Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dental Work in Los Algodones, Mexico (Part2)

Posted from Yuma, AZ       (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

The final part of our dental experience in Algodones, Mexico deals with the "play-by-play" of the procedures, the costs, and a summary and impressions of the whole experience.  If you'd like to see more about the logistics of getting to Algodones, selecting a dentist, or general information on the area please click on Part 1.

When we decided to have dental work done in Algodones we already knew pretty much what we wanted (and needed) done.  I had broken a molar (tooth #30) a few months ago, but since there was no pain it appeared that I could hold out until Algodones for treatment.  We both wanted to get our teeth cleaned as well. With Karen's prior dental experience I knew that I was looking at having a crown installed.  (Of course, fear set in, as I have only had two fillings in my entire life done.)

Day #1

Once we completed our initial paperwork, which also indicates what you are requesting to have done, we were directed to the waiting area. The first day (Wednesday) there were probably another 10 persons waiting to be seen. The diagnosing dentists rely heavily on panoramic X-rays to diagnose problems. Karen was the first to head into the X-ray room (approx. 10:15 AM).  She had a panoramic X-ray taken at a cost of $60. She was not really anxious to have another panoramic done as we had both had this type of X-ray done in Casa Grande last November.  I was next (approx. 10:30 AM), but they only took an X-ray of the single tooth area where I was going to need the crown.  Cost for my X-ray $10.

Here's the little room right off the waiting area where they take the X-rays. The wait from hitting the waiting area to having X-rays taken was only 10 or 15 minutes.  

The next step is to head into the "diagnosis" room with a dentist and his assistant (or business person), it was hard to tell.  Karen has had many fillings and several crowns throughout the years.  The dentist relied HEAVILY upon the X-ray to recommend to her that she needed 8-10 crowns done on the teeth with fillings. Fortunately, Karen's prior experience really helped at this point.  She has no problems with the current fillings in her mouth and once she advised the dentist of her prior dental experience, he "backed off" on the notion of doing the crown work. She finally wound up just having her teeth cleaned at a cost of $30.

We knew already that a crown was in my future.  The assistant quickly showed me a zirconium crown (their price $450).  I had already decided that because of the position of the molar (back) that appearance was not crucial to me.  With input from Karen, we decided on a standard porcelain fused to metal crown (their price $160).  At this point, expected procedures are written onto our charts and associated costs are outlined.  We agree to the work and the procedures begin.

Sani Dental Group has three offices in Algodones.  The real differences between the offices are the amount of personal attention a patient desires to have.  We were fine with their largest office on Alamo Street.  This seems to be where the majority of their patients come.  The other offices are called Sani Platinum and Sani Class.  Click on this link to compare the differences.

Karen was actually escorted by Dr. Edgar Garcia to the Sani Class office to perform her cleaning (approx. 11:00 AM). While she was in another location I was taken upstairs to begin my crown prep work.  Dr. Emmanuel (forgot his last name) was introduced by his assistant.  She did most of the English-Spanish translating during this first session.  She was very thorough in letting me know what was going to happen. It was now 12:11 PM (just over two hours since we arrived).

For those who have had crown work done this is probably old news, but a new experience for me. Day 1 consists of grinding the old tooth down to accept a new crown.  An impression is taken to facilitate the construction of the permanent crown. (Sani Dental has their own lab, so the permanent crown will be installed on Day 3.) Today, however, a temporary crown is cemented into place and the height is adjusted to create the desired "bite".

We finished my first day at approximately 1:30 PM and headed back to the border to cross back into the US.  There were only about 10 persons in line ahead of us. The crossing was painless. They looked at our passport and asked us what we had done in Mexico. No purse search or anything.  We were back in our car by 1:45 PM, even after taking a few pictures. There were quite a few cars entering Mexico during this time of day.

Day #2

My appointment today was at 12:00 PM. The parking lot was about as crowded as yesterday, but it does seem as though folks come earlier this time of the year and are leaving by mid-afternoon. We were actually running a bit late, but still got to the dental office at 12:02 PM.

Our wait was approximately 30 minutes I was led upstairs again to the same treatment room. Dr. Emmanuel was my attending dentist each day, but the assistants changed daily.  Today the temporary crown was removed and the metal coping for the final crown was fitted.  I also had Dr. Emmanuel grind the temporary crown a bit to make for a better "bite" fit. We were back in the car again by about 1:30 PM.  Again, an easy border crossing.  Customs took about 5 minutes today.


This was my final day of treatment (hopefully)!  My appointment was again for 12:00 PM. We arrived at 11:50 AM and I was taken upstairs at 12:20 PM.  The final porcelain to metal crown was cemented into place and I had a cleaning done. Out of the chair today at 1:00 PM.

We wandered through some of the streets and checked out a few vendors (not too closely, however) before heading back to the border crossing.  Didn't I mention sometime earlier that there are a LOT of dentists in Algodones.  Again, the border crossing was quick, almost no line at all.

I lived with the new crown through the weekend and decided that it needed just a small bit of adjustment to lower the height to improve the bite. (Karen thought this was normal.)  We decided to go back on Monday to purchase eyeglasses and drop by the dental office again (without an appointment) to have the crown adjusted.  Wait time was about an hour this time and time in the chair was about 10 minutes.  The adjustment helped GREATLY.

Summary and Our Impressions of Our Experience

1. Costs

The actual prices of Sani Dental Group's procedures can be viewed on their web page. These prices were actual and we encountered no deviations from these.  This was very helpful as it gives you an idea upfront of what it's going to cost.

Our costs were as follows:
  Karen-  Cleaning $30, Panoramic X-Ray $60   TOTAL  $90
  Steve-   Cleaning $30, Single X-Ray $10, Porcelein to Metal Crown $160  TOTAL  $200

Just as a point of comparison, when Karen left the dental field in 2012, typical costs in the northern Virginia area would have been (these will vary by region, of course):

Cleaning:  $80
Panoramic X-ray:  $75
Periapical X-ray:   $15
Porcelein-to-Metal Crown:  $1700

2. Quality of Dental Work

(Karen's Impressions)  The ability of the dentists to make diagnoses relies too heavily on X-rays. She noted that a "hands on" inspection of her mouth was lacking. No periodontal probing was done to check for any potential problems below the gum line.
The cleaning was performed using a cavitron (ultrasonic cleaner) and scaler use was minimal at best.

She felt that my crown work was very good and comparable, or better, to dentists in the US.

3. Recommendations 

Our experiences indicated that Mexican dentists are geared toward "procedures" such as crowns, bridges, implants, etc.  They do not concentrate as much on diagnoses and routine cleanings.  If you intend to have "procedures" done in Mexico you would probably be best served to visit a familiar dentist in the US and then develop a treatment plan.  Get the prices from the US office, then do a comparison with the Mexican dental offices.  I can't imagine that you would not save a bunch of money.

Would be do it again!  Yes, and we probably will if we need to have work done.  We will, however, probably have our next cleaning done in Casa Grande, AZ in about 6 months before we leave the area for the winter.  The reason for this is that with our Delta Dental plan we only pay 20% of the cost agreed upon between Delta Dental and the dental office.  Our cleanings last November were $60, which meant that we only paid $12 out-of-pocket.

Hopefully, these two blogs on our experiences with one Mexican dentist will give you a bit more insight to enable you to make a responsible and more informed decision about whether crossing the border for dental work is right for you.

Thanks again for taking a look!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dental Work in Los Algodones, Mexico (Part 1)

Posted from Yuma, AZ      (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

So our last post was at the Grand Canyon. So why Yuma, AZ when it's still fairly hot down this way? We came to Yuma to get some dental work done in Los Algodones, Mexico. We booked 8 days in the Escapee Co-Op named KOFA here in Yuma to give us plenty of time to get all of the dental work completed, and a few extra days should we need it for any complications.

So why did we decide to take the chance and have dental work done in Mexico?  Mainly one word COST.  We did as much research as possible before deciding to go to Mexico by reading forums, personal blogs, and looking at as many reviews on the internet as we could find.  In our travels, we have also spoken to many folks who had dental procedures done in Mexico (and lived to tell about it).

I am a dental "chicken".  I don't like going to the dentist and make no bones about it.  For some reason, I've been blessed with pretty healthy teeth through the years, however.  I've managed to have only one tooth filled when I was 18 YOA and a second filling just 2 years ago.  About 4 months ago, the tooth with the old filling broke into several pieces.  Needless to say, I was pretty nervous about this.  Karen reassured me that it was not the end of the world.

Most of you probably know that Karen was a dental hygienist for 28 years and a dental assistant for 7 years prior to that.  Fortunately, that gives us a bit of an "edge" when it come to dental procedures and the need for (or not) to have something done.  More on that a bit later.

This blog on our experience with Mexican dentistry is going to be broken into 2 parts.  Today's blog, Part 1, will be on selecting a dentist and the logistics of getting into and out of Mexico.

Part 2 will be on our actual experiences with the dentist we selected, along with associated costs and waiting times, etc.

DISCLAIMERS: We decided to choose Sani Dental Group for our dentist in Los Algodones.  There are literally hundreds of dentists, with both small and large practices, in a four or five block area of Los Algodones. As stated above, after doing a lot of research and reading a lot of reviews, this is why we chose the dentist we did.  This does NOT mean that this is the correct (or best) dentist for you.  DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST!
We also still have dental insurance (Delta Dental) in the US.  Sani Dental Group will actually complete the necessary paperwork to enable you to file with your dental insurance group for a $30 fee.  I do not know how, or if,  other dental offices in Mexico handle this.


On to Mexico!

Getting To Los Algodones

Finding Los Algodones is very simple and an easy drive.  Since we are staying in the Yuma area, just jump onto Interstate 8 and drive west into California. Take Exit 166 and head south on Rt. 186 (Algodones Rd/Andrade Rd) for 1.5 miles.  You'll pass by the Quechan Casino on your right and Sleepy Hollow RV Park also on your right just prior to reaching the large parking lot owned by the Quechan Indian Tribe also on your right.

At this point you'll need to decide whether you want to park in the parking lot and walk across the border or drive your vehicle into Mexico.  We opted to walk across the border and unless you are spending a lengthy (meaning several days straight) in Mexico I see no reason to drive across the border.  The parking lot is fenced all around and the Quechan Tribe has security which drives through the lot on a regular basis.  The current cost to park all day is $6, well worth it in my opinion.

Since I was going in to have a crown inserted, we knew that we'd be coming down for 3 days at least.  Although you can just walk in to most dental offices off the street, we had made online appointments.  (More on that in Part 2).  Our first day we were expected at 10:30 AM, so we were in the parking lot at 9:48 AM.  This was off season and on a Wednesday, so the lot is not very full at all.

The parking lot literally dumps pedestrians right at the entrance to the border crossing.  I felt a bit anxious (for no justified reason) about our crossing the first morning.  Here's a look at the vehicle crossing into Mexico, with the pedestrian sidewalk immediately to the right.

It is VERY easy to get in to Mexico, a bit harder to get out.  This is the turnstile to enter Mexico.  No officials, nothing to slow you down at all. Once you swing through the gate you're in Mexico.

Getting to the Dental Office

Because we had made online appointments, Sani Dental had given us a map and instructions on how to get to their business.  Very simple.  Do not make any turns, stay straight, cross over "A" Street, then "B" Street, and they would be mid-block on the left side.  From the border to their office was approximately 1/4 mile and a very easy walk. Early in the morning the streets are now crowded.

Pic By: Travelswithtwinkles.blogspot.com
The most unsettling thing for me were the street vendors.  Don't get me wrong, they weren't rude or too "in your face", but still not the type of shopping experience which I like or am accustomed to.  Because we were in somewhat of a hurry to get to our dental office, a simple no thank you and a brisk walking pace was all that was needed to get through the gauntlet.  Note:  The street vendors are set up on the sidewalks so that you have to pass by them, or walk in the street, which I don't recommend.

It took us only 8 minutes from the time we left the car to being in front of the Sani Dental Group's Alamo Street office.  Pretty good I thought for not ever being here before.

We went inside and checked in with the receptionist and advised her of our 10:30 appointment. NOTE: Do not be afraid of communication problems with the staff.  We NEVER had any problems throughout the entire 3 days we had work done here. If the particular dentist, assistant, or whomever didn't speak fluent English, there was always someone close by to interpret.  (Again, more on this in Part 2.)  We filled out a 1-page new patient form (very simple compared to the US since HIPAA rules do not apply in Mexico.

After the form was completed we were directed to the waiting area.  This was now 10:29 AM and remember our appointment isn't until 10:30 AM.  The reception and waiting areas are very modern and clean.  (Better than many offices I've seen in the US).  The waiting area boasts very cool air conditioning, along with flat screen televisions on the wall and several computer stations to "kill" time.

That's going to be it for Part 1.  In the next entry I'll go into details on what work we had done and do more of a step-by-step blog on that work (including costs).

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!