Best dentists outside USA to recommend

22 May

Tempted as she was to head for
Bangkok, Salvador, 58, chose
Mexico, which is quickly
transforming its border cities
into catch basins for millions of
bargain-hunting and uninsured
Americans. Arizona retirement
communities now organize
regular bus tours for Mexican
dental work and inexpensive
drugs. New hospitals have
opened in Tijuana, because
some U.S. health plans have
begun covering services in
Mexico. And tiny border
communities, some about an
hour from Ciudad Juarez, are
becoming dentistry boomtowns
to handle an ever-growing flow
of American patients flying in
from as far away as Alaska.

In a recent University of Texas
study, 86 percent of low-income El Paso residents
surveyed — half of whom were
illegal immigrants — said they
receive medical care or buy
prescription drugs from
Mexico. Similarly, a study
published in the Pan-American
Journal of Health found that
more than 37 percent of
uninsured New Mexico border
residents get medical care in
Mexico.

Americans travel to Mexico for
stomach surgery, eye exams
and routine checkups. But it is
the dentistas — thousands of
them strung along the border –who are in the vanguard in
attracting U.S. health
consumers.

Mexican dentists often charge
one-fifth to one-fourth of U.S.
prices. Their operating costs
are substantially lower than
those in the United States, and
because the Mexican legal
system makes it almost
impossible to sue them, they
don’t have to worry about high
malpractice insurance
premiums.

With such a differential, El
Paso residents sometimes
decline dental insurance to
avoid paying even modest
premiums for employer plans,
said Nuria Homedes, a public
health expert at the University
of Texas.

The phenomenon has unsettled
U.S.-based dentists, who tell
horror stories of rampant
infections, undetected cases of
oral cancer and shoddy work
south of the border — claims
hotly disputed by Mexican
dentists. Rick Murray,
executive director of the
Arizona Dental Association,
said he recently talked a friend
out of taking his son to Mexico
for treatment.

“That he would put his own son
at risk to save a few dollars, he
should be ashamed of himself,”
Murray said in an interview.

But some U.S. dentists, Murray
said, have conceded to the
competition and begun a
“reverse migration,” opening
offices in Mexico to take
advantage of lower costs.

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