Molar City

yuma  026We first heard about Los Algodones, also referred to as Molar City, on the third month of our walkabout. Our neighbors in the Miami RV park we stayed in that first winter told us about this place in Mexico where lots of Americans went for dental work and glasses. They had had extensive dental work done for less than half what it cost in the states. Needless to say, we thought that was pretty interesting.

yuma  030yuma  015A while later we read a couple of detailed posts on the Wheeling It blog about Nina’s experience getting a crown in Los Algodones. Nina recommended a Dr. Eva Ureña.

Finding a Dentist

I was quite fortunate that my tooth acted up just before we planned to visit Yuma.   And that I’d read the post about Dr. Ureña, since I considered that  a personal recommendation, which is my preference.  And, when we met our friends in Yuma, it turned out that Tim and Becky had been getting work done at Dr. Ureña’s for several years.

Her website, just like many other dentists,  provides a U.S. telephone number,  so it was quite easy to make an appointment.

yuma  025The Town

Los Algodones is the northernmost town in Mexico. It’s located near the borders of southeastern California and southwestern Arizona and is tucked into a spot where the border has a little notch and follows the Colorado River. There are U.S. borders in all cardinal directions (due south, due north, due east and due west) of the town.  Only if you head SW do you actually stay in Mexico.map

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Although we didn't see him, there is even a Molar City mascot.  Doctor Molar!

Although we didn’t see him in person, there is even a Molar City mascot. Doctor Molar!

When Mexico became one of the dental capitals of the world, with its high standards of care and cleanliness, low prices and accessibility, many medical professionals established practices in Algodones.  Over the years, the town has created an entire medical industry primarily focused on dental care.  mapa

Algodones has also established a reputation as one of the safe border towns, supported by all of the medical professionals and businesses in the town.

I read in a Yuma publication that there are over 70 dental offices and 100 dental labs in a five-block area, but have seen numbers as high as 400 on the internet.  Other popular medical services include optometrists, opticians, pharmacies, and audiologists. These cater primarily to U.S. and Canadian citizens, including many retirees on limited incomes. And many RVers have tuned in to these services as well.

Getting There

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Photo credit: Wikipedia

We drove down Interstate 8 from Yuma, about 20 minutes, to the Los Algodones/Rte 186 exit then south to a parking lot right by border ($6.00 daily fee), and walked across to Algodones.   There are no requirements to walk across the border for stays of 72 hours or less, but there are restrictions on what you can bring in to Mexico.

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Most medical offices and pharmacies are located within the next five-block area, a five to ten minute walk from the border. Vendors selling a broad variety of Mexican souvenirs line the streets and some offices are located in courtyards hidden behind the vendor areas.

yuma  031Dr. Ureña’s staff had sent me an e-mail with directions to her office in advance so Hector and I easily found her office. Located in a lovely building with a courtyard.

 

yuma  018yuma  016My Experience

First of all I have to say that it was a very unique experience. Here we were joining thousands of others crossing this border in pursuit of medical care and prescriptions.

With the influx of people, it did feel very safe there, and we could tell that many folks were repeat visitors.

yuma  033yuma  022yuma  027Dr. Ureña was extremely professional, thorough and thoughtful. When checking my x-rays she was unsure about a faint shadow and had her assistant walk me across the courtyard to the endodontist, Dr. Armando Hernandez Mejia to get his opinion as to whether I needed a root canal.

Dentists in Mexico spend five years studying dentistry just like American dentists, and have to pass the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE), as well as attend continuing courses and conferences.

Dr. Hernandez had certificates from various European conferences hanging in his waiting area as well as thank you letters from the University of Illinois and Temple University in Philadelphia thanking him for outstanding presentations.

Both offices were comfortable and had modern equipment and both displayed high resolution images of my x-rays.

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Wearing Hector’s coat in the chilly office

With so many dental professionals working in close proximity, many collaborate and refer to each other in order to ensure that patients receive the specific care that they need. And walk-ins are fairly common, so the practices do their best to accommodate them.

Which is how I wound up not only getting in to see Dr. Hernandez but getting a root canal ($390) that same day, the most expensive procedure I had.  I was initially a bit hesitant as this was not the dentist that I came to see, but since Dr. Ureña referred me, I put my faith in her and frankly relied on my gut feeling of the situation.

Looking back, I could have done some research on Dr. Hernandez using his office Wi-Fi while I was waiting.

Meanwhile, Hector was checking out every single vendor in town. The vendors converge in the same area as the medical offices.  And he made two purchases, a lamp and a tablecloth.

lamp  003I was a bit surprised to see him show up in the waiting room with a giant bag holding a lamp with spikes sticking out in all directions but he assured me that the lamp was “almost free”, that we would be able to use it at our campsites, and that he would handle storing it. He is quite the shopper.yuma  029

When I returned to Dr. Ureña’s office, she’d arranged for a periodontist, Dr. Jose Luis Barrera, to see me as well. A dentist and two specialists in one day – a wholistic approach not only addressing the issues but also the cause – grinding my teeth at night. My treatment included a visit fee ($10), deep cleaning by Dr. Barrera ($100), a mouth guard ($100) and a paste to apply at night to help restore the enamel ($20).  But I couldn’t get it all done in one day, so we extended our stay in Yuma by a couple of days.

I paid by check, as she didn’t accept credit cards.  U.S. currency is accepted everywhere, and many of the dentists will also accept checks, but not all accept credit cards.

And on our way back to the border, we still had time to order some glasses (I had the prescription already). I’d read a post about Best Optical on the Watsons Wander blog so I went straight there. Their largest selection of frames was in the mid-priced range which was fine for me. And although they are generally able to have glasses ready on the same day they are ordered, I arrived a little late in the day, around 2:30P.M., so the glasses weren’t going to be ready until the next day.

yuma  034yuma  036All of that and we still had time to have a nice Mexican lunch. Not bad.

We got in line for U.S. immigration just before 3:30 and had about a fifteen-minute wait to get through. I did notice the line grow longer as we waited and we heard that there can sometimes be long delays crossing back to the US. So in order to avoid longer waits, it’s best to make early appointments and head back to the border in the early afternoon.  A passport is needed to return to the U.S. and there are restrictions on what can be brought back, but we only had our two inexpensive purchases.

One More Trip Across the Border

I returned on my own a few days later for some follow-up work, while Hector got Island Girl washed and waxed.

glasses  002Once again walking over to Mexico was easy. There was a bit of a wait at the endodontist, so I left and walked over two blocks to pick up the glasses I had ordered.  My glasses with progressive lenses cost $219, less than half of what I  generally pay.

 

So in that one day I picked up glasses and had work done by an endodontist, periodontist and dentist. Very convenient and I was a satisfied patient/customer.

yuma  020General consensus seems to be that costs are about 1/3 of costs in the U.S.  I estimate that I paid about 1/5 to 1/2 of what I would have paid for the same dental procedures in the U.S.  But quite honestly, I wasn’t shopping for the cheapest dentists, since I knew I’d save money no matter what.

For those that might be considering having dental work at Los Algodones, here are a few tips:

As in any other place, there are good and bad dentists here.  A personal recommendation is best, although google, reviews and forums can provide some good information.  Nina’s second blog post about Algodones includes links to various resources.

If your appointment is at a dental group, make sure the dentist that you see is the one you intended.   In the reviews, I observed that many good reviews of dental groups can be quite generic (not naming specific dentists) and yet I also read a lot of comments from very dissatisfied customers.

Avoid the “pickers” that solicit patients as you enter Algodones, the best dental professionals consider this practice unethical. Just say no thank you and continue on your way.

When in doubt about a procedure, ask lots of questions. If you need to, take extra time to make a decision as to what work you will have done. And, if at any time you aren’t comfortable, opt out. The good news is that in there are lots of choices in this town.

yuma  024As for us, since we no longer have dental or vision insurance, we plan to get our dental work and prescription glasses in Los Algodones in the future.

~ Brenda

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  1. Excellent recap, and glad you like Dr. Ureña’s office as much as I did. Last year was the first full year I had to self-pay for insurance (after leaving my corporate job). I bought dental insurance, and never used it as the prices in Algodones were cheaper than even my co-pay would have been! So, this year I too have dumped my dental and vision insurance and will now use Algodones & other Mexican border towns.

    There are some great deals (and excellent quality care) for medical services further down in Mexico too. Last year, an RV neighbor had knee surgery in Mazatlan for only $7,000 total at a private hospital there. Others in the RV park had cardio, ortho, & gastro emergencies & elective procedures done and received excellent care at a fraction of what they would have paid in the US. With more and more US medical plans now going to high-dollar deductibles, Mexico private medical care might become as popular as dental and optical some day soon!

    • Yes, leaving our corporate jobs is how we lost dental and vision. Hector had a “subsidized” plan for retirees but it was ridiculously expensive so we switched to ACA. But I definitely see your point about medical care, Hector had a brief gastro emergency during his 13 month stay in Mexico City and was very impressed with the hospital.

  2. You look adorable in your new glasses, Brenda! And your blog was very informative & helpful. We may end up in Molar City sometime, too!

    • Thank you! You are very conveniently located to go there for sure. We have to go back in early March for a follow-up, maybe we’ll see you there!

  3. Nina from Wheelin It referred me to you when I posted in her comments today. I went to Los Algodones to Dr. Eurena yesterday and she referred me to Dr. Hernandez next door for a possible root canal under a front tooth. Came back today to see him. He had taken two x-rays and then his assistant took two more of the same teeth. The assistant wanted to take the x-rays without putting a shield over me. I insisted he do so. When Dr. Hernandez came in, he almost chose me off. Said something to the fact that the sun has radiation along with a lot of other things. Took me by surprise. It might be a deal breaker for me. I accepted his attitude at first but the more I think about it, the more I want to just cancel the whole procedure. Have any of your readers had this problem with Dr. Hernandez?

    • Hi. I’ve not received any comments regarding Dr. Hernandez. As for me, I do follow my gut feelings, if I become uncomfortable with a medical professional, I look for someone else. Hope everything works out.
      Brenda

  4. Hector captured you best in your new glasses. Looking good Brenda.
    We too had good experiences in Los Algodones. Both Steve and I just had our teeth cleaned for $30 each!

    • I love the glasses, though I usually wear contacts, they are much more comfortable for me. Such a deal on your cleanings! We just met Pam and John last night for the first time and were talking about you – hope your ears weren’t ringing 🙂

    • We have an appointment on March 5th for a follow-up for me, and cleaning for Hector – will probably stay right by the border. It would be cool if we could meet down there.

  5. Research plus personal recommendations overcoming fear of the unknown. Good practice!!! I would have had trepidation crossing the border for medical care but you have shown that it is feasible and financially rewarding. Thanks! I do love that you two are constantly having new experiences. Keeps you young!!!! Cute glasses btw!

    • The internet really facilitates the research aspect, there is tons of information not just on Mexico medical care, but on other countries as well. I like the glasses a lot, the process for the glasses is that they have a runner that picks up the frames w/prescriptions, takes them to the lab and brings them back – same day service if you’re there early-ish. Amazing!
      It’s the new experiences and the people we meet that make this life style most rewarding. Big hug to Sharon! We miss you guys!

  6. Wow! How cool is that?!!! I never heard of Los Algodones or Molar City. Good information to know. Love the new glasses!!

  7. Pingback: Getting Dental Work In Mexico Part II – Our Los Algodones Experience | Wheeling It

  8. Brenda, it was so great to meet you at the Blogger’s Fest yesterday. Thank you for your detailed description of Algodones. Based on Nina’s description in Wheeling It, and Gayle & Jim’s (Life’s Little Adventures) blog and personal stories, I was convinced to go ahead and make an appointment for eye exam and update my prescription, and am planning my route. I like to get as familiar with the area as I can before I go, and my search led me to you via Watsons Wander. My appointment is with Algodones Optical, I will report back here for the benefit of others (our blog remains an idea, waiting for resolution of computer issues).

    • Hi, Frederika, it was great to meet you also. It would be great to have more information on optical services, so please do share what you learn.

      Blogging has been a wonderful learning experience for us, but because we have so much photography and I tend to write long posts 🙂 it can take quite a bit of work and time. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about blogging, so feel free to send me a private e-mail.
      Safe travels.

  9. Pingback: My Hunt For A Mexican Dentist: Los Algodones or Puerto Vallarta? | Money Or Your Time