I've been asked a lot about our trips to Mexico for dental work so I thought I'd write all the info here instead of having to retype it over and over. Forgive any typos please... I'm typing really fast!
First, of course, I cannot guarantee anyone's safety but we have always felt 100% safe and we've visited three times since July 2022 (it's currently October) and we plan to go back in three weeks. I talk more about this further down in this post.
Also, Dental Progreso (the clinic we go to) is spectacularly clean and professional. There is air conditioning (bring a jacket - we got cold!) and they use bottled water for everything.
Where do you go?
We go to Nuevo Progresso, Tamaulipas, Mexico. From our home in Mississippi, it's a 12-13 hour drive to the border.
What are the process and costs for crossing the border?
As of now (October 2022), we pay for gas and food to get there, then we stay in an Airbnb in Mercedes, Texas, or Weslaco, Texas. When we're ready to go to our appointment, we drive to the border and park for $2. Then we walk across the covered Progreso International Bridge into Mexico. The cost is $1 to cross the bridge into Mexico and $.25 to cross the bridge back into the United States. I recommend taking small bills and quarters to pay for these things.
You have to put your bags through an x-ray machine going into Mexico but do not have to show any form of ID. Coming back to the United States, you will need a passport (expired ones work just as well as current ones) OR a birth certificate and driver's license. You may or may not gave to go through an x-ray machine, have bags searched, etc. when coming back to the USA. You have to declare anything you purchased and medicines are the most closely monitored things.
Note: I've had my bag searched twice and my quantity of medications questioned. I've used an expired passport without any questions.
Buying Medicine in Mexico
It's true, you can buy any medication in Mexico in any quantity and you never have to have a prescription. I have purchased antibiotics (four varieties), steroids, pain meds, eye drops, anti-nausea meds, blood pressure meds, Tamiflu, and more for myself and my family members. From my experience, the medicines that are most closely questioned are medicines considered "controlled substances" in the USA (narcotics, Xanax, etc.).
Which doctor do you use?
There are more than 100 dental clinics and pharmacies in a 5 block area at the border. I researched several of them before choosing. The dental clinic we use is Dental Progreso with Dr. X (Dr. Jesus Xavier Aguirre) It is less than half a block from the bridge and takes two minutes to walk there from the end of the bridge.
Dr. X lives in Texas, graduated from an American high school, and has his degree from a university in Texas. We walked back across the bridge with him twice when he got off work. 🙂 He is kind and thorough.
Do they speak English?
George (at the front desk), Dr. X and his daughter (who also works there), and a few of the other employees do speak English. There are other doctors on staff - some speak English and some don't but they are quick to grab an English-speaking employee at any time if there is confusion. At no time did I grow concerned over communication.
Bottom line - I'd recommend this clinic to anyone. I've taken two of my sons, my daughter, my Mama, my Daddy and my friend Donna over there (just to see it - she didn't get any work done) and they've all been impressed. This last time I had a root canal myself and again, I was very pleased.
My personal experience
When I went for my root canal, I had a panic attack just as they started to work on me. This had nothing to do with them... it was all me. I hate going to the dentist and I am terrified of needles. My anxiety is through the roof with any appointment whether in Mexico or Meadville, MS (my hometown).
Anyway, when I started having a panic attack, they stopped the procedure, brought me a cool wet cloth, and both the doctor and assistant started fanning me and patiently waited for 15+ minutes until I could breathe easily again. They were extremely kind and patient and wanted to make sure I was 100% okay before they started to work again.
At some point, I rubbed my neck and they asked about it. I said my neck was hurting from the angle I was having to hold it so they brought me a neck pillow. Then I was shivering (because their offices are COLD) and they brought me a blanket. Then... I apparently settled down and got cozy because I fell asleep before they finished the root canal.
How do the costs compare?
I can't speak for everyone but we have decent dental insurance and we still save a lot of money, even after paying for gas, food and hotel or AirBnb.
You can see the prices for this specific clinic here. I do not recommend booking an appointment on that website but it's a great resource for prices and we have found them to be mostly accurate. You can call the clinic directly at 1-866-529-8963. If you talk to George, he is wonderful!! You can also email them at [email protected]
Some examples of prices from our experience:
- I paid $720 total for a root canal and crown.
- For my daughter, we paid $1500 for an implant, abutment, and crown. In comparison, she had 4 other implants after her accident which cost us easily over $10,000.
- For one of my sons, we paid $1800 total for 3 root canals and 3 crowns.
- Also, Sarah's implant took a fraction of the time her other three did here in the United States and she felt zero pain. They were already done with the implant and she asked if they had started yet.
How do you pay?
Everywhere we visited in Nuevo Progreso accepts American cash and cards. Most of the stores have the goods priced and labeled in American dollars as well.
At the clinic specifically, you can pay with cash, check (yes check!!) or credit card. They do not offer payment plans and they do not deal with insurance AT ALL. We chose to pay with a check because they offer a small discount (4% I think) if you pay with cash or check on some procedures.
Something to consider... some American insurance companies will reimburse you for dental work done overseas but you are 100% responsible for dealing with your insurance. The clinic in Mexico will give you the forms but that's all they offer.
Where do you eat in Nuevo Progreso?
George recommended a street cart selling lonchos and they were amazing. For $5 we got a plate of food and a drink and it was delicious.
I also love eating at Angels (the restaurant is on the fourth floor) OR at Rene's Restaurant & Bakery.
Shopping and Safety
We've shopped in so many of the stores within the first 4-5 blocks of town. We were told it's safest to stay within 5 blocks of the border so that's what we do. Having said that, I've never felt NOT safe at any time while there. Hundreds (if not thousands) of Americans cross the border there daily. We saw many women and children crossing alone. Nobody seems to be afraid at all.
The only "warning" I would offer is to mentally prepare yourself for the beggars and street vendors. There are beggars under the ends of the bridge on the Mexican side that will yell and hold out hats through the slats on the bridge. Then there are hundreds of street vendors lining the sidewalk trying to sell you things nonstop. I must say "no thank you" about a million times every time we've gone (three times as of today).
And if you do decide to buy something from the street vendors - everything is negotiable. If you look interested, then start to walk away, the price almost always drops instantly.
Okay - I think that's everything. If you have questions, leave me a comment and I'll add to and update this post.