San Ysidro, California, is the world’s busiest land border crossing. An estimated 300,000 people cross through it to Tijuana every day – many of them to visit the dentist.
You wouldn’t be able to spot these dental patients either. As dental tourism sweeps the US and Canada, it is attracting people from all walks of life. There is no typical dental tourist.
Dr Shirley Baker, a dentist practising in Tijuana for many years, says:
“Our patients come from all over the United States and Canada, from all walks of life, and for many different reasons… we have encountered many interesting and colorful people, from artists to farmers, lawyers to designers, and many more.”
It’s not just Angelenos crossing the border for dental. Just 60% of patients to Tijuana’s Odontex clinic are from California. The rest, they told us, come from Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, Washington, Utah, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York. Even British Columbia and Alaska.
So what’s bringing these people all the way to Tijuana to get their teeth done?
A rep from Tijuana clinic Dentalia said that while their patients always mention their “exceptional service”, the main reason is “the savings they get compared to prices back home”.
And the savings are significant. Our research found that the difference in price for the same treatments in Los Angeles and Tijuana are between 56%-86%.
Tips from Tijuana dentists
We asked some top Tijuana clinics what advice they’d give to anyone considering visiting the city for dental care. Here are some of the things they suggested:
Plan your stay around your dental needs – find out exactly how long your treatment will take and give yourself time to recover
Find a clinic that offers a personal case manager – “this person will help patients throughout treatment and will make the process really smooth”
Know where you are going – print out maps and “familiarize yourself with the border crossing area via Google Streetview”
Bring snacks, water and entertainment with you – “podcasts are great when waiting at the border”
They also stressed the importance of researching the clinic and dentist before you go. The Odontex clinic said:
“Get to know the clinic you are getting your treatment at. It is really important to do research on the dental office… Ask what kind of materials they use, the expertise of the doctors and see pictures of clinic facilities.”
Crossing the border
Once you cross the border, there will be touts looking for your ‘business’. Dentalia clinic advises:
“Don´t let taxi drivers or dentists at the border make you change your mind for lower prices, they might be compromising on quality or guarantees.”
Dr Shirley Baker offers transportation to and from the border with her “friendly and helpful driver Manny”.
To make crossings smoother, the clinics recommended US citizens getting a passport card or arranging for a medical pass with the clinic if you are driving yourself. You can also check out the border wait time for San Ysidro before you travel.
If your treatment will take place over a period of days rather than minutes or hours, it’s better to stay in Tijuana. The clinic can organize lodging for you close by and usually pick-ups from the hotel.
When you’re not at the dentist, there is plenty more to do in Tijuana.
We recommend the Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT) which houses a theater, IMAX Dome, botanical garden, aquarium, galleries, coffee shop, book store, and an esplanade of 5,700 square meters. Check ahead as you might catch one of the various festivals run throughout the year.
You can also enjoy the lovely weather, shopping and of course the authentic Mexican food.
For more information about dentists in Tijuana, visit our dedicated dentists in Tijuana page.