This last summer I went to see a local dentist that specializes in implant supported snap-in dentures (removable). I was very uneducated about all the different types of procedures that are available and their costs. The treatment plan I received was to extract all upper teeth, put in 4 implants which would then support a full upper denture (plastic teeth). Price: over $15K but insurance would have brought my costs down to approximately $13K...maybe $12. I set up my appointments with this doctor, who I liked and trusted and still do, and then went home and started to research. That's what started it right there...the beginning of a journey. I started to learn about teeth made of porcelain & zirconia, mini implants, 1 stage & 2 stage implants, hybrid dentures, all-on-4, 6 & 8 procedures and so on. I just starting spending hours upon hours of soaking in all the info I could find. I realized I wanted a better option than a snap-in/removable denture with plastic teeth. I decided that I wanted something like a fixed porcelain arch consisting of 10 to 12 teeth retained by 6 to 8 two-stage implants. Non-removable and aesthetically superior to the first option I was considering. But then I learned that to get a procedure like that it would be over $40k at least just for the upper. I was bummed but somewhere in my researching I came upon something called "dental tourism".
I first learned of Los Algodones, MX so I poured hours upon hours of research into just that place. Algodones is just across the boarder from Yuma, AZ. It's a small town but has literally hundreds of dentists. I believe it receives more dental tourists than any other place in the world. Many visitors are snowbirds and the care they receive there seems to be pretty good and the prices are about 1/3 of the U.S. prices. I contacted several dentists there and also was able to chat via email with a few past patients to get their review on how everything went for them. I also found some great blogs where people told their story of getting dental work done in Los Algodones ("Wheeling It" blog).
Next I researched other parts of Mexico such as Tijuana, Los Mochis, Cancun, Merida, Guadalajara and others. Talking with a few dentists here and there, some by email and others by phone. I briefly researched India, Hungary and Thailand but the dental prices were not any cheaper than Mexico and of course it costs more to travel to those places so I didn't see the point in going that far. A few of the top places in MX that I was considering was Sunset Dental (Alan is great) & Ocean Dental in Cancun. Yucatan Dental in Merida.
Next was Costa Rica. Actually I was already researching CR a little during my MX research but now I was diving head first into CR and really doing everything I could to just cross it off my list since it was further and a bit more expensive to travel to. I'm in the PNW (Pacific Northwest) and flying to a place such as Cancun is a couple hundred dollars cheaper for me than flying to SJO (San Jose, Costa Rica). Those who live on the east coast or southern states of the U.S. I believe can get to CR cheaper than I can as it's a shorter flight for them. For example from my airport (PDX) it's about 3,300 miles as the crow flies to CR. From a place like Atlanta it's only 1,600 miles. Anyhow as I said I was learning all I could regarding CR dentists. I contacted several and spoke with 3 or 4 or 7 on the phone. The more I learned, and after talking to those dentists, I started to realize that crossing CR off the list just due to slightly higher travel costs was probably NOT a good idea. Some of these doctors impressed me more than any others that I spoke with in any country...U.S. included. Professional, highly experienced and trained, straight forward and honest is what I found in most of the CR dentists. There are a few dentists there that are actually just as expensive as in the U.S. such as the Dr. Gil clinic but most have comparable prices to Mexico. One clinic in San Jose that I learned of has probably the lowest prices and not surprisingly seems to be the most popular among dental tourists in the capital city and it is the International Dental Clinic but many call it the Cavallini Clinic. The senior dentist is Dr. Marco Cavallini although from what I hear his son, Dr. Marco Peralta (still have no idea how the first, middle, last, family name thing works down there), now does most if not all of the major work but not sure how entirely accurate that statement is. From what I hear the downside to this clinic is the waiting time. You can have a 9am appointment but not get in the chair until sometime in the afternoon but once again I must say that I do not know if this is true but rather what I have learned from some that have been there. I know that if getting some great dental work done at the best prices in town meant I had to experience long wait times I'm pretty sure I would be OK with that compromise. Most of the other clinics I researched in San Jose are pretty much within the same price range of each other but about 20% more than the Cavallini clinic but that greatly depends on what procedure one is looking to get. But those other clinics seem to offer a more personalized experience and generally you are not waiting too long if at all past your appointment time. Now obviously I have not been to Costa Rica yet so this information that I have learned is mainly from people who have been there for dental work.
Summary: This is just my opinion and in no way am I trying to belittle or disrespect Mexico dentists but the differences I found between dentists in Costa Rica and Mexico are these....
-dentists in CR, for the most part, seem to have better credentials than many of the ones I researched in MX
-there are some MX clinics that are super modern (I mentioned them earlier) and are up to speed with the latest techniques and equipment but there are so many that still seem to be stuck in the 90's and some even in the 80's or later as far as equipment, technique & sanitary aspects
-when talking on the phone with these dentists I found the ones in CR, for the most part, to be more professional, understanding, patient and respectful.
-MX has an advantage to U.S. citizens and that is you can hop in your car, cross the border and get some good dental care....if you do your research. This of course lessens the expenses and thus your total price for getting dental work done in a border town is going to be less than going to CR even though the actual dental costs are roughly the same...for the most part
-When I was asking a certain MX dentist about warranty/guarantee on their work they said that not many offer this and no one anywhere offers a lifetime guarantee and I found this to be true with the majority of MX dentists. But in CR most do offer some type of warranty on their work. Some offer only a year, some 2 years, another offers 10 years on all work done and even a couple I found offer a lifetime warranty on their work performed. The fact that more CR dentists are willing to back up their work than MX dentists says a lot to me and I think I'll end this long winded post on that.