On our last cruise, while sitting out hurricane season in Puerto Vallarta, I cracked a tooth and had to have it pulled. I figured in 6 months I would just have an implant installed wherever we happened to be to replace the missing tooth (after having a tooth pulled, you typically need to wait 6 months before having an implant placed). Dental and medical services outside the US and in Central America particularly, are much, much cheaper than in the US. For the initial consultation with x-rays, a subsequent visit and tooth extraction, and a round of antibiotics I was out about $100 USD. And that was at a “fancy dentist” at Paradise Village Mall in Nuevo Vallarta where all the tourists go. I probably could have cut that price in half in downtown Puerto Vallarta with a Spanish-speaking dentist.
But as followers of this blog know, 6 months later found us loading Anjuli on a yacht transport ship bound for home. Since we were both headed back to full-time employment I figured I could easily get the tooth replaced when we got home and were again covered by dental insurance. But not so fast. While the ACA made it against the law to refuse coverage for a pre-existing medical condition, there is no such provision for dental care. Since I had lost the tooth while not covered under my now current dental insurance, a new implant was not covered – at all. I had an implant installed some years ago, but at that time I had double insurance coverage, so it was not so painful, with my out of pocket expenses measured in hundreds, not thousands of dollars. My dentist quoted me $4,500 for a simple implant (simple meaning no bone graft or gum surgery needed). Ouch!
Well that got me wondering what the nice dentist in PV would do it for. As it turns out, less, a lot less. Like 1/3 of the of the US price. You even get a 10% discount for paying in cash (with pesos)! And who doesn’t like a Mexican vacation? You actually need two vacations as after the post is implanted you need to wait six months before the abutment and crown is placed. I made my appointment at DentoAmerica and booked plane tickets for April. I found an awesome apartment in the Zona Romatica (in old town PV) for $50 a night on Airbnb and off we went.
The apartment was absolutely amazing with stunning views of Banderas Bay and a private roof top patio with a wading pool and BBQ. Only one catch – the apartment is accessed by climbing up 234 steps – that’s why the view is so awesome. In the tropical heat, it requires several rest stops. The addresses of the houses along the stairs correspond to the number of stairs to the bottom. Climbing the stairs gives you a real appreciation for the fact that every single bit of building material and furniture came up the same way.
The dentist office was out in Nueva Vallarta, about a 45-minute bus ride from downtown. The trip requires two different buses, costing a total of about 20 pesos each (about $1.00). It is never a boring ride, and on one of the legs we were treated to live music with a one-man mariachi band.
Dr. Oscar, the implant specialist, took about 30 minutes to install the implant and we were on our way. All the staff speaks English, as DentoAmerica caters primarily to the large expat community of Americans and Canadians who have made PV their home. We spent five nights in PV, capping the trip with a fancy dinner at Le Klif, a fabulous restaurant that clings to the cliff on the south side of Banderas Bay.
We returned in November, and rented the same apartment. The second trip requires a longer stay as two appointments are required. The first appointment is to make an impression, then it takes at least 7 days to have the crown fabricated. We arrived on a Thursday afternoon,
I had the first appointment Friday morning, then returned the following Friday for placement of the crown. In the interim we enjoyed visiting our favorite Mexican city. All the attractions are an easy bus or taxi ride away. We took a trip to the Botanical Garden which is fabulous, with hiking trails, a river you can swim in, and a great restaurant. We went to the beach, enjoyed cocktails and the view from our balcony, and
capped it with a fancy dinner at Café des Artists, one of the nicest restaurants I have ever been in. All of our adventure, including the dental work, plane tickets, apartment, food and beverages, and entertainment was had for what I would have had to pay my dentist here.
It was an easy choice for me. Are there bad dentists in Mexico? Probably. But I am pretty sure there are bad dentists here too. But if you are up for saving a little money and having a great vacation, I recommend a little dental tourism!