How America’s dental health crisis created the Mexico’s “Molar City”? - science - science

Immigration and the Mexican border have been in the news for months. But all the stories have been about people coming to the United States. The untold story is how many Americans are leaving the U.S. for Mexico. Not to stay but to get dental care.

How America’s dental health crisis created the Mexico’s “Molar City”?

So many Americans are making the trip across the border to see a dentist that one small border town, Los Algodones, is now better known by its nickname: Molar City. The demand has become so great that a website has been created to help Americans make appointments with Mexican dentists before they leave home.

Los Algodones, population 5,500, is the northernmost town in Mexico, a stone’s throw from the international border at Andrade, California, and just 10 miles west of Yuma, Arizona. But this is no typical border town. It has far more dentists per capita than any city or town in Mexico. Or the United States for that matter. In fact, it reportedly has the highest density of dentists in the world. By some estimates, just about one of every 15 residents is a dentist.

Tens of thousands of Americans are now going to Los Algodones every year not only because dental care in the United States has become so expensive but also because a growing number of U.S. communities have few if any dentists. 

Not only are there not enough dentists in the United States—the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) estimates that we need thousands more just to meet current demand—most of the dentists we do have now work in prosperous parts of our cities and suburbs. That’s understandable when you consider the amount of student loan debt many dental school graduates now face. Of dental school graduates with student loans, the average debt grew to $261,149 last year, according to the American Dental Education Association. More than 30 percent of graduates reported debt exceeding $300,000. Ballooning student debt and the high cost of setting up a dental practice have contributed to a growing maldistribution of dentists.

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