Visiting a Dentist in Los Algodones
Anne and I needed a ton of dental work. We are both small business, sole proprietors which is great in so many ways but dental coverage is not one of them. We have to pay the full cost ,minus a 10% cash discount at best, for work on our teeth. Because of this in the past when the possibility of crowns came up we generally went with the cheaper option of fillings to fix our teeth. But we are getting older now and the teeth containing many fillings are starting to crack and break. Crowns can no longer be avoided.
While traveling last winter we ran in to a slew of folks that had gotten dental work done in Mexico. Really!! We said, isn’t that scary and low quality. We were assured it was a decent place to have dental work performed and that it’s extremely popular due to the low costs. Many of these people weren’t hurting for money and doing it out of desperation, just trying to save a buck or two. So this snow birding season we decided to give it a whirl and planned a dental trip to Algodones, Mexico . Anne fired up the interwebs and poured through tons of reviews and recommendations to decide which clinic to go to. After a fair amount of research she choose Sani Dental Group. Based of good reviews, reasonable rates and size of the facility. They have many dentists and specialist under the same company umbrella, which would prove valuable.
We found camping in the Yuma area. The place is a mecca for RVing snow birds so it’s real easy to find a spot whether it be high-class resort, low-budget full hook ups, or as we prefer dry camping in the desert. You can drive right into Algodones or as the overwhelming majority do park in a huge lot right at the border crossing and walk in. When you walk across you literally just walk into Mexico, no border checks or anything. Coming back though you must go through US Customs and the lines can be long, long, long. At certain times it can be several hours, we averaged around 25 minutes over the course of 8 trips down. Seems most people leave early afternoon so worst time to leave is around 2-3 PM. Once you enter the town you will be barraged by solicitations from street barkers trying to get you to come in to their particular establishment. Pharmacy’s, Eyeglasses, Dental Procedures of all kinds! It’s a little unnerving for a pair of polite Canadians at first but by day 2 we didn’t even blink an eye. There is also the touristy trinkets and doodads for sale you’d expect in a little Mexican town and all the stall operators trying to get you to stop. Once we ran the gauntlet, actually it’s not too bad, we found ourselves at the entrance to Sani Dental Group.
The place is a fairly new building and modern looking inside. We are greeted by a frantically busy man named Martin who is your host for the services. He speaks English very well and can translate when needed with the staff. we sign in and head through a door to a long waiting room with around 12-15 people. There are 3 plasma TV’s with satellite feeds, nice!, fresh water machines, internet access and clean washrooms. We wait around 20 minutes then go in and each get Panoramic X-rays of our teeth done so they can diagnose our problems. Another 20 minutes goes by and we are in the diagnose room with Doctor Mike and his assistant. They go over the findings and recommend the best course of action. Looks like Anne needs 11 crowns and I need 14. One of mine, a back molar is a question mark, they think there is a good chance it will need a root canal or extraction but would need to wait till it was drilled to know. We decide this year to have the top ones done and come back for the bottoms next year. We figure they would then book an appointment in a few days to come back, Wrong! we were in the chair with drilling and tooth bits flying within the hour.
That day they prepared all our teeth for crowns and took impressions so the lab, which is on site could make them. The next day they were ready for fitting and adjustments then back to the lab for final build. Once they are ready you go in and they cement them on and do some final tweaks to your bite and your good to go. My visit was complicated somewhat due to that back molar being rotten. The root canal specialist looked at it and took a close up X-ray determining it was not a suitable candidate for a root canal. He said if he tried a root canal there is a high chance of failure in 6 months or a year, so the tooth needed an extraction and implant. Unfortunately for me when the tried to extract the tooth it was fused too my jaw bone. At this point the Dentist doing the extraction stopped and I was referred to an Oral Surgeon on staff to complete the extraction and do what is called a bone graft. I was ushered over a block or so to their higher end outlet called Platinum Dental Center, one of the nicest clinics I have ever seen, all new. The surgery was done same day and went well.
A week or so later and we have new crowns and I have a healing extraction hole. The pain has varied over the days for us. I had the worse pain the first day after the drilling but aspirin solved that and during the extraction while waiting for the Oral Surgeon but they were kind enough to give me some prescription pain reliever to quell that. Mostly I’ve taken Ibuprofen and its been enough. Anne on the other hand has very sensitive teeth and needed a prescription strength pain reliever. Prescriptions are ridiculously cheap there, I think our total cost for my antibiotics, oral antibacterial gel, and Anne’s pain relievers was under $30. Oh and $9.95 for a bottle of Tequila!
Now the negatives.
- It can be hard to communicate. Many of the staff have weak English skills so you have to be patient to understand them or figure out who is a good translator on site and ask for them.
- They rarely are on time so be ready to wait, getting all upset won’t help you much, just go with the flow. I found you will get more flies with honey than vinegar. They all work 6 days a week, sometimes late into the evening, treat them nice and you’ll get it back.
- Going back to the States can involve a long wait with street vendors shoving trinkets in your face. Made less fun by an uncomfortable or painful mouth. Not much you can do but remember the money your saving.
Speaking of money, here is what we figure we saved.
Crowns in Canada = $1000 each Mexico = $160 each
Extraction and Bone graft in Canada = guessing $3000 Mexico = $700
So Canada total cost $13,000 and we paid in Algodones $3100
Well that’s our Our Dental Trip to Algodones, Mexico. We plan to return for further work next year. The staff at Sani Dental treated us well. They were very fair with the costs, not charging me for any time spent working on the tooth that eventually needed pulling, only the actual cost of extraction and bone graft. We receive some free medications and help with pain management when asked. Thanks Sani Dental. Also specific thanks to Victor Manuel Valencia, our main Dentist and my bone graft Oral Surgeon Alejandro Barragan.
*Update* – We return one year later
We headed back to the Yuma area this snowbird season and again visited the little town of Los Algodones for some dental work and this time new eyeglasses. We setup our fifth-wheel on some free 14 day BLM camping land about 20 minutes from town off Ogilby Road. Once again we parked the truck ( price went up a buck to $6 a day) in a huge lot across the border from Los Algodones and walked in.
The eyeglasses were much cheaper than back home. We both picked up new reading glasses. Anne’s cost $90 dollars for frames and lenses with anti glare ( $55 without anti-glare) and mine were $125. The last two pair in I got in Canada cost me $400 each, I have a pretty strong astigmatism correction required, so lenses are usually pricey. Both our eye exams were free.
As far as dental work this year I decided only one tooth was in really bad need of repair, a back bottom molar that had a broken filling, so wanted to get that one crowned and also have my bone graft looked at and see if it is a candidate for a future implant. All my 7 crowns from last year are great and no problems so far. I paid this year $160 for the crown and another $60 dollars for 2 x-rays. The crown took three days total, drilling, then fitting and final day cementing in the crown. My x-ray on the bone graft was not conclusive and they want to perform a CAT scan (cost $150). I will wait another year and let things heal more and likely get it then.
My wife Anne has had some problems with two of her crowns done last year and wanted to have them looked at. They don’t quite fit right and cause minor irritation to the gums around them. She went in for a diagnoses and they actually found that 4 of her 8 crowns done last year needed to be replaced. One was actually cracked and she wasn’t even aware of it. Sani Dental honored their two year warranty and replaced all four crowns for free. Anne also acquired a mouth guard for a cost of $65 dollars, she feels that she may be grinding or clenching her teeth at night. It is disappointing that half her crowns failed but we are impressed they honored the warranty and were honest about the two faulty ones she never even asked about.
This year we did do something different. We made sure to eat some of the yummy shrimp tacos before getting our teeth drilled! 🙂 They have many little taco stands scattered around the town and the food is great. I also love to swill down Coca-Cola from in real glass bottles like the old days. It just tastes better. The town was much the same as last year. Long lines of snowbirds at the US border, lots of folks selling belts, purses, ceramic animals, hats, t-shirts, jewelry etc. Amigos on every corner enticing you to use their particular dental, pharmacy or eyeglass services. We bought a few small souvenirs and some Mexican liquor.
We had a fun time this year, the weather was fantastic, and still feel good about the town and the quality of the dental care.
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