Traveling to Los Algodones, Mexico, for Affordable Dental Care
Everything you wanted to know about traveling to Mexico for dental care
If you've thought about traveling to Mexico for more affordable dental care, but don't know how to go about it, here's a detailed account of what to expect and how to prepare for your trip.
You will find information on finding a dentist, things you need to know about crossing the border, and how to pay for your dental care.
Affordable Dental Care in Algodones Mexico
As affordable dental care becomes nearly impossible to find in the U.S. and Canada, more and more people are traveling to Mexico for affordable dental care.
An estimated one third of Americans do not have dental insurance and half or more dental costs are paid out of pocket. This is a sad situation for millions of people who cannot afford to pay for basic dental care. Cost of dental care in Mexico is just a fraction of the cost of dental work in the U.S.—sometimes up to 75% less!
Considering dental care in Mexico?
Are you considering going to Mexico for dental work, but don’t know how to go about it? My husband and I were in the same situation last year. After some research, we decided to go to Los Algodones, which is just over the U.S./ Mexican border about seven miles southwest of Yuma. There are over 350 dentists in Algodones within a 10-minute walk from the border. On an average January day, thousands of tourists walk across its international border to get affordable dental care, buy prescription drugs, eat great Mexican food and shop for local wares.
Dentists in Los Algodones, a Safe Mexican Town
While some of the large Mexican border towns have been in the news as unsafe, there are smaller towns along the border that specifically cater to needs of Americans and Canadians looking for affordable dentists. Los Algodones is one of them. Let me share with you our experience there.
Algodones, Baja California, Mexico
Los Algodones is a small town on the U.S./Mexican border that's about 7 miles from Yuma, Arizona. There are more than 350 dentists there.
How to Prepare for Your Visit to Algodones Mexico
- Have a valid passport. First, be sure that you have your passport or passport card with you. While it’s very easy to walk across the border into Mexico without documentation, you will need a valid passport or passport card to return to the U.S.
- Take a list of your medications and allergies. If you are on any medications or if you are allergic to any medications, take a written list with you to show your dentist.
- Dress for comfort. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, take sunglasses and a hat with a brim as you may have to wait in line as you cross the border back into the U.S. later in the day.
- Be prepared to pay cash or call ahead to see which credit cards are accepted. Most of the Mexican dentists will not take checks. If they do accept credit cards (many do not), you may be charged an additional fee.
Street Vendors in Algodones
Crossing the Border into Algodones Mexico
Los Algodones is just a few miles south of I-8. Since you don’t have to drive through a U.S. town to get there, it’s a very simple drive.
Should You Walk or Drive into Los Algodones?
Driving into Mexico: You can drive your own vehicle across the border, but you must purchase Mexican car insurance for your vehicle. You can buy this in the U.S. at the border or contact your own insurance company to check procedures. However, the streets of Algodones are extremely congested and parking is very limited. We find it easier to walk across the border.
Walking into Algodones: it is much simpler to park on the U.S. side and walk a block or two from the parking lot to the border. There is a very large parking lot on the U.S. side of the border which is operated by the Quechan Indian Nation. Parking is $5 for the day. All the dentists and most of the shopping and restaurants are within a 10 minute walk of that parking lot.
There is no bridge here, just a sidewalk from the parking lot into the town. As you walk into the town, there are clean public restrooms on your right. On the opposite side of the street and ahead of you are pharmacies, optical stores and dentist's offices. On the next block, you will also see some restaurants and many vendors selling various goods.
One of the Pharmacies in Algodones
Choosing a Dentist in Algodones Mexico
You can choose your dentist when you walk into town, if you wish. Some dental offices have their prices posted on bill boards outside the offices. Many of the sales people outside the dental offices will offer free examinations and estimates. Usually, you will have to pay for X-rays, though. In 2010, we paid $60 for a full mouth set of X-rays. In most cases, if you decide to have work done, it can be started that day and completed in a very short time. Although we intended to go to a dentist recommended by an acquaintance, we did not make an appointment ahead of time because we wanted to see the office before making a commitment. As it turned out, we liked what we saw and were able to have our initial exam and X-rays that morning.
Many people coming to Los Algodones without a personal recommendation like to use a service called Dentists of Algodones which is based in Yuma. For a small fee, they will match you with a dentist according to the kind of work you want done and will make an appointment for you. They will send you a map of the town showing you where the office is located. When we selected a dentist, we chose one that was recommended by someone in our Escapees RV club, and we were very happy with the results.
One of the Many Dental Offices in Algodones
What to Expect of Mexican Dentists
- Clean, sanitary and comfortable offices. Although not luxuriously furnished, offices are comfortable and clean. Autoclave sterilization and sanitation procedures meet western standards and equipment is up-to-date.
- Highly qualified dentists. Mexico takes pride in its Dental Colleges. Algodones dentists are educated in Mexico or the U.S., Many receive additional training in the United States and belong to the American Dental Association as well as being certified by the Mexican government.
- Full range of services. Dentists in Algodones do any kind of dental work that U.S. dentists do including: dental implants, bridges, root canals, simple fillings, dentures and extractions.
- English speaking dentists and staff. Most of the dentists speak English, some speak it better than others. There are always people in the office who are fluent in English to help explain anything that you might not understand, or to help translate your questions to the dentist.
- Quick scheduling and completion of procedures. Generally, as much work as possible is done at one time to accommodate people who will only be in the area for a limited time.
- Specialists called for more complex work. If you will have complicated work done like root canals, a specialist is called in and usually you will need to make an appointment. Most work is done with a local anesthetic. If you prefer to be “put to sleep”, Mexican law requires that an anesthesiologist (M.D.) do it and that is an added cost to your dental procedure. Of course, it is an added cost in the United States too.
During one three-hour visit, I had three root canals and prep work done for several crowns. While it was a long visit sitting in a dentists’ chair, it was a relief to have so much done at once. On my next visit a few days later, the permanent crowns were installed and work on seven teeth was completed.
Sample of 2010 Prices:
Different dentists may charge somewhat differently, but this is a sample of prices for some of the dental work we had done in March 2010:
- X-rays …………………...$60
- Cleaning………………... $40
- Porcelain crown….....…$165
- Root canal ……….…….$180
- Post build up ………......$100
- 3 unit bridge …….....…..$445
Claims Against Dental Insurance Honored
One interesting thing to note is that we met several people at our dentist's office who had dental insurance, but came to Mexico for their dental work because their portion of the cost of dental care was still unaffordable. Having work done in Mexico, they could still make a claim against their insurance, but the amount they paid out of pocket was reduced drastically.
Patients Come From All Over the U.S. and Canada
Another thing that surprised us was the distance that people traveled to have dental work done in Algodones. In our dentist's waiting room we met people from Utah, Oregon, California, South Carolina and Colorado as well as several couples from Canada.
Dental Care in Algodones a Positive Experience
My husband and I both had extensive work done and have been happy with it so far. Now, two years later, we go back annually for our check-ups. We were assured at the time the work was done that it would be guaranteed, and, in fact, met a few people who did come back to have adjustments or something repaired. This work was done free of charge.
Overall, we had a good experience with our dental care in Mexico. Our dentists and their staff were friendly, professional and very kind and thoughtful. Have you ever been to a dentist before who gave you a hug when you left?
We enjoyed the town of Algodones, and look forward to visiting again and trying out some of the restaurants that we missed on our last visit. In fact, we may be getting our new eyeglasses on our next visit!
Would You Go to Mexico for More Affordable Dental Care?
Would you go to Mexico for dental work?
Reentering the U.S. After Your Dental Appointment
If you are visiting los Algodones during the winter, the busiest time of year, lines going back into the U.S. can be long. There are a few benches along the sidewalk where people wait in line and you can sit for a while if you wish. If you or one of your party are disabled, the tourist police will escort you to the front of the line so that you don’t have to wait. We found it most comfortable to buy a bottle of water to drink while waiting, and the time went quickly as we chatted with other tourists.
Going Through Customs
U.S. Customs officials will ask to see your passport and ask what you are bringing across the border. They may ask to look into your bags. If you purchased medications, they will want to know what they are and possibly ask to see them. If you purchased drugs that require a prescription in Mexico, like narcotics, you will need to show your prescription. Don't forget that there is a limit on how much alcohol you can bring back to the U.S. in a 30 day period. Make sure you stay within that limit or you will be asked to either forfeit your beverages or step out of line to return them to the store where they were purchased.
Once you get through customs, it’s a short walk back to the parking lot and to your car. There are clean restrooms available just outside the building on the way to the parking lot.
Note on Safety: My last visit to Los Algodones was in February of 2014. At that time, the little border town was safe and comfortable for the many tourists who still flocked there for dental, optical care and prescription drugs.
Please Leave Feedback
If you have had dental work done in Mexico, I would love to hear what you have to say about it. Also, I'd be happy to answer any additional questions you might have if you're considering going across the border for the first time.
© 2010 Stephanie Henkel