You might be wondering what the rise of dental health holidays in Mexico has got to do with backpacking but there are some takeaways that might come in useful when you’re on the road.
The backpacking lifestyle is not necessarily the healthiest of choices, and all too often it is easy to neglect the basic health and hygiene standards we adopt at home. Occasionally this is through necessity rather than a conscious decision, although quite what the person who asked a backpacker forum “if it would be OK if they didn’t clean their teeth for 5 months” thought the outcome to their dental health would be is anybody’s guess?!
Health is something all travellers take for granted – until it goes walkabout. You can plot, plan and prepare your trip to the millionth degree but it can take a turn for the worse as unexpectedly as a mouse at a cat convention…
What are Dental health holidays?
Dental Health holidays are booming across the world. Also known as dental tourism, it is when patients travel from their own country to another for their dental treatment. Why? The overwhelming reason is typically down to costs. In Mexico, costs are at between 50 and 80% lower than in the United States and Canada – and where many people admit their health insurance does not adequately cover their needs they are turning to alternatives.
The traditional view of dental tourism is that it involves a 1 or 2 week holiday, usually at a gorgeous beach destination, where expensive, ‘big ticket’ dental procedures are carried out while patients relax in the sun between trips to their dentist’s clinic to complete their treatment.
While these trips do happen, there are many patients who opt to take advantage of the lower prices abroad by incorporating their everyday dental care into their lifestyle.
Particularly for those living in the Southern United States, a trip over the US-Mexico border to visit, for example, a Tijuana dentist rather than a San Diego dentist to save 70% is now becoming somewhat commonplace. In fact, Mexico’s border towns have seen a boom in dental patients visiting from North America and Canada, and as much as Tequila is part of Mexico’s identity, some border towns can say that dentistry is part of theirs.
In Los Algodones, dentists offering their services within a 10 minute walk of the border crossing number around 350 – pretty much confirming it as a go-to dental destination, particularly for snowbirds and retirees down from the North who spend winter in warmer climes and who tend to have all their dental work here, year after year.
So – what are the takeaways for backpackers?
1. Before your trip, visit your dentist
Prevention is better than cure, so getting any minor issues dealt with before they become bigger problems is a must.
2. Don’t neglect your dental hygiene routine just because you are on the road
Brush and floss twice daily in the morning and evening, which will help to keep down plaque-forming bacteria and prevent cavities and/or gum disease.
3. Give your teeth a rest from sugar and acids
Particularly prevalent in fruit and fruit juices, as well as the well-known culprits, like soda and fizzy, sugary drinks, which erode enamel, weaken teeth and provide the ideal environment for nasty bacteria. Stick to drinking/eating these only at mealtimes and drink water the rest of the time to stay hydrated.
4. Be careful of subjecting your teeth to unnecessary stress
Broken teeth and fillings have been caused by crunching on nuts, hard candy and even ice cubes.
5. You may want to plan a check-up or a teeth cleaning while you are traveling
The recommendations are that you should visit a dentist twice a year, and you will find that when visiting Mexico, dentists generally offer a free initial consultation, so it won’t cost you anything if you don’t need to have anything done.
6. Obviously, if you do need emergency dental treatment, ask around your fellow travellers for recommendations
Use a good online dental tourism company or do your own research. Make sure that any dentist credentials stack-up and that you feel confident in your chosen clinic.
You may not be on a dental health holiday, but backpackers can take advantage of the low prices and excellent quality dental services on offer in Mexico, if you know where to look.