- Mary Schreiber Swenson Phd.
Mexico-- The Newest Medical Tourism Destination for the “Smile Makeover”
US citizens have been increasingly traveling out of the country to seek lower cost cosmetic surgeries. Since the vast travel restrictions have increased due to the global pandemic beginning in 2020, some medical tourism destinations have seen both drastic increases and decreases in the amount of patients treated. For example, Mexico has seen an influx of US patients seeking procedures that were previously more popular in Europe. 
With high restrictions on flight travel in particular, a lot of US patients are able to bypass this issue by traveling via car to Mexico for a variety of popular procedures. In turn, European countries who specialize in cosmetic surgeries, such as Turkey, have seen a significant decrease in US medical tourism patients.
For this reason, Mexico is becoming a medical tourism hub for Americans, with an increasing amount of visibility and popularity surrounding this “trend”. Many patients have documented their travel, surgery, and post-op experiences through TikTok, IG Reels, and Youtube-- resulting in extensive exposure to the busting industry.
Of course, Mexico has always been a prominent player in the medical tourism industry, with dental work in particular. They have dentists that are trained in the top schools and the Mexican government has established programs where dentists could get educated for free by contributing a year of service as a dentist in their community.
These trained dentists also have great incentive to stay and work within their country, with rent and living costs much lower. They don’t have to pay high malpractice insurance. Additionally, dental treatments in Mexico are found at much lower costs, usually 50%-80% less than US dentists-- hence the influx of international patients.
“The CDC reports that people may travel to another country to get health care for many reasons, including: Cost is the major factor as travelers can get treatment or a procedure that may be cheaper in another country. For example, on average dental crowns cost $1,164 in the U.S. compared to $500 in Mexico, a savings of 57.04%. Root Canals; $1,275 compared to $247, a savings of 80.63%.”
With all dental specialists under one roof, unlike in the US, there is virtually no waiting time. Labs are also typically in-house, ensuring the quickest patient turnaround time. Some locations also offer free hotel stay and ground transfers for patients. Most notably, there is full transparency surrounding treatment costs prior to booking (unlike in the US where total costs typically are not revealed until procedure completion).
Mexico also poses as the idyllic vacation opportunity as well, which draws patients from all around the world to make the most of their travels abroad.
Interestingly enough, many of these dental clinics are marketed similarly as resorts and hotels. Smile Makeover Playa Del Carmen’s website is tropical, inviting, and features a page listing the many benefits of visiting the city in general. “Playa del Carmen, renowned for its silky beaches… you can do any popular water activity including snorkeling, swimming, fishing, sailing, and windsurfing and it is one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
Some of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures being done in Mexico are porcelain veneers, titanium implants, laser teeth whitening, and zirconium crowns. Porcelain veneer surgeries are most commonly vlog-documented, and are often referred to as “smile makeovers”.
Veneers are ultra-thin shells of tooth-colored porcelain that is cemented over the facial surfaces of the teeth. These are used to correct dental issues including worn tooth enamel uneven tooth alignment or spacing, discoloration, or cracks.
As travel restrictions are lifted and previously frequented medical tourism destinations become more easily accessible, it is hard to imagine any significant effect on Mexico and its busting industry. Particularly when gauging the social impacts of Tik Tok, IG Reels, and Youtube, and the power of stigmatization-- Mexico “smile makeover” vacations are not only popular, but seemingly cool.
This, coupled with a rise of other cosmetic procedures being popularized in Mexico, it seems only time will tell how the medical tourism industry will shift geographically (and culturally).
Contact MyMedChoices today at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us plan your next dental trip.