Friday, September 10, 2010

Dental Tourism: The price of saving a tooth

Recently I've been having lots of trouble with my upper right-hand bicuspid -- but it's been years since I've been to a dentist and I'm not all that familiar with the price of having one's tooth fixed. But I figured that it might cost me perhaps a hundred dollars, possibly two. "'How much will this cost?" I naively asked my dentist.

"Hmmm. I would say around $3,000." $3,000 for one tooth? Yikes! The cost of dentistry has truly gone up. At this rate, a full decent smile is gonna cost me approximately $100,000 -- if all of my teeth start acting up. But my dentist is a wonderful person and really does try to help. "Perhaps you could have the work done over at the UCSF school of dentistry," she suggested. That sounds like a good idea. The the last time that UCSF worked on one of my teeth, it cost me about $25.

So I scooted on over to UCSF on the N-Judah trolley and had them look at my tooth. "We could do the necessary work for approximately $1,400," they said. Crap on a cracker! Even the dental schools have been hit by stagflation. Good grief.

And I can't see any help coming from any kind of single-payer dental care health plan here any time soon either, so it looks like America's teeth are gonna have to be in big trouble. Plus with all those greedy right-wingers doing everything that they possibly can -- both in Washington and locally -- to insure a steady stream of cheap labor here as well as abroad, Americans are not going to be able to afford very much quality dental care on their own any more -- and so, if current trends continue, we're all gonna become a nation with no teeth fairly soon. Literally. Everyone in America will be toothless by the age of forty at this rate. Eeuuww.

And only the Tooth Fairy is going to benefit from this.

But my right upper bicuspid was still aching, so I wrote to some friends who live in Mexico about the possible costs of dental tourism. I figured that I could take a Greyhound bus to Tijuana, then hop on a Flecha Amarilla down to Puerto Vallarta and not only get my teeth worked on for cheap but also be able to buy lemon meringue pie from the pie girls on the beach in Yelapa.

"I go to a clinic in Puerto Vallarta called 'Just Smiles' -- located on Basillo Badillo in old town," wrote back my friend Robert. "The new crown they gave me cost me just $300 (USD)." That's do-able. Sort of.

And here's some input from my friend J.R., who knows Vallarta like the back of his hand: "I've been going to my dentist here for about 28 years but he's not the cheapest: Dr Fernando PeƱalva, Clinica Dental Plaza Marina, 21-0165. His website is at And also check out for more information on dentists." Okay.

I know that my friend Stewart goes to a dentist in Nuevo Laredo, but he hasn't yet answered the e-mail I sent him asking for details. I guess Stewart's still miffed at me for taking a stand on the Israel-Palestine issue. It seems like nobody can take a stand in favor of Palestinians these days without getting yelled at.

And then my friend Sterling wrote, "Don't forget San Miguel de Allende. I forget the name of my dentist there, but she was good! Also a friend of mine from college met a Mexican dentist at a fat farm in Arizona and married her. They now live in Mexico City and both look really skinny in their wedding pix -- but I've lost track of them too." Leave it to Sterling to throw in a little hot gossip.

Then I heard back from my step-brother Sam, who is a frequent visitor to Mazatlan. "Here's a link to go to for information on dentists in Maz:
" And the site even comes with a video and links for free price estimates. "I love Mazatlan," said my step-brother Sam.

So I went to the site and here's what they said: "
Need a Dental Implant, including an abutment and crown? Cost in USA: $4,400. Cost in Mazatlan, Mexico: $1,845 -- An insane 59% savings! And what if you have all of your teeth missing, on the top or bottom? You may be considering: MDI Upper Arch, based on 6 Mini Implants (Denture secured by mini-implants). Cost in USA: $17,000. Cost In Mazatlan, Mexico: $4,200. A huge 74% Savings for These Dental Implants! Let’s see the difference with dental crowns: Procedure: Crown or Veneer, Metal-Free Porcelain on Zirconium. Cost in USA: $1,500. Cost In Mazatlan, Mexico: $500. A 66% Savings For Affordable Dental Work in Mexico! And here’s yet another dental work comparison: Bridge, 3-Unit Porcelain on Gold. Cost in USA: $3,800. Cost In Mazatlan, Mexico:$1,500."

I need a bridge! But is it the Brooklyn Bridge that somebody is trying to sell me here? Sam says not.

So. All I have to do now is win the lottery, wait until the weather here turns really cold, dig out my swimsuit and go off to Mexico for new teeth. Or else I could win the lottery big-time and have my teeth done right here at home by my own wonderful dentist. Or else Congress could enact a law that would give all the rest of us the same wonderful single-payer dental plan that Congressmen now hog all to themselves.

PS: Someone just recommended Poland and Budapest. "They'll even pick you up at the airport."