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!


  1. Great information. So glad everything turned out well for your crown. That's a big savings for sure. I take it your Delta Dental wouldn't cover that. We always have our cleanings done when we come back to Virginia and we actually don't pay anything I don't think.

  2. Glad you asked Sherry. I forgot to mention the insurance part in my write-up. For $30, Sani Dental would give you the necessary paperwork to file with your insurance company. We have the lower option Delta Dental and they pay 50% for crowns.

  3. Thanks for the information ... adding your impressions to my "dental notes."

  4. Thanks for the great information and sharing your experience.

  5. Thanks for all the great information. Just a little note about your crown experience from a veteran receiver of many (unfortunately) - I learned long ago not to leave the grinding process until it feels perfect. Even though I sometimes felt sorry to say (again), nope it doesn't feel quite right. Because it ends the same way yours did...going back to get it finished off. :) Glad it worked out well for you and those prices were awesome.

    1. Yes, Karen, told me about not leaving until it felt right. She told me should could tell by the look on my face that it was quite right initially.

  6. Great write up. The prices you paid are amazing, glad Karen was along to give her professional viewpoint.

    This will be a great place for our dental work, we don't have any coverage on it, so a good savings and worthwhile trip to get a checkup.

    1. Believe me, I was glad she was along for moral support, also. I'm the dental "chicken".

  7. Thank you for the information! We are headed down to have a couple of crowns done in January. How far in advance did you have to make your appointment?

    1. We made our appointments only 4 or 5 days ahead, but this is the slow season. In January, I would make appts. as soon as you have a firm date. It will be busy at that time.

  8. This is really good information. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  9. Glad things went well for you. The cost is a major factor to consider compared to the US. I had 7 crowns done over 3 years just across the border from TX at Progresso. US dentists have said the work was good. I thought the dentist I had was great and recommend him to friends who want their work done in Mexico.