Roughly 74 million Americans lack dental insurance. The average dental visit in the U.S. costs $381 out of pocket. These two facts mean many Americans forgo basic dental care, and millions more don’t even consider cosmetic treatments like veneers.
It’s no surprise that many are heading south of the border, where dental procedures — and medical care in general — are significantly cheaper. With entire cities catering to American dental patients, it’s easy to find practitioners you’re comfortable working with. But are the savings worth traveling to Mexico to get veneers?
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The Cost of Veneers: US vs. Mexico*
|Veneer Type||US Cost per Tooth||US Cost for Full Social Six||MEX Cost per Tooth||MEX Cost for Full Social Six|
*All prices listed in U.S. dollars.
Veneers are among the most expensive dental treatments you can get in the United States. Composite veneers are the most affordable, with a typical range of $250–$1,500 per tooth. Porcelain is the priciest, with a standard range of $925–$2,500 per tooth. No-prep veneers, like Lumineers, are slightly cheaper at $800–$2,000 per tooth.
In Mexico, composite veneers often cost $150–$250 per tooth. Porcelain has a standard range of $280–$550, while no-prep veneers are pricier, at $280–$600. Just like in the U.S., costs in Mexico vary by region, dental laboratory, and dentist. Don’t be afraid to get quotes online from multiple offices before booking your trip.
What About Travel Costs?
Here’s the big caveat to more affordable dental care in Mexico: you have to spend money to save money. Just how much depends on your location, where you’re going in Mexico, how long you plan to stay, and whether you want to play tourist while you’re there. Below are some of the additional expenses to consider when deciding if the trip is truly worth it.
- Your passport if you don’t already have one
- Your Mexican tourist visa (included in your plane ticket if you fly into Mexico, but you must pay if you cross by land)
- Plane or bus tickets
- Baggage fees
- Taxis, Ubers, or private drivers, depending on your preference
- A professional translator (if you choose a practice not focused on medical tourists)
- Hotel accommodations
- Tourist activities
Is the Lower Price Tag Worth the Trip?
This is the big question, and there’s not one answer that applies to everyone. Some people stand to save big by getting their veneers in Mexico; others could end up spending more money after you factor in travel expenses. Here’s how to determine if a trip to Mexico is worth it for you:
- How much more affordable are the veneers you want in Mexico than they are in your city?
- Are you getting enough veneers or other procedures for the savings to add up?
- Is traveling to Mexico from your location excessively complicated or expensive?
- Do you already have a passport and other necessary items for the trip?
- Will you be vacationing in Mexico, so you can easily add veneers to the itinerary?
Let’s walk through a few scenarios that make the hypothetical more concrete.
Scenario #1: You live in North Carolina and want composite veneers for your front two teeth. The prospect of exploring Mexico isn’t as alluring as saving money, but you have direct flight options, making the travel pretty easy. Your U.S. dentist charges $250 per tooth for their direct composite veneers, for a total of $500. By comparison, you’d pay $300 total in Mexico. Since you would only save $200 on your veneers but spend hundreds, if not thousands, to make the trip, getting veneers in Mexico isn’t worth it unless you combine it with a vacation.
Scenario #2: You’re in Southern California and you want a Hollywood smile. You want to get veneers on your top front six teeth and are up for either composite or porcelain. Saving money sounds great, especially given the cost of living in your area, and since you can just drive down to San Diego and cross into Tijuana, your travel costs aren’t that high. You also look forward to spending time in Mexico, soaking up sun and culture. Whether the savings are big or small, for you, getting veneers in Mexico is likely worth it.
Scenario #3: You call the Midwest home, so getting to Mexico might require more than one flight. You have severe tetracycline staining and want porcelain veneers on all your social six. This is your first time traveling internationally, so this trip is an investment — passport, bags, everything. You wouldn’t mind exploring a bit, but your real goal here is to save money on your new smile. Since you stand to save thousands on your veneers, the additional expenses won’t make enough of a dent to change the fact that, for you, the trip is worth it.
Complicating Factors When Getting Veneers in Mexico
Veneers are veneers, no matter where you go — but getting them far from home can make an otherwise straightforward process feel more complicated. This starts with finding a provider. In your own city, you can meet with one dentist, and if they aren’t a good fit, find and meet with another the next week. In Mexico, you’re on a tight timeframe and have little time to shop around in person.
Speaking of a tight timeframe, that’s something else veneers require: time. In most Mexican cities, just like in the U.S., it takes at least one week from your prep appointment for the lab to create your veneers, though 2–3 weeks is more common. In dental destination cities, labs offer speedier turnaround times; sometimes, you can even get same-day porcelain veneers from dentists who have on-site labs. But in most cases, you need to plan your return trip to accommodate manufacturing.
Finally, you have to consider the possibility of something going wrong. It’s a risk on either side of the border, but as a tourist, you have less recourse in Mexico than you would at home. Plus, navigating the bureaucracy of another country in another language is a challenge all on its own.
Where to Get Veneers in Mexico
If you’ve decided that getting veneers in Mexico is worth it, the next step is determining where to get them. Mexico is a large country filled with major cities, all of which will have practices offering top-quality care, even if they’re not geared towards medical tourism. So while your online searches might point you towards the border zone, don’t be afraid to look beyond that.
The Border Zone vs. Central and Southern Mexico
The main area for medical tourism — dental or otherwise — is the border zone. You can go to larger cities like Tijuana or specialized communities that revolve around dentistry for Americans. There are some big benefits to choosing practices in this area. First, many people speak English here, not just medical professionals but also taxi drivers, restaurant workers, and store clerks. Second, you’ll have a lot of practices to choose from, making it easy to find the right fit. The significant downside is that the area has seen a lot of violence recently.
Another option is to head to any city that caters to tourists in general. They have lots of English speakers and practices that specifically serve Americans on vacation. So if there is a particular city you’ve been wanting to visit — Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos — you can schedule a vacation and stop in at the dentist while you’re there.
Your last option is the most uncommon one, but there are many excellent dental clinics throughout central Mexico. The country’s capital, Mexico City, is a sprawling metropolis, home to some of the wealthiest citizens in the country — plus the top-notch dental clinics that serve them. The same is true of Guadalajara. Look for clinics in neighborhoods where expats live, or those near the American embassy or consulates.
Top Cities for Dental Tourism
- Tijuana: Located just over the border from San Diego, Tijuana is one of the most visited cities in Mexico. It has many dental clinics that cater to Americans, and you can save money by flying into San Diego and crossing the land bridge inside the airport.
- Vicente Guerrero/Los Algodones: About three hours from Tijuana, this town is affectionately nicknamed Molar City — and that’s because it’s loaded with dental clinics, nearly all of which focus specifically on American clients. If you want to shop around in person, this is the place to do it.
- Monterrey: Monterrey is one of Mexico’s financial and manufacturing hubs. Large and modern, there is much more to do here than just get veneers. Known for its steakhouses, you should get in at least one good meal before your procedure.
- Hermosillo: If you are looking for a northern city that is near but not on the beach, Hermosillo could be a solid option. It’s a medical tourism destination, but not big on general tourism, so it has a slower pace. With the coast just 100 kilometers away, you can also make day trips to relax if you have some wait time between prep and placement.
- Cancun: Everyone knows about Cancun, and a trip there might even be on your bucket list. Since it’s a tourism center that draws plenty of English speakers, even smaller shopkeepers often speak the language. The city’s center has many dental clinics where you can get your veneers.
- Playa del Carmen: This city is big with tourists and expats alike, meaning there is an entire industry centered on catering to the day-to-day needs of foreigners. You’ll find many English-speaking dental clinics throughout the city, and you can easily find Americans living locally who can recommend one.
- Los Cabos: Much like Playa del Carmen, this city is home to many American expats, and the medical industry has built up around them. It’s easy to find English-language dental clinics here. Cabo also offers a more laid-back atmosphere than places like Cancun.
- Puerto Vallarta: Like Cancun, this is a Mexican destination everyone has heard of. It also has a robust expat community. You can find many dental practices in Old Vallarta, but if you are looking for the fanciest clinics, you’ll likely need to head to New Vallarta on the Nayarit side.
- Acapulco: This city was once THE destination for Americans visiting Mexico. Foreign tourism isn’t as robust as it once was, but the city still has a large English-speaking population and clinics that cater to them. Prices here are typically lower than in places like Vallarta and Cancun, so it’s a solid choice if you’re seeking a good deal.
- Mexico City: Home to over 22 million people and covering 577 square miles, if you’re craving an urban adventure with your veneers, Mexico City delivers. Neighborhoods like Polanco, Roma Norte, and Condesa have a lot of English-speaking residents and, as such, have more medical providers that speak the language.
- Guadalajara: If you want that urban experience but aren’t quite ready for the behemoth that is Mexico City, head to Guadalajara instead. Located in Jalisco, it has a lot of colonial charm and is ideal for day trips to the beach or agave fields. While its medical tourism industry isn’t as robust as in other cities, you can easily find English-speaking dental clinics in most middle-to-upper-class neighborhoods.
Going It Alone vs. Using a Medical Tourism Agency
You have two options for getting veneers in Mexico: go solo or partner with a medical tourism agency. Doing everything yourself can be more affordable since the agency upcharges you to make a profit — if you can navigate everything independently.
Is working with an agency worth the additional cost? To decide, you need to consider the benefits agencies offer. The specifics vary between companies, but they can include:
- Connecting you with pre-vetted dental practices
- Finding the right accommodations for your needs
- Pickup at the airport or land crossing
- Help with the visa form
- Translation when needed
- Arranging tours
- Transportation to and from appointments
- Guidance on where to eat and shop
Many agencies also have an American presence, making it easier to pay them. They can then pay the dentist, helping you avoid the foreign transaction fee on your card. Basically, partnering with the right agency can lower your stress, but it’s up to you if the extra expense is worth it.
Is Getting Dental Care in Mexico Safe?
An estimated 1.2 million Americans travel to Mexico every year for dental care. Most of these people return home thrilled with their results, though there are those who have bad experiences. It’s easy to focus on the negative stories, but remember that people have terrible dental experiences in the U.S. too. This isn’t something unique to Mexico, and you shouldn’t expect it to be more likely to happen in Mexico than in your city.
But you should still exercise caution. There are risks, and just like at home, you should take steps to minimize them. With the right approach, you can go on your trip feeling confident and come home happy with your smile. Below are some of the steps we recommend.
Head to Google My Business
While online reviews didn’t take hold in Mexico as early as they did in the U.S., more and more people are using Google My Business profiles to share their experiences with dentists and other medical providers. If you are looking at practices that cater specifically to Americans, you’ll probably find many reviews for each provider.
If you’ve decided to go off the beaten path and work with a clinic geared toward Mexicans, you may not find as many reviews. The good news is that Google will automatically translate Spanish reviews into English, so you can easily read any available feedback.
Doctoralia is a nationwide medical provider directory that’s pretty popular in Mexico. It’s strictly in Spanish right now, but it can still be a valuable resource. Look up the dentists to see their star ratings, certifications, and other qualifications. You can also use the translate feature on your phone to read their profiles and reviews.
Get Your X-Rays Somewhere Else
In Mexico, many dentists don’t have x-rays in their offices. Instead, patients go to an independent radiology center. While many practices focused on medical tourism have x-ray equipment, you might be better off getting them elsewhere. The biggest scam you might encounter is a false diagnosis of tooth decay and pressure to get more work done. If you have your own x-rays, you can look and see for yourself.
Set Up Consultations with 2–3 Dentists
It’s always a good idea to get at least two opinions on anything medical. This is easier in major medical tourism cities since you’ll have multiple clinics nearby, but you can make it work in pretty much any city. See what each dentist says, and if things aren’t lining up between them, don’t be afraid to see another. Getting a clear picture of your situation and expenses is essential.
Join Mexican Medical Tourism Facebook Groups
Perhaps the best people to get advice from are those who have recently made the same trip. In Facebook groups for medical tourists in Mexico, you can get doctor recommendations, tips for navigating the process, and suggestions for agencies. It’s a good idea to join these groups as soon as you start considering getting veneers in Mexico.
Getting veneers in Mexico can absolutely be worth it in the right circumstances. While the savings won’t pay off in every situation, if you want porcelain veneers or need to cover four or more teeth, you’ll likely find that even with travel costs, you’ll save more than you spend.
Take time to really do your research on the possibilities, both at home and abroad, before you settle on the right choice for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I know if the dentist I am considering is a licensed professional?
Ask to see their “cédula profesional” and diplomas. In Mexico, the cédula is issued by the government and requires the dentist to present multiple documents proving they have undergone the proper training. Additionally, in Mexico, diplomas show a photograph of the person who earned them. Check to see that the photo matches the doctor. If they claim to have training or certifications from the U.S., ask to see this documentation as well.
Are there any warning signs I should look out for?
There are a few red flags, including:
- The dentist saying you have many more issues with your teeth than you thought, and you haven’t seen signs of these problems before.
- The clinic using pushy sales tactics online or in person.
- Arriving for your appointment to find outdated facilities or technology.
- Struggling to get an agency to offer multiple dentists as options.
Why is dental care more affordable in Mexico than in the U.S.?
Prices in Mexico are just generally lower, and there are many reasons for this, from government subsidies on electricity to the amount of goods manufactured locally. This combination of factors allows dentists to spend less money creating and running their clinics, keeping costs for patients low.
What can I do if something goes wrong?
In Mexico, you can complain to an agency called PROFECO if you have an issue with a business, product, or service. In many cases, just telling a provider you are planning to contact PROFECO is enough to motivate them to resolve the issue. If this doesn’t work, you’ll need a local’s help to file your complaint.
Do dentists in Mexico use different materials or methods than in the U.S.?
Some do, while others strive to match the same methods and materials used in the United States. Older dentists are more likely to use older methods, while those who graduated in the last decade are more likely to use modern methods, whether in line with those in the U.S. or not. Also, practices that cater to Americans tend to align with U.S. standards.
Keep in mind that Mexican dentists often study abroad, so you can find a mixture of approaches, including those that are more European, American, or Canadian.
What things should I bring with me to a dental appointment in Mexico?
We suggest you bring:
- Any retainers, night guards, or other dental appliances you have.
- Previous x-rays or documentation from your dentist in the U.S.
- Inspiration photos.
- If your teeth are damaged, photos of your smile as it used to look.
Can I pay for my veneers in Mexico with dollars or an American credit/debit card?
Whether a medical practitioner will accept dollars depends on the region. In the border region and major tourist centers, this is acceptable, but be aware that they will usually charge you less if you pay in pesos.
Not all debit and credit cards are accepted in Mexico. For example, few places can process Discover. When a dental practice accepts cards, they might charge you more to cover their fees from the card companies. Your credit card company also might charge a foreign transaction fee. Be sure to ask in advance, as it could save you a lot to pay in cash. And if you partner with an agency, see if you can pay them in the U.S. to avoid all the hassle.
How difficult is it to combine a vacation with dental care in Mexico?
Combining regular tourism and medical tourism is easy — depending on what you’re getting done. For veneers, you should experience minimal discomfort and won’t really have a recovery period, so you can easily explore the country while beautifying your smile. More invasive dental and medical procedures don’t really allow for much exploration, since you’ll need to rest and recover.
Can I drive into Mexico?
You can, and many Americans do. Read up on the rules of the road, stick to the toll roads when traveling interstates, and exercise caution when getting deeper into the country — those American plates will make you stand out even if your vehicle is nothing special.
What if I’m interested in other medical treatments while in Mexico?
You can easily get multiple treatments in a single trip. However, it’s a good idea to partner with an agency. There is a lot to juggle, especially if you get any invasive procedures and need nursing care at your hotel.
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