Dental work in Mexico can be performed for a fraction of the cost of similar procedures in North America, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. With the rapidly rising cost of living in the West, you may ask whether Mexico is a good choice for more affordable but safe, high quality dental work. The answer is Yes.

On average, dental patients from Western countries (such as the US, Canada or Australia) can expect to save between 50 to 70 percent on basic dental procedures such as veneers, implants or crowns.

In this article, I’ll walk you through my experiences finding the best dentists in Acapulco, Mexico for implant surgery, crowns and preparatory dental work required to ensure successful outcomes.

In Mexico, dentists and other medical specialists don’t typically have slick websites or online social media. This makes it challenging to find the right dental professionals. In my experience, word of mouth from locals in Acapulco was the most reliable source of information. This was how I managed to find two excellent dental implant specialists and a cosmetic dentist who performed five dental implants and two crowns costing around AUD$13,000. Those costs included other related dental work including x-rays, bite correction, botox injections, bone grafts and dental splints.

What does it cost to have dental work in Mexico?

Many Westerners find major dental work to be unaffordable – even with comprehensive health insurance cover issued from their country of origin. Most health insurance providers (particularly in Australia) will only cover small amounts of dental work – especially at the higher end of the spectrum for crowns and particularly dental implants.

A dental implant performed in Canberra (Australia) which includes both implant and crown can cost anywhere from between AUD$10,000-$15,000 per tooth (at 2023 prices) and that’s for straightforward surgery with no complications. A dental implant and crown in Mexico will cost you around AUD$2,400 a tooth – at 2023 prices. (The implant costs around $1,500 and the crown around $900). These prices will vary slightly if additional work such as bone grafts are required.

Dental costs vary across Mexico

Dental work in Acapulco cost around AUD$13,000 for five implants and two crowns. I also had numerous bone grafts and botox injections into my jaw (and skull) to correct TMJ (discussed in more detail below). An implant with bone grafts in Acapulco will cost between AUD$1,500-$2,400 per tooth. I had five implants completed and two crowns – all requiring bone grafts. In 2022, a crown at Smile Acapulco cost around 8,600 MXN pesos. While getting my dental work completed, the costs of dental supplies for crowns and implants were all rising in line with global inflation.

You need to understand that prices of dental procedures will vary across Mexico. Further north towards the US border – in popular tourist destinations such as Puerta Vallarta, Playa del Carmen and Cancun – the prices will be much higher than the southern states because of a wealthier client base. I moved to Acapulco, Mexico in August 2020 so it made perfect sense to find dental providers there. Turns out, I ended up seeing three different dental practitioners – for slightly different procedures.

What do experts say about dental work in Mexico?

Patients Beyond Borders, which is a company researching medical procedures in different countries, listed Mexico as among one of the top ten destinations for dental tourism for US dental patients. (Other countries named included: Thailand, Hungary, Spain, Poland, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Malaysia, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

Comparative cost of dental work in Mexico compared with other countries – source Patients Beyond Borders

Cost of living drives dental pricing

The cost of living in Mexico is much lower than in most other Western countries and this also affects the costs of medical procedures. The diagram above shows indicative prices in US dollars and even though this data is around three years old – the comparative pricing remains relevant.

On average, I paid around AUD$1,500 for the implant and an additional $800 for the dental crown. So around $2,400 per tooth on average in 2022 prices. These implant prices included bone grafts to support the implants. If bone grafts aren’t required, the price may be lower.

Before moving to Mexico, I researched different dental providers in Acapulco, Mexico. I ended up seeing three different medical providers because of the complexity of the dental work required. Smile Acapulco was the only dental practice which I’d heard about before arriving there. The other dentists I visited didn’t have websites and I only found them after speaking to locals.

Periodontal and Implant Specialist Dr Fabiola Nava Vargas

The first dentist I saw was a periodontal and implant specialist, Dr Fabiola Nava Vargas. Her practice is in downtown Costa Azul – in one of the little side streets off the Costera. The dental work she performed has been far superior to much of what I experienced in Australia – at a fraction of the cost.

Dr Fabiola performed three dental implants, two bone grafts and extracted a cracked eye tooth. That eye tooth cracked because of a poorly fitted dental splint made in Sydney, Australia. I also saw her for routine dental checkups and cleaning.

Dr Fabiola and her team are extremely professional and attentive to all their patients. Dr Fabiola genuinely cares about her patients and and will personally contact you post-operatively to check on your progress. She also gave me great advice about how to design my entire treatment program and she then referred me to an oral-maxillary specialist (Dr Irma Ruiz) for some of the more complex procedures.

Dr Fabiola and her dental assistant, Nelly

Oral and Maxillar surgeon – Dr Maria Irma Ruiz Vega

The second dentist I saw was an oral and maxillar surgeon, Dr Maria Irma Ruiz Vega. She runs her practice with her husband who is also a dental surgeon. Their dental surgery and rooms are in Level 10 of Hospital Del Pacifico – overlooking the Acapulco hills.

Dr Irma Ruiz – oral and maxillar surgeon

Dr Irma specializes in more complex surgical procedures and correcting bite imperfections. In my case, I have severe temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ). TMJ is a painful condition causing jaw clicking. It can also cause crippling jawbone pain at night when trying to sleep. The expert work performed by Dr Irma and her team has almost corrected my TMJ condition. When the final crowns are placed, the TMJ may resolve completely. I plan to return to Acapulco in 2024 to have that work completed – subject to recovery and clean-up operations in Acapalco following devastating Hurricane Otis in October 2023.

Bone grafting and Botox for TMJ

I had complicated work done with Dr Irma Ruiz – including two bone grafts, a tooth extraction and botox injected into my jawbone – to relax the muscles causing the TMJ pain. The anaesthetist dentist administered a type of wakeful anaesthesia (oral conscious sedation) while the dentist performed the bone grafts. This was an unusual yet not completely unpleasant experience. And using anaesthesia where a patient is partially awake but pain-free allows the dentist to easily direct the patient to open and close their mouth at various times during the surgery.

I had complete confidence in all the dental work completed in Acapulco by all three practices I attended. Dr Irma and her husband gave me great advice not only about my dental condition but also detailed after-care instructions. Dr Irma and her team made a dental splint for me to use for sleeping at night – to prevent teeth grinding. That splint and the botox injections – immediately relieved the TMJ pain.

Cosmetic Dentistry at Smile Acapulco

The third dental practice I visited was Smile Acapulco. Smile specializes in orthodontics, endodontics, prosthetics and dental rehabilition. In my case, they put the finishing touches on my dental implants. They build and place the dental crown (the tooth) on the actual implant. The principal dentist there is Dr. Luis Ernesto Narváez Cabal who runs the practice with his wife – also a dentist and their skilled team.

Smile Acapulco have been in business for over 15 years with English-speaking staff. You can pay using cash, debit or credit card and they even accept cryptocurrency as payment for dental work performed.

Smile Acapulco, Costa Azul – reception

In all three dental practices I visited in Acapulco, you get the sense of family-run small businesses yet all super professional. You can find more information about Smile Acapulco’s practice from their Instagram page.

Dr Luiz at work – Smile Acapulco – source: Smile Acapulco – Instagram

Dental work – Australia vs. Mexico

Much of the dental work I had performed in Acapulco, Mexico has been to correct some of the substandard dental work performed earlier in Australia.

A dentist in Sydney’s Blue Mountains had told me that my bite was all wrong and that I needed a dental splint, braces and a whole bunch of work done to correct TMJ. Despite spending more than AUD$2,000 on that corrective work in Sydney – the TMJ persisted. Adding insult to injury, the dental splint which was designed to correct my bite – ended up costing me two cracked eye teeth. Before leaving Australia, one eye tooth cracked. I had it extracted in Australia. The second tooth cracked after I arrived in Acapulco and requiring extraction by Dr Fabiola in Acapulco.

Finding the right dentist in Mexico

When I first arrived in Acapulco, I heard about Dr Fabiola Nava Vargas from a local Mexican friend. During the two and a half years I lived in Acapulco, Dr Fabiola treated me more than a dozen times – for implants and reviews. She also referred me to the oral maxillary surgeon Dr Irma Ruiz for more complex work.

Both dental practices gave me the best care I have ever experienced. All three dental practices I visited in Acapulco delivered expert advice, treatment, and care. They also consulted each other regularly on my treatment and communicating outcomes and objectives. All practices had outstanding bedside manners.

All three were English-speaking or had staff speaking English and translating. This combination of skills and excellent customer service makes all three dental practices a great choice for English-speaking expats in Acapulco seeking high quality dental care.

General health and dental outcomes

The state of your general health plays an important role in the likely success of failure of any dental work. Patients who maintain good physical health generally experience better outcomes and quicker recovery times following dental surgery. A strong immune system helps in reducing the risk of post-operative infections and promotes faster wound healing.

Patients with well-managed chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, tend to respond better to anaesthesia and have a lower risk of complications during surgery. Alternatively, individuals with compromised general health, such as uncontrolled diabetes, cardiovascular issues, or immunosuppressive disorders, may face heightened risks during dental surgery.

Comprehensive pre-operative evaluations of a patient’s physical health are imperative for dental professionals to make well-informed decisions, customize treatment plans, and ensure the utmost safety and well-being of their patients. Diet and lifestyle also plays a role in the likelihood of success of dental implant surgery.

When dental implants fail?

Dr Fabiola performed three implants however two of those initially failed. This was because I had poor bone density in different parts of my jaw in one case. The second implant became infected and had to be removed. The gum disease I have from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (auto-immune thyroid disorder) may have contributed to this. So my implants failed because of underlying health problems – not because the dentist had made structural errors in placing the implants. Sometimes dental implants fail – and sometimes they can be fixed. Other times not.

Alarmingly, the first implant fell out in the dentist’s chair while the dentist, (Dr. Luis Ernesto Narváez Cabal) (at Smile Acapulco) was placing the prosthetic tooth over the healing cap. However, Dr Luis was so reassuring telling me that it was better that this happened while in the dentist chair where he could treat it – rather than if I was out and about during my daily life. The helpful staff at Smile Acapulco immediately contacted my other dentist Dr Fabiola and made appointments for me to see her the following week.

Repairing failed implants

The following week Dr Fabiola cleaned up the site where the implant had failed and prescribed me a course of antibiotics to prevent infection and further complications.

Several months later when that implant site had completely healed, the skilled Dr Fabiola added a complete bone graft over that site to rebuild both the gum tissue and the depleted bone. This skilful dentistry meant that when the implant was redone some months later – it was more likely to succeed. And it did.

Freshly-placed implant

Dr Fabiola reviewed what caused the implants to fail and developed successful treatment protocols which corrected the problems – using bone grafts. After the failed implants were removed, I had to wait several months before bone grafts could be attempted. Then once the bone grafts were placed and had healed the implants could be redone successfully.

Bone grafting for implants

Bone grafts are painful with a lengthy healing process. You should expect pain and swelling around the site for days following surgery.

However, in my case, the procedures worked. The gum tissue regenerated nicely. I had my second implant done on that site two months ago – and it healed perfectly. The successful bone graft created the perfect structure for the implant placement months later.

All three dental practices I attended – worked together to help me get my dental work done properly and affordably. They not only communicated with one another but also with the imaging services (Imadent). My dental work required full head tomography scans required prior to each major surgery. These dentists’ coordinated approach (which overcame my lack of Spanish) made my experience of dental tourism in Mexico so much easier.

Completing dental work

Between them, Dr Fabiola and Dr Ruiz (and their teams) successfully redid two major eye tooth implants successfully. And before returning to Australia in January 2023, crowns were placed over those implants (by Smile Acapulco). Smile Acapulco will match your teeth color so the final result is naturally looking.  

Before returning to Australia, I had three final implants completed with both Dr Fabiola and Dr Irma in one procedure over six hours. This lengthy and delicate procedure included three dental implants and two bone grafts. Surprisingly, the recovery time for this surgery was far less than I had expected.

The image below shows the bone grafting material used. Ossix Plus is a great choice as it strengthened the depleted jawbone. This makes implants more likely to succeed.

Ossix bone grafting materials

Bone grafting technology

Bone grafting technology is sophisticated and complex. Dental bone grafts are often successful if performed by a skilled dentist and the patient is in reasonably good health. But the procedure and recovery is painful and slow – often even more painful than the implant itself. The dentist will place a sliver of bone grafting material into your jawbone – a few centimetres down. That material will graft to your own bone and strengthens the gum area – taking around several months.

The results from my first bone graft were outstanding – but took six months to completely rebuild. Once the site was fully healed, Dr Fabiola re-reperformed the dental implant successfully.

Final thoughts

During my time in Mexico (from 2020 to 2023) I completed five successful dental implants and two crowns costing around AUD$14,000.00 Similar work would have cost around $10K per tooth in Australia. A total cost of between $50K and $70K.

The quality of the dental work I received in Mexico has been as good as or even superior to that offered in Australia. Mexico is a good place for dental tourism – but you need to do your own research. Goodwill and word of mouth from trusted locals is your best source of information.

Completed dental implants – final result

Many dental practices in Mexico don’t have comprehensive websites with glossy photos and advertising copy. Instead they focus on building the professional expertise of their in-house dental team and developing great customer relationships. So, Mexico can be an awesome dental tourism destination. You can easily find reliable and safe dental professionals at a fraction of the cost of work performed in Western countries.