For many Americans, the idea of undergoing extensive dental procedures to achieve a healthy, beautiful set of teeth can seem attractive — until it comes to the price tag.
But when they hear about the tiny Mexican border town of Los Algodones the self-proclaimed “dental capital of Mexico” located near Yuma, Ariz., they have a reason to smile.
According to a June 9 NPR piece, Los Algodones has a population of less than 5,500 — but about 350 of the town’s population are dentists.And because these dentists charge about two-thirds less than American dentists, tens of thousands of American patients flock to Los Algodones for major dental procedures.
The NPR article gives the example of one man who needed 22 crowns and four root canals. The crowns, or tooth-colored caps that enclose an entire tooth to restore a tooth that has been damaged by decay or trauma, and root canals would have cost $50,000 in the U.S., but just $5,000 in Mexico.
The number of dentists in such a small area also means it only takes a day or two for a crown, a bridge or even dentures to be made for a patient.
Miguel Ibarreche, who runs the diagnostic department at Los Algodone’s Sani Dental Group, told NPR that the cost of dental care is so much lower in Mexico because of inexpensive labor and real estate. Mexican dentists also don’t graduate from dental school with the amount of student debt that American dentists do, because Mexico’s government subsidizes education for many dentists.
Because most of the people who seek dental treatment in Los Algodones need extensive work done, the NPR article calls it both “a destination for dental tourism — and a reminder to floss and brush so you can avoid the place.”