Because I was on antibiotics, it was recommended that I stay out of the sun if possible so I spent the week chasing the shade and trying to have a little vacation time before I got my permanent crowns and flew back home. Eating was a bit of a challenge, but other than that I felt pretty great and ended up having a very pleasant and restful week.
When Friday finally came, the clinic sent an Uber around to collect me in the morning and when I got to the office, everything was ready and waiting. Doctor Melisa was excited to show me my new teeth and I was super excited when I saw them. We had talked a long time about color and how I wanted white, but the white of a fifty-year old set of teeth, not Hollywood fakery. The last thing I wanted was to get anything that looked even remotely false and, I gotta say, she nailed it. The color was perfect and I was more than ready to see what they looked like in place.
So, after copious novocaine injections (she’s really talented with the needle, by the way. I barely felt anything), my temporaries were removed, my teeth were cleaned and my crowns were glued into place. The whole procedure took about two hours because she was being very meticulous about the bite and the evenness of the teeth, which was exactly what I wanted.
When I finally got up to look at her work, I could feel tears welling in my eyes. I realized then how much this had meant to me. How much embarrassment and shame I had carried around and what a release it was to be able to beam a huge smile and not be self-conscious about it. This was life changing…and I knew that, despite all my initial concerns, I had definitely made the right choice.
I learned a lot about myself on this adventure, and I also learned a lot about dental tourism that I wanted to pass on to you so you can avoid the pitfalls and have as spectacular an experience as I had. If I was to do this again, I wouldn’t change much, but here’s a cheat sheet of recommendations for you if you are thinking about having work done in Mexico.
- Know the town you are going to, or have a contact that can help you with things like safe places to stay, local shopping, pharmacy location, etc.
- Research your dentist and read reviews. Here is Doctor Melisa’s site. If you use her, make sure you tell her Paul Overton sent ya!
- Be aware that all Mexican dentists are not created equal. In talking to doctor Melisa, she let me know that of the hundreds of dentists in Puerto Vallarta, there was only one other practice that she really trusted. Here’s why: There are many websites set up to sell gringos on Mexican dentistry. These websites get a percentage of the cost of every procedure performed, so it is in their financial best interest to pressure the dentists into performing the most expensive procedures that they can, regardless of if they are necessary or not. Doctor Melisa said that most dentists cave to the pressure because they want the constant stream of business that these websites provide. She does not deal with any of these websites and prides herself on being completely honest with her patients, even if it costs her money.
- Turn on your cell phone’s international calling plan or buy a Mexican burner phone when you arrive (They are sold at every OXXO convenience store in Mexico and you can get one for around $20 U.S. I made the mistake of thinking I could make do with communicating through email with a wi-fi connection, but I would have liked the more immediate response of a phone call most of the time. Especially when I was nervous about my flushed face and bloody gums.
- If you’re going alone and speak no Spanish, you’ll probably be fine, but I was very happy to have my friend Paula there if I needed her. She knows Vallarta inside and out and was able to direct me to the cheapest farmacia (they all have different prices) and to be my emergency contact in case anything went wrong.
- If you think you’ll need anything stronger than ibuprofen, bring it with you. It’s extremely difficult to get opiod pain relievers in Mexico. Some farmacias will pull out unmarked bags of what they claim is vicodin, but do not buy these. Not only will you pay about $150 U.S. for ten pills, you really have no idea if they are genuine or not. I was fine with 600mg of Ibuprofen twice a day and the sublingual pain reliever I took in conjunction with it. If you aren’t sure you will be, pack your own pain relievers.
- Having said that, it’s totally legal to buy Xanax without a prescription in Mexico, so if you’re nervous about getting work done, you might want to run down to the farmacia and get something to calm your nerves beforehand if you’ll think you’ll need it.
- As far as accommodations go, I recommend getting an apartment through Air BnB that has a kitchen and is within walking distance of anything you might need. Being able to cook and having a freezer for my ice packs was absolutely essential. Also, since I had laundry facilities, I was able to pack much lighter for my 12 day journey. In the high season (December-April) you can expect to pay about $80 U.S. per night for a nice studio that is centrally located. In the low season (May-November) you’ll pay half that. The sweet spots are November and May. It’s hot, but the rents are cheap and you aren’t right in the middle of the rainy season when the humidity can be oppressive.
All in all, I had a great experience in Mexico getting my dental work done. I saved thousands and thousands of dollars and, most importantly, I got my smile back…which you really can’t put a price on. I already feel ten times more confident and couldn’t be happier with the natural look of my new teeth. If you are in the same boat I was in and American dentistry is just too expensive, I say “Go for it” south of the border. Just be careful and do your due diligence beforehand. Also, I’m happy to answer any questions that I can.
Lastly, if this is something you’d like to do but you are nervous because you don’t speak the language, or have never been to Vallarta, or don’t know anyone in town, I can help. I had such a good experience that I asked my friend Paula if she would be willing to be a contact and translator for any of my friends who would like to come down and have work done, and she heartily agreed. She loves helping people and is an invaluable resource when it comes to the ins and outs of Vallarta. Here’s what she can offer if you are interested:
For $250 U.S.
- Advice on accommodation. She knows several good and responsive Air BnB hosts with nice units in good parts of town.
- A Mexican cell phone pre-programmed with her number, your dentist’s number, and all emergency services numbers.
- Translation services if needed.
- 24 hour emergency contact during your stay.
She can also add on other services for a small fee, such as shopping or delivering food to you from restaurants while you recover, or airport pick up/drop off if you prefer not to take cabs or Uber. And pretty much anything else you may need during your stay. Just ask. If you think you might be interested in her services or have questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer anything I can and put you in touch with Paula if you’d like to make use of her talents.
I hope you found this article helpful and good luck on your own dental adventure!