February 5 – February 13, 2018.
“Open.” Oh, English. That was for me. I open my mouth wider. It’s really my only job here.
Hard to believe I was dozing off in a dentist’s chair, with people working in my mouth, but it has been six steady hours. And the soft guitar music and constant murmur of professionals speaking to each other in Español has taken its toll.
Then they finish, and I’m halfway through my week of dental work in Los Algodones. I go out to the lobby to find that Juan, the receptionist, has given Duwan a huge slice of cake. “Do I want any?” Actually, I could really use a banana. Juan gives me a banana and a piece of cake.
We step out into the street, and walk past a few dentist and optometrist offices to the closest pharmacy. I get my scrips, and we walk past even more medical businesses, through the gauntlet of vendors and hawkers offering to find us the very best tooth and eye care. In a few minutes we are standing in a long line of gringos waiting to walk through customs back into the U.S.
We’re greeted by a vendor calling “Welcome to the line! Need water?” He’s not alone. People are selling Mexican pastries, candy, hand-made bracelets, purses, blankets and garden sculptures. Accordion players with beat up instruments entertain for tips. There is plenty of banter. “You didn’t even give me a chance to rip you off.” And “Chapter 11 prices here. I need money to build a wall.”
After crossing, we walk to the $6 parking lot, and drive out to find our campsite for the weekend.
Back in Tucson, I did Internet research on dentists. I narrowed the list and called for prices. On Feb 2nd I called and made an appointment for Tues. Feb 6th. In an office of three dentists, I would have the youngest. There was a longer wait for the more experienced guys.
On Mon. Feb. 5th we drove to the Quechan Casino, less than two miles from the border. We spent the night in a large free parking lot full of RVs and vans.
The Tuesday appointment was for cleaning, Xrays, damage report, and estimate. The office exterior and interior were very clean. Everyone was cordial and professional. The dire warnings and recriminations I expected (and deserve) did not materialize. I paid the $100, and made an appointment for Friday.
I took my estimate and we drove off into the desert to camp and decide which teeth to work on. I hadn’t been to a dentist since we quit our “real” jobs. I’ve lost crowns and (50 year old) fillings, and some teeth have just broken. But no real emergencies. The next day I called Juan to tell him what I wanted done.
On Friday the root canal specialist does her thing on two teeth. She has trouble with the third. It’ll have to be pulled. (I think she worked with it about an hour, but they only charged me for the cheaper extraction.)
Then my dentist makes impressions, installs the temporary crowns, and fills a cavity. I’m prescribed pain medication, but they’ve done nothing to hurt me. We go to our weekend campsite and come back on Tues. the 13th.
On Tues. we start with two extractions. One goes well. On that problem tooth a root breaks off. My guy struggles with it a bit, then calls in the senior dentist. He has it out in less than two minutes. A quick Xray to make sure (they often took Xrays after each step. I could watch them appear on the monitor).
My dentist removes his Batman doo-rag, so I will pay attention to his serious tone. I get instructions for the next five days, and we’re done for now. Total cost for dental work: $1,580 (Cleckup, cleaning, x-rays, two extractions, one filling, impressions, two root-canal/crowns). Prescriptions: $30.16. Parking: $18. I need more work done. I’ll be back next year.
To learn more about the dentist I choose, Bernal Dental Group, click here.
* All pics are click to enlarge.