Saturday, January 23, 2016


Everyone knows you can get affordable dentistry in Tijuana - But can you get quality too?

The lure of high-paying foreign patients is attractive to many non-certified dentists in Tijuana who offer super low prices on dental implants and makeovers they are not properly trained or certified for. But it's not just TJ, it occurs all over Mexico and in developing nations everywhere. Here's what to watch for if you want the best dentistry in Tijuana or in any dental tourism destination place for that matter.

Tijuana's upscale Zona Rio has fine restaurants, museums, galleries, clubs, first-class hotels, malls, casinos and some of the best board certified dentists in Tijuana. Over 40 million people cross the border each year. And tens of thousands of them are dental patients. There's also a lot of dentist pretenders.

There are over 2000 dental clinics in Tijuana and all want dental tourism patients. 

If you are like most Americans who cross the border searching for a good Tijuana dentist you want quality and affordability. The big question always in everyone's mind is: How do you sort out the pretenders from the fully good dentists in Tijuana who are certified for crowns, veneers, dental implants, oral surgery and orthodontics?

Need a cleaning? You can get that at home but you can't get advanced dentistry in the US for a reasonable price anymore. Dentistry in the US is fast becoming something only the rich (or very well insured) can afford with some dental procedures in the US becoming as expensive as plastic surgery. 

When you cross the border into Tijuana from San Diego you are immediately saving 50-75% on your dental work. Whoa. It's time to stop shopping prices and start shopping quality. Once you are in TJ - (or Los Algodones, Juarez etc.) you are already saving a bundle. If you keep shopping for the cheapest price - you will get your price. And you may be sorry you did later. 

You have to be careful when selecting a dentist in Tijuana for your important dental work as most dentists in TJ are non-certified general dentists. And they'd love to have a chance to learn advanced, complicated dentistry at your expense. Like your crowns, dental implants or an expensive cosmetic dental makeover. 

For the best dentistry in Tijuana avoid non-certified general dentists when in need of a root canal, or dental implants and go for the real deal. Find a Board Certified dentist and you will get your dentistry made right the first time. And the cost will be within a nickel of a non-certified dentist.

You've heard by now that you can literally save 1,000’s of dollars on your dental implants or cosmetic dentistry in Tijuana. The numbers are tantalizing: Crowns for only $350-650 that cost $800 to $2,500 in the US. Dental implants with name brand units complete with crowns costing $4,500 or more in the US are only $2,100. by a board certified implantologist in Tijuana.

But you have to know where to go to get the work done right because if you let a non-certified general dentist in Tijuana under the hood - you may have to get the work done over again if you are unlucky.

There are 3 classes of dentists in Mexico doing advanced dentistry - general dentist, certified and board certified dentist. And one should know the difference between them. 

Non-certified general dentists in Mexico are permitted to perform advanced dental procedures such as root canals, crowns, oral surgery and implants despite their lack of formal training and certification for advanced dental procedures. 

The Mexican government doesn't stand in the way of a poor general dentist trying to earn a living by trial and error on unsuspecting (usually us foreign) patients. 

Understand that approximately 85% of the dentists advertising for specialist work in Tijuana (or anywhere in Mexico) are not trained and certified for any specialist work. That includes the majority of the dentists listed on all those dental tourism agency websites with clever new .com names like DentureAdventure and Denti-agogo Read this paragraph over again as it's a real WTF statement!

A general dentist in Mexico can legally take a quickie weekend course in dental implants from an implant manufacturer or buy a whitening machine and call himself a cosmetic dentist. Some even call themselves 'Specialists.'  There's little truth in advertising south of the border. Especially when the ads are online and in English.  

To become a Certified Dentist a general dentist needs 2-6 years of additional formal schooling beyond their 4 years of basic dental college plus 1 year of service in a government clinic. The additional years are required for certification in a specialist field such as oral surgery, endodontics, periodontistry etc. so they can properly perform dental implants, crowns, veneers, oral restorations etc. - the procedures most dental tourists require. Certified oral surgeon for implantology - 3-4 additional years beyond dental college.

Dental patients having large treatments performed by non-certified general dentists in Mexico risk having their expensive dental work having to be redone due to the general dentist's lack of training. 

Things that can go wrong include: Implants misaligned, crowns or bridges that are set too close, set with poor adhesives, new crowns that are poorly color matched, procedures that shouldn't be performed due to general health, gum or bone issues and worse -  the poorly set or low-quality implants fail causing infection and the implants having to be removed. 

Again - Once you cross the border, shop quality, not price. You already got the best price once you decided to give your dentist back home a pass and go head south.

Cosmetic dental makeover fail...

If having root canals, or crowns, a certified dentist is who to look for and perhaps 10-15% of the dentists in Mexico are certified in a specialty. But if you really want the very best dentists in Mexico you need to go one level up. 

Board Certified Dentists are the very best dentists in Mexico (and in the US). After graduating from a specialist college, they studied for and passed grueling specialist board exams consisting of written, oral and lab demonstrations administered by a review board of specialists in their chosen field. But they are less than 1% of the dentists in Mexico.

Board certified dentists in Mexico cost the same as general dentists in Mexico. 

So there's little reason not to go for a board certified dentist in Mexico when you need important dentistry in Mexico. Remember - non-certified general dentists are only trained in dental college for normal cleanings, fillings and normal non-surgical extractions.  

It's essentially the same in the US. Only non-certified dentists in the US cannot legally attempt specialist work as they can in Mexico. The days of learning advanced dentistry by the seat-of-the-pants went out in the US after they stopped using whiskey for sedation. 

Tricks of the trade.

Often non-certified dentists have lots of certificates on their website and salon wall attesting (in Spanish) to their attendencia to a dental convention or seminar on dental implants. And sometimes even fake diplomas from Harvard. Really. 

A few dental convention seminars do not equate years spent learning specialist dentistry in dental specialist college. And implants are surgery requiring years of study of issues involving bone, blood, nerves, vessels, gum tissue, oral diseases and more - that non-certified dentists attempt to learn on the job and on you.  It's the same for crowns, veneers, cosmetic dentistry etc.  

You can obtain free estimates, consultations and 2nd opinions from Tijuana board certified dentists, resumes, referrals, make appointments and get dental travel Information from or the Board Certified Mexico Dentals Association. 

By David Mandich – Healthcare consumer advocate.

A US ex-pat and now Mexican national, he has lived in Mexico since 2000 and has had the pleasure of having root canals in 5 states in the US, in Mexico and in Asia. 

Contact him at:

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Photo: Mexican dentists dancing in the streets over the new US National Health Care Plan which didn't do a thing to lower to cost of dentistry in the US. And don't you just love this picture!  - DM

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This article may be reproduced and reused so long as all links and author credit remain intact. Great Mexican Dental Vacations - Content Copyright, All rights reserved, todo las derechos reservados. David Mandich Cabo Mexico healthcare writer

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