Last year, we discussed the rising trend of dental tourism, highlighted in Mexico’s Los Algodones. Sometimes referred to as “Molar City,” this small town near the U.S.-Mexico border is home to more than 600 dentists seeing patients in about 300 clinics.
According to a recent video on NBC News, dental tourism to Los Algodones has increased by about 40% in just one year, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing. With 114 million Americans lacking dental insurance, many are forced to seek low-cost options abroad.
Mexican practices offer cheaper dental care because of lower labor, real estate, and malpractice insurance costs. A few American dental associations and trade groups have warned patients about the risks of foreign care that isn’t as heavily regulated as it is here in the U.S. But that doesn’t seem to deter these dental tourists.
In the winter months, “Molar City” attracts over 7,000 American visitors per day, resulting in packed waiting rooms across the town’s hundreds of clinics. For some patients, the results can be life-changing: the NBC News video contains an interview with a woman overcome with emotion from being able to smile for the first time in years, thanks to her newly fitted dentures.
Is this rising trend of dental tourism a sign that things are reaching a breaking point here at home? Or will rising costs keep pushing patients to seek care abroad?