Sunday, November 20, 2016

Medical results = Great ~~~ Dental results = not so much :(

My annual medical test results were all good - always happy to hear that!  But the dental results, which are always good - get in, teeth cleaning, x-rays, quick check and walk out smiling.  This time there was an issue with a cavity under a crown.  My dentist said it was small, but very deep, and I'd need a root canal and crown replacement.  Then I found out my dental insurance only covers the check-up, x-rays and cleaning, and not root canals or crown (replacement).  So... after finding out the approximate cost of the work....

I checked on-line and read other bloggers' experiences with dentists across the border, and talked to Dean on the phone who has a dentist in Nogales right across the Tucson border.  He was going to visit some of his family in Tucson and if I could make an appointment with his dentist and drive to Tucson, he'd drive me to the border on the day of the appt and walk me over and keep me company.  What a guy, huh?

I made some phone calls to get an idea of prices and time lines to get a root canal and crown replacement done in Mexico.  Dean's dentist's office quoted me a price close to California prices and had the same timeline to complete the work needed.  I'm sure he's a great dentist, but I wanted one that was less expensive, would complete the work faster, and was closer to Yuma.

Rubio Dental Group, in Los Algodones across the border from Yuma, AZ, was very highly recommended by the camp hosts at Hot Springs where I spent a night coming back from San Diego.  The wife has had extensive work done by Dr. Rubio's office and was completely happy with the outcome. I called them to get a quote and time line for the procedure and was happy with both.  So I made the appointment with Dr. Rubio for November 10.

When I told Dean, he said he'd drive over and take me across the border and stay with me, which was super nice of him, and the final piece to make me feel comfortable with this whole Mexican dentist/across the border plan.

We met up at Paradise Casino in Yuma and the next day went to the USA border crossing building to talk to someone there about getting me into and back OUT of Mexico.  I don't have a Passport or Passport Card, so my California Driver's License would have to do.  We found out that my CDL was all I needed, so it was a GO!  I'm going to start the process to get a passport so I won't have any issues if things change in the future regarding the border situation.

We moved to Mittry Lake and camped there while waiting for the appointment day to arrive.  It's beautiful, the weather was perfect and the dogs had a blast.  TONS of flies and mosquitoes, though.  That was the only drawback, but being by the water...

Dog days, waiting for the dentist, camped at Mittry.

In the photo below, after Katie watched Steve going in and out of the water so much, she got curious and went to that "safe" spot a few times, examining it.  She actually got her feet wet and put her face in the water a couple of times and then rolled in the mud.  Steve is teaching this old dog some new tricks!

Katie loves watching Steve fetch his ball in the water - she was following him around, it was so cute. That's our campsite at the top of this picture.

You can barely see her, but Katie is on the left side of the photo below, running, running, just like Steve does, to get to where he jumped in.  She's such a "little sister" with him. :)

Another ball toss - it's in the air at the top of the picture:

Look at this form, I give Steve a "10."

Every time he climbs out he shakes off the water:

Throw the ball, dad!

And finally, being toweled off.  Lots of squirming going on, LOL.

Okay, back to business.  I'm including some specific info here for myself, and if you don't want the gory details, scroll down to the photo of our campsite.  It's all good from there.

The day of the dental appointment was interesting.  We walked across the border and went straight to the Purple Pharmacy, as Dr. Rubio's office had told me to do when I set up the appointment.  I told them I was there for an appointment with Dr. Rubio and they called an escort to drive us to the dental office, just a short walk from the pharmacy.  We were delivered right to the front door and went in, I got checked in and completed the new patient paperwork.

The office was clean and open, the staff very friendly and I was soon called in to see Dr. Raphael, my new dentist.  I had e-mailed my California dentist to send me my x-rays, which were e-mailed to me.  I had forwarded them on to Dr. Rubio's office so they would have them for my file.  They did use them and said they were very helpful.  Dr. Raphael didn't need to take any x-rays, though, because he could see upon examining my crowned molar that there was decay along the gum line.  He said not only was the cavity deep, but also WIDE, he could actually SEE it, and there was no way he could save the tooth. It should be pulled right then and a bone graft done to start the process needed to go forward.

Since the tooth was being pulled, I didn't need a root canal - that was good (I guess).  I asked the dentist how long the extraction, bone graft and closure of the surgical site would take - 45 minutes he said.  I asked if someone could go out to the waiting room and let Dean know, so he could walk around town if he wanted.  The dental assistant didn't speak English, at least I don't think she did, and she went out and came back with "Mr. Dean."  I asked if he could stay and it was okay, so Dean stood back against the wall and watched the procedure.  I've never had anyone along like this before, and it was nice to have him there to ask the questions and remember the answers.  Huge help.  And he was really interested in everything the dentist did.  He only asked a few questions, but they were good ones I didn't think of.

I've only lost my wisdom teeth.  My mom always told us kids to do anything possible to save our teeth, and I really didn't want this one pulled.  I asked him if there was anything he could do to save the tooth, and he said he'd remove the crown, with my permission, drill the cavity as far as he could and see how deep it went.  Well, after some drilling he stopped and said the decay was all the way down to the tooth floor where the two roots met.   He explained why it couldn't be saved.  It had to go. :( 

He then explained that I had two choices after the extraction: an implant or a three-crown bridge.  The two teeth on either side of the extracted tooth were both ready for crowns - the last tooth has one of the oldest crowns in my mouth and was prime to be replaced and the tooth on the other side has a large silver filling and I've been told by dentists for years that it should be crowned before it breaks.  So they were excellent candidates for new crowns to bridge the middle one where the tooth was pulled.  So that was good.

I asked Dr. Raphael which he would choose, the implant or the bridge, if he were the patient and he said absolutely the bridge.  No question in my case.  The teeth on either side were good anchors, it's easier to repair than an implant if repair was needed in the future, the cost was lower, the time frame shorter, all in all the best option for me.  And the two anchor teeth would need to be crowned/re-crowned in the near future anyway.  In other situations, implants would be the proper dental plan, but not this time, luckily.  I looked at Dean - "What would you do?" - and he agreed with Dr. Raphael.

So that's what I'm doing.  He pulled the tooth, in pieces.  What an ordeal!  It didn't hurt at all because I was numb, but I expected it to come out in one piece.  Finally it was out, bone graft material was placed, a small overlay of collagen placed on that, and he stitched it up and we were done. There was hardly any bleeding, and he put a sterile gauze pad on top and said to keep it there until there was no more blood.  I was able to take it out as we were walking around.

Having the tooth extracted cost me $225, which I paid before we left, as well as getting a print-out receipt that also had the estimated cost of the bridgework, $1,650.  It's $550 per crown and he's not charging me for the temporary crowns I'll get on the next visit.  I'll need to pay that one-half in cash at one visit and for the other half I can pay by check.

I have to say, I was very impressed with everything about this experience so far.  Our border crossing was easy, the convenience of being transported to the dental office took pressure off finding the place (which as it turned out would have also been easy), the cleanliness and friendliness of Rubio Dental Group were reassuring, Dr. Raphael appears to be an excellent dentist, and everyone I needed to speak with spoke English.  I'll post more information about Rubio Dental Group after my next appointment.

Coming back across into The United States was no problem.  I showed the border agent my California Driver's License and she accepted it for entry.  She did say - twice - "Everyone should have a Passport."  I told her I was in the process of applying for one.  She said, "Your driver's license will always get you across, but EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE A PASSPORT."  Noted, and double noted.  Working on it.  :)
Our campsite at Mittry next to the lake

So now we're up in Quartzsite waiting for the next appointment which is on December 1.  That will be for impressions and temporary crown placement.  Three/four weeks after that we'll go back for the final appointment.

I feel fortunate that I had the knowledge of Mexican dentists so close by from reading other people's blogs about their positive experiences, that it will be less expensive there, that the cavity was discovered early in the winter season so I can comfortably get the work done before the heat becomes intense, and especially that I have someone willing to do the driving to the border, walk me across and be an advocate for me.  Thanks, Dean - you're the Bomb!  The whole experience so far has been nothing but positive.  

The extraction site is almost healed, but still sore.  I'm hoping everything is okay, I've never taken Ibuprofen for this long, but it's helping to knock out the soreness.

The weather's cooling down in Quartzsite - perfect days and COLD nights - and we've had a beautiful Harvest Moon and gorgeous sunsets.  I'll post those next time.

And one more thing, I have to post the photo of my daughter, Kristy - on the right - and her fellow walking team members who are completing the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk for the Cure in San Diego today.  This picture was taken yesterday after they finished their second day, and 40 miles of the three-day 60 mile walk.  Can you imagine looking this beautiful and happy after walking two 20-mile days?  You girls are really something, I'm so proud of you all - Love You, Kristy!

From me and Katie, have a happy day, everyone!  😊💓😊


  1. When I was young my Mom always made sure we had regular dental checkups. As I got older about the only visits I made to the dentist were when I had a problem. Now that I look back on the neglect I imposed upon my teeth - not enough brushing, flossing, and regular checkups - I tell myself I should have made better decisions. How many time do we all wish we could go back and give advice to our younger self? Glad we have a place to save a few bucks on dental, prescriptions, and eyeglasses. Hope you get to try some food on your next visit to Los Algodones!

    1. Me too! We're planning on street vendor tacos, fish for me, next time. Fingers crossed. :)

  2. Quite the tooth ordeal. What's the point of going beyond pulling? I know dentists like to run up the bill, but I've had teeth pulled and haven't bothered with bridges or implants or anything else. One dentist did try to talk me into spending $2500 on a bridge anchored to the teeth next to it. It would have been a futile exercise because in a couple years one of those teeth had to be pulled too. I can still eat and it wasn't a front tooth so I just didn't see the point in spending all that money on one tooth. As always, your mileage may vary.

  3. Nice to here you are getting things fixed up and should be good to goo soon.
    We just arrived in Quartzsite this afternoon. kinda chilly and windy but so peaceful. Great to be back again.

  4. Dental work seems to be the biggest issue that insurance is such a waste for. Most plans take 2 years to cover anything, and even when it does, it doesn't pay for much. I don't have dental insurance. I've read other friends' blogs about the Mexico deal, but we're never south enough to get things done there!

  5. Oy! Just had a similar procedure - extraction and bridge for 3 teeth. Paid much more than you had to. So ya got that going for ya.

    1. Ouch! Sorry you had to have this done, too. I was pretty surprised and insulted to get that diagnosis. I'm so used to entering and exiting the dentist's office with no issues, I was actually insulted. By my own teeth! LOL

  6. When I was a kid if I had a cavity the tooth got pulled because my parents couldn't afford it. Eventually most of the teeth just crumble in your mouth. It's hard eating with teeth that aren't your own.
    We'll be in Quartzsite after the first of December.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  7. It's a good thing you have Dean by your side. What a great guy!

  8. I was very interested in this post as I am in the process of having a lot of dental work done, but I'm going to have 2 molars pulled on one side and get a partial denture. The low grade infection from those molars is keeping me from feeling well, and I hope it changes when I have them pulled in Jan. I'm dropping my dental insurance because it paid less this past year than my premiums cost me - what a rip-off. I wish I was closer to the Mexican border (my passport is good until 2019!) I agree with the border agent - everyone should have a passport!

  9. Sad to hear about the unexpected dental expense... hey we might have seen your daughter as we were walking along the PB boardwalk and saw thousands of the "pink crowd" here in San Diego

  10. Wow. What a story. I had a bunch of dental work before I retired so at least I was working to offset the cost. I need to go back for a check up at least but that constant worry that there will be something else that needs to be done is so scary. Maybe this will get me to make that appointment.

  11. Growing up in western New York in the 50s/60s, we didn't have fluoride in our water. I've always taken excellent care of my teeth, brushing & flossing every day, regular dental visits. But because my teeth have been weak from that non-fluoride start, I have a mouth full of fillings and crowns. I got my first Mexican crown a couple years ago (cosmetic, so it wasn't covered by my insurance), and it cost me just $300, and looks great! Now that I'm retired and don't have dental insurance any more, I will be coming to Mexico for all my dental care. I'm planning my first check-up visit in January.

    1. Well I grew up drinking Fluoridated water and have a mouth full of crowns and root canals. You get plenty enough flouride from toothpaste APPLIED to your teeth. We really should NOT be ingesting it. What is usually being added to municipal drinking water is a by-product of aluminum manufacturing and not the same as naturally occuring fluoride. Even if none of this were true, how can they medicate the water for children & adults? No other medication is distributed this way. Look at a bag of fluoride, it has skull and crossbones on it!


  12. Peter and I got crowns and brigde done in Mexico between 2009 and 2013 and we are very happy so far. The did great work. Nothing fell out, broke etc and the price was a third of what we would have paid at home. Good luck for the rest of your "dental adventure".

  13. I went to Rubio's last year on the advise of Randy. I ended up with an infection so bad I was on antibiotics for 3 weeks from a cleaning . Meantime I found another dentist where I got 2 three tooth bridges, 2 four tooth bridges and 13 crowns for $2800. New smile. I go to Pabel and Nadia at Dental Clinic.

    1. I'm sorry to hear that, Donna. So far, I love Dr. Rafael. He was very professional and did an excellent job for me so far. Better than my San Diego Dentist. I was impressed! We'll see what happens with the next two appointments. :)

  14. That didn't sound fun, but it was very nice of your friend to stay with you.

  15. That didn't sound fun, but it was very nice of your friend to stay with you.

  16. What a major ordeal you had to go through with your tooth. It looks like the dentist that did the work had your best interests at heart. To me that is the sign of a good dentist. I had a bridge put in a long time ago, and I still have it. So I think you made a good choice going with the bridge.


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