Why oh why would we head to Mexico in the middle of a pandemic? Dental work, of course!
How Mexico fits into our budget and medical plan
This year, we made our third annual trip to Mexico for dental cleanings, x-rays, and exams. In Mexico, we pay about 25% of what we’d pay in the US for the same services.
With that said, our primary purpose for heading to Mexico is to fill our regular prescriptions. We generally pay ~$300 for all of our medications for the year. The same prescriptions would be 5 to 10 times that amount if we used our US insurance with a high deductible plan.
Our dental budget
Before COVID-19 hit, we didn’t have a line item in our budget for dental work. We thought we’d just squeeze any necessary cleanings, x-rays, fillings, etc. out of our medical budget.
Well, we were wrong. This past Spring, Carter cracked a tooth and needed to have it extracted and a bone graft. Since we couldn’t cross into Mexico, Carter had to see a dentist and oral surgeon here in the US for emergency surgery. Let’s just say our nonexistent dental budget took a hit of ~$5,000. And, that didn’t include the implant/crown.
(As a side note, we now have a separate line in our budget for dental work. I’m sure we’ll be using every penny of it this year!)
Our annual trip to Mexico
This year, our annual trip to Mexico was a little scary, but still worth it!
We went to Mexico in January primarily so Carter could get the tooth replaced that he had pulled last year. We also had appointments to get our teeth cleaned, x-rayed, and examined. Plus, I was excited to get a nightguard to replace the one I paid $615 for just a couple years ago.
- The border was open, and we were able to get into Mexico and back to the US with no problems at all. The border crossing in Los Algodones was only open 6am – 2pm daily, so we had to manage our time carefully. The border closed at exactly 2pm. Thankfully, we didn’t get stuck in a long line to cross, or we would have been spending the night in Mexico.
- Everyone was wearing a mask. Even when outside, everyone had on a mask and every store offered hand sanitizer.
- I got my teeth cleaned and examined and a new nightguard for $125. Considering my nightguard alone was going to be $615 in the US, that was a bargain and worth the trip all by itself.
- We purchased all of our prescriptions for the year and once again saved hundreds of dollars.
- Our favorite lunch spot was open and serving some of the best shrimp tacos and fish burritos ever!
A couple days before our dental appointments in Mexico, Carter got a tooth ache. It was actually the same tooth he’d seen a dentist about in Idaho while we were traveling this past summer. But, that dentist said there was nothing wrong and no treatment was needed.
Well, Carter ended up needing a root canal. Thankfully, we were already scheduled to stay a couple nights while we waited for Carter’s implant. The morning after Carter’s root canal he woke up with a mighty swollen face. We went back to the dental office and the specialists determined he had a major infection.
The next couple days were a little scary. Carter’s face continued to swell more and more and more, and he had a high temperature. Ugh. Not what you want to hear when you’re in a foreign country and your dental work is only half-way complete. We tried to stay positive, but it was hard to look at the swelling in Carter’s face and not worry like hell.
We ended up staying two additional nights in Mexico so the specialists could monitor Carter and drain the infection (ick!). After two days, we crossed back into the US and waited while the antibiotics did their thing.
Thankfully, the infection cleared up, and Carter was able to head back to Mexico to finish what the dentist started. In hindsight, we think Carter had had the infection since this summer. But, it didn’t show up on x-rays or a CT scan.
Expect the unexpected
If you’re planning to head to Mexico for a little bit of medical tourism, prep for the unexpected:
- Be ready to stay a few extra nights in Mexico.
- Expect some hidden costs for multiple trips, extra hotel nights, additional parking fees, etc.
- Know you’re not going to understand everything that’s happening around you…unless you speak flawless Spanish!
Even with the infection, added costs from multiple trips back and forth to Mexico, COVID-19, etc., we’d still recommend the same dentist and we’d still recommend crossing the border.
- The dentists were great, genuinely concerned, and aggressive in treating Carter’s tooth infection.
- Los Algodones was taking the virus very seriously.
- The hotel we stayed at in Mexico was clean, comfortable, and felt very safe.
- The cost savings way outweighed the negatives
Living Simply Budget Budget Travel cracked tooth Dental Dental Discount Plan Dental expense Early Retirement Los Algodones medical bills medical insurance Medical Tourism Mexico Retirement Budget Retiring Early