Every workday, Dr. Jessica Nitardy leaves her home near El Paso, Texas and drives for more than an hour to the Mexican border. She crosses immigration and heads to her dental practice in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which until recently was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
But the patients she sees aren’t Mexican—almost all are American.
“I can count my Mexican patients on my fingers,” she told me in a phone interview. “No, they all come from Austin, Houston, even Florida, Colorado, Alaska ... ”
The reason they flock to her office, congenially named “Rio Grande Dental,” is laid out in a neatly organized table on Nitardy’s website:
A dental implant that runs $1,500 in the U.S. costs just $549 in her office. Crowns and bridges, two of the most expensive dental procedures, are also a third of the price.
Pair that with an El Paso hotel at $100 per night, and Nitardy’s patients still save a bundle. She even sends a complimentary car to pick them up at the airport. (Most patients are unnerved by the thought of an overnight in Juarez, even though the city is much safer now.)
An estimated 42 percent of Americans don’t have dental insurance. More than a quarter of people with employer-provided insurance don’t receive dental benefits, only 16 states provide dental benefits through Medicaid, and most Obamacare subscribers didn’t sign up for a separate dental plan. More than a third of Americans didn’t see the dentist last year, and those living in poverty were more likely to skip visits.