latin America can potentially save you thousands of dollars, & can definitely be worth the cost of the trip ~ especially if you have multiple procedures to get done.  Do your due diligence & call several clinics, talk to other patients, & ask for references if you’re not 100% sure you’re ready to book an appointment. 

Based on my own experiences, there are many highly competent dentists in Latin America whose work has lasted me, so far, many years, at a fraction of the price it would have cost me in the States.

xoxo Noelia

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