Camping dental

Los Algodones | Visiting the Dentist (Part Two)

Wednesday, June 08, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA

In the first part of our series, "Visiting the Dentist", I wrote about the reasons why we chose Los Algodones, Mexico to take care of our dental needs (money); and in this post, I'll address the reasons why we chose Sani Dental Group in particular. 

With over 300 dentists to choose from, deciding which clinic to visit in Los Algodones can be difficult . . . and overwhelming. We read RVing blogs, we asked friends and we scoured through online reviews but were still unsure. Fortunately, David discovered the Departure Dentals website, a company specializing in dental tourism, and started a dialogue with one of their representatives, first by email and later by phone, to help narrow down the search. Through a series of conversations, Eric ended up recommending three clinics based on customer satisfaction and our needs: Sani Dental Group, Simply Dental and CIRO Dental (in that order).

Why Sani Dental Group?  

On our first trip down in November, David made an appointment for a consultation with two of them – Sani and Simply. In the end, he chose Sani because he had a better sense of the place from reviews he'd read and, on balance, got a better "feel" from it during his visit.

The clinic was established in 1985 by Enrique Jimenez D.D.S., the current director, and is a member of the American Dental Association. They have three campuses dotted around town: Sani Alamo is the largest with over 20 dentists and an on-site dental lab, this is where David had all of his work done. Sani Platinum is a modern facility that offers more personal care (less assembly-line) and is where I saw the dentist. And lastly, Sani Class Dental Care is a small clinic with only three chairs and a more traditional, personal feel. They also run the Hacienda los Algodones which provides a free night's stay if you spend over $1,000 for dental work. However, we opted to stay in Yuma, Arizona while we were there to avoid bringing our truck across the border (there is parking available on the US side, but it's day-parking only).

What was our experience?

Because I'm the one who writes the blog and dentistry can be such a personal issue, I'm going to concentrate on my procedures, only referring to David's when necessary or it adds something of value to the post. Here's how it worked:

  • We made appointments (usually they were for the next day)
  • We arrived at the border, walked across and then down a couple of blocks to the clinic (Sani provides a free shuttle van for those who prefer not to walk).
  • We were called into the patient coordinator's office and discussed why were there, what we wanted to have done, and if we had any insurance (no). From there, we went back to the waiting room.
  • We were called in for x-rays, one at a time, and were sent back to the waiting room (they also do CT scans and MRIs).
  • We were called into a consulting room to talk over our options with a dentist.

So, here's the deal. When I was younger, I was a big ice-chewer. As a result, two of the bottom back molars on each side of my mouth are heavily filled. One, in particular, was more filling than tooth and had been a little sensitive to cold recently. Come to find out, it was cracked but, fortunately, there wasn't any nerve damage or exposure. The consulting dentist recommended that I have all four fillings removed and replaced with crowns. Well, I'm a big chicken when it comes to dental work so I opted to do just the two on the side that was bothering me. I figured if I was happy with the work, I could always do the others later (or avoid it all together).

  • After choosing our options, I was accompanied over to the Sani Platinum site where my escort set up an appointment with a dentist and I waited (less than five minutes). David stayed at the Alamo site and had his work done there.
  • My dentist, Fernado Real, loaded me up with Novocain (which really hurt) and started to drill out my old fillings (which really, really hurt).

I should stop here to reiterate that I'm a very big chicken when it comes to going to the dentist because I have a low threshold for pain. I imagine Dr. Real actually has a delicate touch, but I'm the last person in the world who'd be a good judge of that.

  • Once done, he made impressions of my teeth for the crown and a temporary cap.
  • He fit the cap and I was on my way.
  • I came back the next day for a quick appointment where Dr. Real checked the fit for the metal ring on my crown. He made a few on-site adjustments and I was on my way.
  • My final appointment was the next day. The crowns were back from the lab and he did a final fitting and a few adjustments before setting them.
  • After the crown work was completed, he deep-cleaned my teeth. I was a little worried about the process because he kept saying that some dentists use an anesthetic for the procedure but he preferred not to (gulp). He was right. It didn't hurt and he did an amazing job – my teeth hadn't felt that good in years.  

How much did it cost?

When it comes to pricing, we don't know how Sani compares with other clinics in Los Algodones but think they fall on the higher side (a complete list of prices can be found on the Sani Dental Group website).

  • Regular = $35
  • Deep cleaning, scaling & root planning (per quadrant) = $60
  • LANAP (per quadrant) = $190
  • Laser Cleaning = $190

  • Porcelain fused to metal crown: $180
  • Porcelain fused to gold crown: $600
  • Full porcelain/ceramic crown: $340
  • Zirconia crown: $450
  • Porcelain veneer: $350

As luck would have it, I only needed crowns and not the root canal I'd been dreading (a $220 procedure with $95 for any post/core build-up). I chose the least expensive option and went with porcelain fused to metal to match the rest of the work in my mouth. But it had been so long since my last cleaning that I chose the deep cleaning all-around for a cost of $240 – it was worth it.

Would we go back?

Yes, absolutely. Sani provides a very professional atmosphere and runs like a well-oiled machine with a staff that's patient, friendly and extremely helpful. We were a little concerned about the language barrier because neither one of us speaks Spanish, but most everyone on staff speaks fluent English and those who don't have translators.

It's been over two months since we were in Los Algodones and I couldn't be happier with my new dental work (which carries a 5-year warranty). Not only is it nice to smile without a mouth full of metal, the fit is excellent (no problem flossing or around the gumline) and I haven't felt any pain or sensitivity to cold since. Out of the four crowns I currently have in my mouth, these two are by far and away the best. As for David, he's had dental work done all over the world – England, Saudi Arabia, the US, New Zealand, Mexico – and ranks this experience at the top of the list (though we had a very good, long-term relationship with our dentist in NZ so Allan will always be number one for both of us). He may need to go back for additional work and, if he does, I'll be sure to make another appointment with Dr. Real and have the other two molars taken care of . . . and another awesome cleaning.

The ubiquitous purple pharmacies in Los Algodones meet all of your pharmaceutical, alcohol and tobacco needs.

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  1. That's awesome you found such a great place and were able to figure out the logistics. Seems like cruisers need to be experts in logistics! -Lucy

    1. We were a little worried about the whole thing despite all the positive things we read and heard, but the quote David got from a dentist in Tacoma was for $48K so we had to roll the dice. I'm really glad that we did!

  2. Great information, Stephanie. And so much cheaper than in the US or Belgium! If we ever need extensive dental work done, we'll know where to go.

    1. Cheers, Liesbet! We were really pleased about the pricing and overall experience.