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.