ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dental practices in Santa Fe and Albuquerque have started referring patients to a dental concierge service that takes New Mexicans south of the border for what the company says are less expensive treatments.
While local dentists may not have been forthcoming with referrals to Mexico in the past, some now want patients who can’t afford care in the U.S. to receive needed treatments, said Ralph Grosswald, managing partner of Beyond Borders Dental, a Santa Fe-based business that launched in early 2016.
Grosswald declined to identify the practices or say how many are providing referrals.
Rising dental costs are prompting cash-pinched New Mexicans to seek less expensive care with the help of go-betweens like Grosswald, whose business has been taking clients to dental clinics in Palomas, Mexico. He said clients can save as much as 80 percent on most treatments.
“I think the bottom line is that the dental professionals know that the need for care, sometimes stretching into thousands of dollars, is epidemic, and a lot of people can’t afford it” due to limited insurance or fixed incomes, especially retirees,” said Grosswald. “They (dentists) aren’t real eager to lose the business but will help people who aren’t getting any care at all.”
According to the National Association of Dental Plans, 114 million Americans don’t have dental insurance, including 46 million people aged 65 or older. And for those who do, the costs of dental work for more costly procedures, such as root canals, crowns or implants can still be out of reach.
Medicare has never covered so-called routine dental care.
As an indication of the need, more than 1,200 people showed up in April for free care provided by the state dental association at an event in Santa Fe. Another event is scheduled Sept. 22 & 23 at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
Dr. Tom Schripsema, an Albuquerque dentist and past president of the New Mexico Dental Association, in an earlier interview emphasized that consumers traveling to Mexico for dentistry should proceed with caution. He also recommend that people explore all the options with their local dentists. Most have payment arrangements that can be made if money is an issue, he said.
Matthew Messina, a practicing dentist and consumer adviser on behalf of the American Dental Association, said Americans who visit dentists in foreign countries should do a lot of research. Different countries use different types of equipment, and some items, such as implants, may not have warranties. Malpractice lawsuits may not be an option.