Tuesday, December 7

Americans Head South of the Border for Affordable Dental Care

The quest for affordable dental care leads many to search outside the United States for a better price on some procedures. And lately, more and more Americans are heading south to find a great dental deal.

Mexico is seeing a resurgence of patients lately. Many Americans had been shying away from our southern neighbor due to an escalation in drug-related violence. As the violence declines, the number of bargain-seeking dental patients is once again on the rise.

The American public has long bemoaned the high cost of dental care in this country. And the passage of the Affordable Care Act and its notable lack of dental coverage has only added fuel to the fire. If a better deal is to be had within driving distance of home, patients are likely to take advantage of it.

But there’s more on the menu than just fillings and and cleanings. Cosmetic procedures are a popular offering in Ciudad Juarez, just over the Mexican border.

“We charge $380 for one veneer, and it can be done on the same day,” says Dr. Jessica Nitardy, a dentist in Ciudad Juarez. “In the U.S., it averages $1,300 to $2,500.”

But is this kind of differential enabling bad habits?

For young people who smoke, the long-term health problems may be decades away from manifesting. A more immediate and apparent side-effect of smoking (and possibly of more importance to a young smoker than whether or not they’ll have emphysema in 30 years) is a noticeable yellowing of their tooth enamel.

With discount dentistry on the rise again in nearby Mexico, young smokers may have one less reason to quit, since the unsightly damage caused by tobacco stains can be so whitened away or covered up by veneers.

For general procedures, it might be a good thing that U.S.-based dental practices face stiff competition from more affordable dentists in other countries. But for cosmetic dentistry, cheaper procedures may very well be removing the few remaining barriers to accountability for one’s own dental health.

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