Every year about this time, patients talk with me about the possibility of having reconstructive dental work like crowns and bridges done while they are away for the winter in Mexico. The reason for this seems to always be the same—cost.
The cost of dental services is lower in Canada than in any other industrialized first world country. However, Mexico is not a first world industrialized country. It is a third world country. For dental work, this means a few things. In Canada and other countries like the USA, the UK, and Germany, there are standards of care that are universal and are enforced by the regulatory bodies and ultimately by the courts. In nearly all third world countries, standards of care are either not the same, are blurred, are not enforced, or do not exist. While you may have found a dentist who has a high standard of care for his work, there is no system wide standard of care. From a practical point of view, this means if you have a problem with the work that was done, where are you to turn? What is the standard of care for the procedure that was done, and who enforces that standard, if there is one?
The next area of concern is training. How are the dentists trained? There is much in the way of enforcement in Canada and the USA regarding quality of training being essentially the same throughout our system of dental schools. There is a high degree of standardization in our system of training dentists. This is one of the basic parts of our system here. It is so much a part of the system that even though I may think I was trained at the best dental school in North America, I am not allowed to post a sign on the front of the clinic declaring “University of Iowa trained” because this insinuates that The U of Iowa is somehow better than another dental school that is part of the same system. Furthermore, in Canada, a person cannot apprentice to become a dentist. A person cannot be trained as a medical doctor and simply one day decide without further training to begin practicing dentistry. Ridiculous you might say, but both of these situations are the case throughout a good portion of the world. As well, there are standards of continuing education that must be met for continued licensure in Canada. Sure, you can find dentists in Mexico that are trained in the USA, Canada, or Europe. If you do, you should take the cost estimate for the work you are planning on having done from your dentist here with you for comparison. This is so because it is highly likely that you will not save any money going to a foreign trained dentist in Mexico as opposed to having the work done right here at home.
Additionally, there are standards in place here in Canada concerning the materials the dental laboratory uses to make your crown and the training of the people working at the lab where it is made. Canadian dentists are not allowed to have their lab work done by people who are not certified by Canadian authorities. For example, there are some metals that carry high a probability of causing an allergic reaction in the surrounding tissue especially in women. You need to know such materials are not being used in your crowns even if it is much less expensive to construct a crown or bridge using these materials. In the third world, it is quite possible that even the dentist does not know what metals his lab has used in constructing your crown.
So you can see that there are some risks in having your work done in Mexico. You might have also gathered that although the standard of care is very similar in the USA as compared to here, our fees here are lower than they are in the USA. So what should you do? Only you can decide what level of risk you are prepared to accept. If you are contemplating having dental work done in Mexico, you may want to discuss your particular case with your dentist here before you have the work done in Mexico.
- This article was written by Dr. Mike Christensen and published in the Daily Miner and News, and Enterprise. Local Kenora News Publicatons (1998-2006)