by Emma Mooney
The perfect smile is a California staple – this is the home of Hollywood after all.
Yet it’s estimated that 4.7 million LA residents don’t have dental insurance.
LA’s $1.3 Billion Dollar Smile
Those without insurance spend over $1.3 billion a year out-of-pocket on dental care. Price is not just a concern to the uninsured. The biggest reason that both uninsured and insured Angelenos avoid visiting the dentist for LA residents is the high cost. The next biggest barrier for both groups was the lack of price transparency.
Seeking dentists in Tijuana
San Ysidro, California, is the world’s busiest land border crossing. People cross into Tijuana for shopping, night life, the beaches in Rosarito, and dental services.
Every Angeleno knows someone who went to a dentist in Tijuana and ‘saved a bundle’. However, there has been a lack of hard data and comparisons on exactly the differences in costs on either side of the border. One reason is that dentists in LA are unforthcoming about their prices, with 1 in 4 refusing to provide pricing information without an initial consultation. Another factor is how wildly prices vary in the American dental market, even between two or three blocks.
A recent and well-researched report from Empirica Research for Brighter.com means we finally have solid figures on for Los Angeles dental market. We collated our own data on pricing from all the Tijuana-based dentists listed on WhatClinic.com, and compared these costs to Empirica’s data.
The savings were even higher than we expected.
LA v Tijuana: the savings
LA’s dental market pricing is so varied across price ranges that the prices are listed in 50th percentile (the mid-range prices) and the 99th percentile (top end). The savings are calculated in both percentiles, because if you like paying top dollar at home, you’ll probably gravitate to high end prices in Mexico too. So we’ve compared like for like.
|Prices in Los Angeles
|Prices in Tijuana
|% Savings Tijuana
|Comprehensive Oral Evaluation||D0150||$75||$183||0||25||100%||86%|
|Scaling and root planning||D4341||$210||$395||60||100||71%||75%|
Starting with the consultation, patients often won’t have to put their hand in their pocket because most consultations in Mexico are free. So the saving: 100%. The most expensive clinic will charge $25, a saving of 86% on a top-end place in LA.
For scaling and root planning (cleaning gums and roots for treating gum disease) the savings are about the same, between 71 and 75%.
For a tooth extraction, again the savings between mid-point and top-end are similar. You can expect saving over half of the cost of a tooth extraction, which is good as your mouth will probably require more work once that tooth is removed.
The quote for a dental crown will usually get a gasp out of anyone (see our blog on the cost of a crown). The mid-point price is just shy of a thousand dollars, and can go up from there to $1600. This is where seeing a dentist in Tijuana can make the difference between whether you go on holiday or not this year.
The savings to be had on a crown are up to 80%: that’s $1280 saving if you plump for the top dentist in Tijuana rather than the top dentist in Santa Monica. If you go mid-range, you’ll still stand to save 75%.
It’s a lot of money to save, between 56 and 80% on some treatments. For many, it’s worth the two and a half hour drive from LA, both insured and uninsured.
If you’re considering seeing a dentist in Tijuana, or any other part of Mexico, we have some advice and tipsto help you make an informed decision.