Tecate, Margaritas, and Teeth: Dental Tourism in Mexico

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We’re pretty certain you’ve heard of people going to Mexico for a vacation, but have you heard about going to Mexico for a dental vacation to get dental work done? Or maybe you’ve heard of medical or dental tourism?

We’ve been to several locations in Mexico over the years for vacation, but only recently did we consider heading to the border for some much needed dental work. Turns out, we’re not the only ones that do exactly that.

palm tree at Senator Wash in California Mexico border
Senator Wash is a great place to play when heading to Mexico for dental work.

Table of Contents

What is Medical Tourism?
Where is Los Algodones, B.C., Mexico?
Considerations When Looking into Medical Tourism
7 Tips for Choosing a Dentist in Mexico
Border Crossing into Los Algodones
Money Exchange
Speaking the Language
Expectations Upon Entering Los Algodones
Finding your Dental Office
Expectations in the Dental Office
Beer and Food in Los Algodones
Border Crossing Back into the U.S.
Where to Stay
Los Algodones Dental Offices to Get You Started

What is Medical Tourism?

If it costs the same or less to head to Mexico (or India, Thailand, or Turkey – other popular medical tourism locales) to get your dental needs taken care of as it would to simply head to your dentist down the street, why not combine your dental needs with a vacation? Welcome to medical tourism.

Medical tourism can sound a bit intimidating and maybe even new to you. But in reality it has been traced back to 3900 B.C. when Greek pilgrims traveled from the Mediterranean to a small territory in the Saronic Gulf called Epidaurus for healing from the god Asclepius. Later, people from Europe began traveling to Asia for its hot springs that were supposed to have special healing properties.

feet in hot springs in Idaho
The origins of medical tourism – hot springs

Eventually, healthcare evolved, and a popular form of medical tourism was to travel to specialists in other countries due to very particular medical needs. Today, in the United States and other countries where medical costs are at an extreme high, medical tourism has become quite a common and attractive way to head to countries such as Mexico, where you can receive affordable care while taking advantage of its beauty and culture. In fact, according to Josef Woodman, the CEO of Patients Beyond Borders, around one million Americans head to Mexico for dental and medical care every year.

Why we decided to head to Mexico for dental work aka dental tourism.

For us, living and traveling in our RV, it was an easy decision to head to Arizona, along the border of California and Mexico. Just prior to that, we had visited our local dentist in Colorado for our annual cleaning and had been told that the two of us were in need of a couple of root canals and crowns.

And those of you that know the dentist know that those procedures are far from cheap if you don’t have good dental insurance. We do not have good dental insurance. So rather than spend close to the ten grand it would have cost the two of us, a trip to the border was in our future.

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Where is Los Algodones, Mexico?

Los Algodones street scene dental tourism in Mexico
The first view upon entrance to Los Algodones – dentist offices.

Welcome to Los Algodones. The northernmost community of Mexico, Los Algodones in Baja California is the closest city in Mexico to the U.S. bordering Winterhaven, California, and Yuma, Arizona at the Andrade border entry point. Coined “The Molar City”, due to its 300 dental offices and over 500 dentists, Los Algodones is one of the most sought after dental tourism places for U.S. and Canadian citizens.

Los Algodones is also home to a wealth of local craft-makers along with a plethora of local food stands and street-side restaurants. The area also hosts some of Mexico’s only sand board competitions due to the Cuervitos Dunes sand dunes nearby.

Medical tourism means medical, dental, and fun, so maybe it’s time to explore more of Los Algodones.

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Should I consider heading to Los Algodones for a dental tourism destination?

medical tourism chart

Instead of questioning if you should, we think it’s time to ask why not, instead. With complicated insurance processes and unbelievable pricing without insurance, dental care in the U.S. is unaffordable for many people, including those that have what one might consider a good job and a good income.

Costs and experiences should play a role in your decision when it comes to dentist visits in Mexico.

Making a decision to head south of the border is easy, when it comes to paying 70 percent less of what you’ll pay for a dentist in the U.S. In Los Algodones, you’ll get straight forward fees, walk in appointments if needed, and brilliant smiles. At the same time, you can get mouth watering authentic Mexican food (think handmade tamales, candy, and churros) and inexpensive wares around every corner.

money and dental tools
Dental work is not cheap…but it’s at least more affordable in Mexico.

Head to that dental office down the street from wherever you are in the U.S. right now and the likelihood of finding that same experience is very low. What you’ll find there instead is a dentist who wants to treat their patients properly, but also has to play the insurance game. That costs you! Even with insurance, dental prices are inaccessible to say the least. Without insurance, a crown and root canal can run you upwards of $3,000! A filling, at least a couple hundred bucks.

The same crown and root canal in Los Algodones is a much more affordable $700 and that filling? Less than $100. It is easy to make a decision based on cost, but when it comes to your teeth, cost should not be the sole decision factor. You need to trust the person playing with your teeth.

Prepare yourself for differing treatment opinions when it comes to medical tourism.

On that note, dental tourism does come with a higher dentist vetting process for us as the patient; you shouldn’t just simply show up. For example, with our experience, it seems as though Los Algodones’ dentists are crown happy. A friend of ours reported that his dentist in Los Algodones recommend 10 crowns. Ken himself was told he should consider getting eight. While not impossible the numbers are still high.

Ken at a dentist in Los Algodones Mexico - teeth copy 2
No more silver for Kenny – most of these were replaced with crowns in Los Algodones

Although, Ken’s dentist did say the high number of crowns were to prevent further damage and lower the chance of needing more immediate and intense attention in the future, such as root canals. And granted, it had been awhile since he’s had any dental work done, so the high number might still make sense.

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7 Tips For Choosing a Dentist in Mexico

At any rate, the easiest way to know more about whether or not you agree with your dentist’s recommendations (in the U.S. or elsewhere) is communication. And that leads us to a few pieces of advice when it comes to choosing a dentist in Mexico in Los Algodones (or anywhere for that matter).

1) Be sure your dentist and the rest of the team speak English.

Or whatever language you speak. You need to be able to talk to your dentist and understand what they are saying to you.

2) Quality is important, not just price when it comes to dentists in Mexico.

Do your research ahead of time. Ask questions. Read reviews. Get recommendations from friends and family.

3) Know what you want done when visiting Mexico for dentistry work.

If you know you need a specialist for implants, find a specialist for implants. If you know you just want a cleaning, go to a general dentist. Not all dentists are trained for all things dental. Although many Mexican dental offices are full-service.

4) Schedule your appointment ahead of time.

Schedule with the dental office you have chosen before you get to Los Algodones. Many offices do take walk-in appointments, but knowing where you’re going and who you’re going to visit is better than just showing up wondering what’s next or where to go.

5) Check with your insurance.

Some insurance plans will cover dental work in Mexico, so if you have dental insurance, be sure to check with your insurance company before making the trip.

6) Be patient.

Good dental work takes time, so be prepared to have to come back to the dentist depending on the work to be done. Some things can be done quicker in Mexico because of on-site labs, but not always.

7) Enjoy the place you are visiting after your dental work is done.

Once your teeth are all done, explore the region you are in. Eat the food, talk to the people. Explore. But be safe and aware, of course.

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The Details of Dental Tourism in Mexico in Los Algodones

Crossing the border from the United States to Mexico has a certain stereotype where there is an immediate bombardment of vendors selling Chiclets, candy, and jewelry. Cross from California into Los Algodones, and you’ll find the same vending, but with its own story.

Instead of all the Chiclets (don’t get me wrong, they are still here, so you can get an ever abundant supply of Chiclets), you’ll be consistently asked if you want a crown, a filling, some eyeglasses, a dentist, teeth cleaning, a pharmacy, etc.

Built on teeth, dentistry in Los Algodones in Mexico is thriving. Here’s all you need to know to visit Los Algodones for your next dental visit in Mexico.

How do I cross the border into Los Algodones and what about parking?

Whether you’re parking or driving across the border to get to the dentist in Los Algodones, it’s not too difficult of a task. Just be prepared for all of the requirements for driving across, especially if you are driving your RV. You can start here by reading our RV driving experience while we were in Baja or our car driving experience while we were in Puerto Peñasco. It will be fairly similar.

parking lot near border at Los Algodones Mexico
There is ample parking for all vehicles before crossing the border into Los Algodones.

If you’re heading to Los Algodones for dental work, it’s extremely easy to park your car and walk across the border. There’s a large parking area for all sizes of vehicles including overnight lots (not meant for camping overnight, just parking overnight). Fees are reasonable and cash or cards are accepted. If using cash, be sure to have exact change.

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What about money exchange in Mexico?

Speaking of money, U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere, even at the dentist’s office, so there’s really no reason to change over your money if you’re only spending a day or two in Los Algodones. Credit cards are fine, too. Just check with your bank to see if you have to let them know whether you’re traveling out of country or not.

Do I have to speak Spanish to visit a dentist in Mexico?

Just like there’s no need to exchange your money, there’s also no need to speak Spanish. The few days we were here, everyone we dealt with spoke English. Better than our broken Spanish, which we did try to use. It’s a great place to practice Spanish if you have some knowledge, but it’s not necessary.

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What can I expect once I cross the border into Los Algodones?

border crossing before heading into Los Algodones Mexico for dental work
The street and walkway heading into Los Algodones

Walking across the border, you may or may not be asked by Mexican border agents for an ID or to show what’s in your bag or purse. The four times we walked across on different days, we were stopped only once. They only wanted to check the contents of my purse, and we were waved on immediately.

Upon entering after that, you will immediately be immersed with blocks filled top to bottom left to right with dental and optometry offices and inundated with calls of, “Do you need a dentist?” “We have crowns!” “The best dentist is here!” Or other statements such as, “Do you need a pharmacy?” Like dental offices, pharmacies are everywhere, too, and you can get almost anything without a prescription.

How do I find my dentist’s office in Los Algodones?

It is easy to walk to the majority of the dental offices in Los Algodones. So as long as you received the address and directions when you made your appointment, walking there is generally safe and easy. Our dental office offered to have a representative meet us at the border, but once we got there, we realized how easy it was to find our way around.

Depending on what type of dental work you’ll need, some Mexican dental offices will even have hotels connected to their offices or set you up with partner hotels. I imagine if you are need of dental implants or full sets of dentures, this is a great option.

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What should I expect when I arrive at the dentist in Mexico?

Supreme Dental front entrance for Mexico dental tourism
One of the front entrances to Supreme Dental – courtesy of Supreme Dental

When you arrive at the office, check in like you normally would at home. They will have you complete paperwork (if you didn’t already do so online), and then you will wait for your name to be called.

For the most part, the procedures are similar to the U.S., with a couple of exceptions. The first being that where we went, there were no separate or walled off rooms. Every chair is right next to the other. It does seem crowded but the dentists and techs and the entire team are great at maneuvering around the chairs and necessary dental tools.

The other difference is that the buildings in Los Algodones are small, so there may be times when you have to walk across the street or go next door for your visit. Don’t worry – it’s the same business, just in a different location, and the staff will walk with you every time.

Other than that, it’s very similar to heading to the dentist at home.

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Is there beer and food in Los Algodones?

after dental tourism Mexico April with beer and food Los Algodones
Me (April) with my pretty new front teeth and Tecate in a paper cup! That’s how you celebrate in Los Algodones!

Yes, we get it, you may be numb after your dentist appointment, but you can shop and explore while waiting for the numbness to wear off. And once you’re no longer numb, and your teeth are all set to do what they do best…eat, it’s time to eat. Stop at any one of the little street restaurants and order tacos, birria, elote, quesadillas, salsas, and more.

And don’t forget the margaritas or cervezas. The little restaurant we visited didn’t have these on the menu, but all you have to do is ask, and you shall receive.

The best part? Ask for the margaritas and cervezas to go. It will make shopping and waiting in the long border line to get back into the U.S. much more enjoyable.

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I’m all done, how do I get back across the border to the U.S.?

border crossing line from Los Algodones back into California
The long line back into the U.S.

Medical tourism is a great way to experience a place and take care of medical and dental needs, but it can come at a cost. Especially in Los Algodones when everyone has the same idea.

Getting into Los Algodones takes no time at all. Getting out is an entirely different matter. During the high season (winter, when it’s not excruciatingly hot) and busy times (generally after two or three on the weekdays when everyone is done with the dentist appointments) the line to get back across the border can take up to two hours.

So, along with your passport or Real ID, make sure you also have your margarita or cerveza in hand to make that line a bit more entertaining. Say hi to a stranger, buy some tamales or trinkets (or Chiclets) from some of the many vendors taking advantage of the long line of Americans, and accept your fate. And smile! After all, you have beautiful new teeth now.

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Where can I stay overnight when visiting Los Algodones for dental tourism?

RVs at Senators Wash California and Los Algodones Mexico
Senator Wash is a great place to camp when heading to Los Algodones for dental work.

Whether you are in need of a hotel, an RV park, or a boondocking site, all of these are readily available. There’s an RV park right next to the border parking lot. There’s a boondocking site about a mile from the parking lot. There are hotels in Los Algodones. And in nearby Yuma, Arizona, and Winterhaven, California, there are also hotels and plenty of RV parks.

If you don’t mind a 45 minute drive or so, there’s also plenty of other campgrounds, boondocking sites, LTVA’s and more where you can fully immerse yourself in the stark beauty of the desert. We stayed at Senator Wash North Shore for two weeks, with the Imperial Dam right out our front door. In February, it was still a bit too cool to be swimming, but it was perfect weather for paddle boarding and kayaking.

paddleboarding and water fun at Senator Wash California Mexico border
Medical tourism is about the fun, too! Paddle boarding fun at Senator Wash near the border.

We use Campendium and iOverlander to find a lot of our camping spaces, so be sure to check them out. There’s an abundance of sites near Los Algodones to make Molar City a true medical and dental tourism destination.

Wondering if we would embark upon a Mexican dental trip again?

Now that you know how to embark upon your very own dental trip to Mexico visiting Los Algodones, will you go? You’ll have to decide for yourself.

As for us, if we need to have more work done (we hope not), we will go back. It was as great of an experience as you can have going to a dentist. Can anyone saying going to the dentist is a great time? We didn’t think so.

Anyhow, the team at Supreme Dental were kind, patient, and knowledgable. And affordable. What would have cost us over $10,000 ended up costing less than $3,000. Plus, we ended up with a cupboard full of drool-worthy homemade tamales.

And yes, as mentioned previously, the line getting back across the border can be a pain in the ass, but only if you let it be. But Tecate (served in a paper Pepsi cup) or margarita (served in a gigantic styrofoam cup) in hand, you won’t care. That, and a bottle of Mexican whisky to go. For the pain (of the line and the teeth), you know!

Mexican whisky from Los Algodones
Mexican whisky makes it all worth it!

Because you’re also celebrating the thousands of dollars you just saved on your shiny new teeth! One word of warning though, that Tecate and margarita might just make you loosen your purse strings more than you realize. Don’t go spending the $7,000 saved on tamales. You might want to use that just in case you need to head to India, Thailand, or Singapore for your next medical tourism adventure.

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Bag of Tamales and cup of beer in hand…

Bag of tamales and cup of beer in hand, new crowns and root canals completed, long lines be damned, our Mexican dental tourism trip was a success. We hope yours will be, too!

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Los Algodones Dental Offices to Get You Started

With hundreds of dentist offices in Los Algodones, it’s overwhelming to know what dentist to choose from. We recommend you do your own research because you know what you need. The three Los Algodones dentist offices listed below are the ones we’ve had an experience with in one way or another. We’re not saying you’re going to get the best dentist in Mexico, but we felt pretty confident in choosing from these three for our needs. There are plenty of great dental offices to choose from, but these can help get you started.

Rubio Dental Group

Address: Avenida A 139, 21970 Los Algodones, B.C.

Rubio Dental Group has more than 11 specialists ready to serve your dental needs for implants, dentures, veneers, crowns, and more. Rubio Dental serves over 16,000 patients every year from the U.S. and Canada at a 70% cheaper price than most U.S. dental offices.

Supreme Dental Clinic

Address: Ave. A between 2nd & 3rd inside Plaza Guadalajara, 21970 Los Algodones, B.C.

Supreme Dental Clinic offers a wealth of traditional dental services at prices between 50 and 70% off of most U.S. dental costs. Even at their extremely low rates, Supreme Dental Clinic also accepts some U.S. insurance companies. They specialize in cosmetic and general dentistry, including, crowns, implants, dentures, and more.

Sani Dental Group

Address: Calle Alamo 287, Vicente Guerrero, 21970 Vicente Guerrero, B.C.

Sani Dental Group has more than 35 dentists and an on-site dental lab with the latest dental technology and equipment to provide fast and comfortable treatment. You’ll have access to many specialty offerings along with general dentistry all at costs that are a fraction of U.S. dental prices.

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Tom Kluzak
Tom Kluzak
7 months ago

Great article. Kathy and I have been going to Popete Dental in Los Algodones for several years – many people in our town in CA make the 3.5 hour trek for excellent and reasonably-priced dental care. After “cha-ching” dental care here – you can almost here the dentist thinking about buying a new boat when they look in your mouth – and some, I think, unnecessary work with a subsequent estimate of $5000, I went to Los Algodones and had it done for $880. Another time, after cracking a tooth, I got an appointment within a few days, was told I should have a root canal and crown. The dentist checked with the “root canal guy,” I.e., endodontist, and said he could see me in 20 minutes. When I went to the desk to find out how to get there I was told he was coming here. Did a great job. I went back in a week for the crown, though sometimes it can be done overnight. Total cost, less than $300. You just get the impression that they are there to do a good job and make a good living, not a killing. One concern I have is the presence of cartels in border towns but we have never had or heard of any issues in Los Algodones. What we have noticed is the obnoxious wall that has gone up. That and all the barbed wire isn’t very neighborly!

Dental Destinations Mexico


Deciding on a destination in Mexico to undergo your dental work is a choice that requires a certain degree of research, planning and matching your needs.
Maybe you already have your trip all booked and know the City in which you want to visit, Maybe you are already there, or you may even want to have an adventure and tick off a bucket list location.

Below we give some important points to take into consideration if planning to travel to Mexico for dental work, and especially if it is a city that you are unfamiliar with.

Dental Destinations Mexico is not a travel agency, we are a connection and dental facilitation specialists to dentists and dental clinics around Mexico – So the location and the decision to book an appointment is yours, we want to help make this research and appointment booking / treatment information easier and purposeful.