Monday, February 23, 2015

A visit to the dentist in Mexico

I've got a couple of issues with my teeth. I had a root canal about six years ago and the tooth is still a little cranky. Every time I visited my dentist in Washington I complained, and every time he told me the x-ray showed no problem. Until my last appointment, last November. He told me there's now a 3D x-ray that sometimes reveal a nerve that's been left behind. He referred me to an oral surgeon who would take that x-ray for $180. I told him I'd wait until spring.

I wear a night guard so I don't grind my teeth down to nothingness. These appliances get gross and old, and because of my cranky tooth the dentist has to adjust it from time to time. Right now it looks like some obscene thing from beneath the earth. So I need to replace it.

I'm not much of a risk taker, but I've heard good things recently about a dental office in Nogales, Mexico. My friend Ken had some work done last month and he was very satisfied. So I called for an appointment. The woman answered in Spanish. I said, "Habla ingles, por favor" and she switched right over. I told her what I needed and she set me up for Wednesday at 3:00.

It's about an hour and ten minutes to Nogales, Arizona. We paid $4 to park at the Burger King, then walked the two blocks to the border and went through the gates to Nogales, Mexico. Half a dozen men expressed an interest in selling us something or giving us a taxi ride. We said no thank you. As Ken had instructed us, we looked to the left for the fountain six shops down and then across the street to the dental office. There it was! I checked in at the front desk. Soft rock oldies were playing. I filled out the medical paperwork in the waiting room.

A smiling young woman took me upstairs for x-rays. I had been told diagnostics would be free; that included the x-rays and the checkup. I returned to the waiting room. Another young woman took me to a small room in the back where a young dentist checked my teeth. She said a cleaning would be $35 and asked me if I wanted to do that. I said yes. The dentist cleaned and flossed my teeth. She knew what I'd come in for. She said the 3D x-ray would cost $85 and the price of the night guard would depend on the kind I selected. I said yes, I wanted the x-ray because I needed to find out if there was still a problem with my root canal tooth.

The dentist's assistant took me back upstairs for the 3D x-ray. I returned to the waiting room. Another assistant came and took me to another room in the back where I met another smiling dentist. She listened to my story about my cranky tooth and checked my bite. While she was working a third dentist poked his head in the door and said, "I read your x-ray. Your root canal is clean, no problem." I thanked him. The bite-checking dentist explained that I could get a night guard similar to the one I'd had before, or, for $360, I could get one which would require at least two additional appointments. At each one, my bite would be checked. Where there was pressure from particular teeth, the guard would be adjusted just for those teeth. I would come back two weeks later for another check and another possible adjustment.

I wasn't sure. I asked her if she had a flyer I could read about this new night guard. She didn't, but she brought up a UTube video on the large screen to show me. The procedure made sense. The dentist made a mold of my mouth and I will get my night guard this Friday.

I paid for my appointment: $35 for the cleaning, $85 for the 3D x-ray, and $180 for half of the cost of the night guard. I pay for the rest of the night guard on Friday.

While I was seeing the dentists and the x-ray techs, Art was undergoing his own x-ray, exam, cleaning, and evaluation for an implant he'd been told by our dentist at home was needed. The price tag at home is $5,000. In Nogales, Mexico it will be $1,800. The office will study the nature of Art's implant need to determine whether it's advisable; the implant would involve the jaw and sinus cavity and might not be a straightforward procedure. They are going to let him know.

Our appointments were for 3:00 p.m. We left the dentist at 5:30, crossed the street to a farmacia where I checked on the price of a Z-pack of antibiotics, available there without a prescription. $25. I will pick up a couple for my sister next Friday.

We returned to the border. The U.S. agent examined my passport and commented on the stamp from Kenya, then wished me a good day. We walked to the Burger King to retrieve our car and were back in Tucson an hour later.

Differences from my dentist in the states? A building interior furnished and decorated like others I've seen in Mexico. A different dentist for each separate procedure. Handheld X-ray devices used by the dentist to get a closer look at a particular tooth. A paper cup with water to rinse my mouth and spit into a small white sink, like when I was a kid.

And a bill that made me smile.

16 comments:

Chris Loehmer Kincaid said...

I'm glad you had a good experience. I don't know about dental care, but I know that medical care in the U.S. is ridiculously expensive compared to other countries. Some may say that the care here is much better than other countries, but I don't think so. I think you still have to shop around, get references, check out the provider and their facility. A person can still get great medical - and now I know dental - care in a different country, for much less money.

Olga Hebert said...

I was just quoted a price of 3500 dollars for a dental guard. Passing on that, but especially now after reaing your post.

DJan said...

I wonder what the problem is with that root canal tooth if the dentist says it's clean and it still hurts. Maybe the dental guard will take care of it. :-)

Janette said...

I knew many people in Flagstaff who drove to Mexico for their dental work. So many went that several of the Flagstaff dentists stripped their shops and started charging less! None of the people I knew who went to Mexico had problems with their care. I would have gone if my children were older when we lived there.
I'll be anxious to hear about the mouth guard.
I need a new one and it might be worth the trip!

marciamayo said...

Wow! What a great story. We hear such horrible things about the border towns in Mexico. This gives me hope for everyone.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

I'm so glad you had a good experience. I'll be looking forward to hearing more about it after your second visit. It sounds great!

Grandmother (Mary) said...

From living abroad I know that medical and dental tourism is big business aimed at Americans in serach of less expensive but sophisticated care. It's available in numerous places, including Mexico, for a fraction of what is paid in the US. Yours is one of many satisfied stories I've heard.

Retired English Teacher said...

I'm glad this worked so well for you. I look at the overhead that dentists now have in the U.S. and wonder why they think they need so many assistants and office managers. All these people must get paid. That is one reason their costs are so high. I drive to forty mile south to where we used to live to see the dentist because it is so much cheaper than it is here.

Friko said...

All Americans have beautiful teeth. At such prices I am not surprised. Even the Mexican quotes seem high to me.

Weston Wadlington said...

Different dental treatments can give you varying experiences. The details you've put in describing what kind of millieu those alternate dental visits would be in are really helpful. We certainly do not have to be stuck in terms of the kind of dental treatments we can get. There are a lot we can choose from, and we deserve to do so. Thanks for sharing! All the best!

Weston Wadlington @ Peak Family Dentistry

Linda Reeder said...

I had trouble for a long time with a root canal too. From horrible pain to discomfort to no sensation took years.
It sounds like your Mexican dental experience has been very positive.

Anastasia Kitakis Hurlin (Stacey Hurlin) said...

Linda, I just PM you to ask you about your experience and voila! I find this blog. One tip to several comments that might be helpful. Since most of my family's health issues have always been taken care of more than sufficiently with homeopathy I add this comment. The fine nerve endings tampered with in the process of a root canal can take a VERY long time to heal. Hypericum Perf., in homeopathic tincture or pellet form, is for nerve ending damage. If interested, someone can find a homeopath or a store that has knowledgable staff. The remedy would likely be taken only a few times to notice a desirable effect. And, it costs at most $10!. This will not conflict with any meds someone is taking, Just passing that along. Useful for any injury, surgery, stitches, dental.... where there has been nerve damage.

Diane Cain said...

High quality info here! Keep up the great work. I love the feelings being expressed.
Dental Cleaning

Eunice Greer said...

Glad to hear about your lovely dental experience in Mexico. Getting a second opinion from a different dentist is actually pretty smart. In any case, did you find out what's causing the pressure on your tooth that underwent root canal? I hope that everything works out well for you. Thanks for sharing that, Linda! All the best! :)

Eunice Greer @ Downtown Dental SC

Rudy Spencer said...

Getting a second opinion is always a good thing, as provides you with other alternatives, just like what happened to you. Saying that your trip to Mexico for the dental issue was worth it is a huge understatement. Haha! Anyway, I hope the next visits wielded you some great results as well. Thanks for sharing!


Rudy Spencer @ LBDP

Shruti sodhi said...

Thank you for sharing such great information. It has help me in finding out more detail about Dentists in bandra!