Monday, August 10, 2015

REVIEW OF LOS ALGODONES DENTAL CLINICS - From Cantinas to Cavities. Isn't there some other place? KPBS Radio News

Los Algodones Dentists Offer Cheap Dentistry in Mexico 

Reposted from KPBS Radio News

 LOS ALGODONES, MEXICO — The first time Mike Negle walked across the U.S.-Mexico border to Los Algodones, near Yuma, Arizona, he was instantly surrounded by salesmen who screamed they had the best deal, the best offer or the best price. They reminded Negle of hawkers in open markets in the U.S. who sold tomatoes or knock-off designer sunglasses. But these men weren’t selling tomatoes or sunglasses.

The sidewalk hawkers were selling root canals..
“There’s a guy standing right at the gate by the border,” Negle explained. “He says, ‘I got good dentistry, come with me,’ and he’ll actually walk you over to the dentist and then they’ll give you an estimate."
"And then when you walk out of that door, someone else will grab you up and take you to another dentist down the road, and then maybe they’ll knock 20 bucks off, maybe beat the price by some,” he said.
Tomato markets aside, Negle wasn’t used to doing business like this. Like most Americans, he’d always chosen his doctors and dentists not because of cost, but because of coverage — as in, did his insurance plan cover a provider or not?
Negle drives tractor-trailers. He has since 1984. Over the years, he admits to eating a lot of roadside food and not making a lot of trips to the dentist. So by the time he went to see his dentist in Fargo, North Dakota, he was told it would take $20,000 to quell his many toothaches. Instead, Negle looked for other options.
“Know where to find a good dentist in Mexico?” he asked someone he met on the road.
“Yes. Go to Los Algodones,” she said.
Which he did. Negle made eight trips in six months for a total of four root canals, four crowns, five fillings, a teeth cleaning, a deep cleaning, and laser whitening. He’s not done. Soon, he’ll also get two new implants and a permanent bridge.
This was going to cost $20,000 in the United States. In Mexico, it cost him $5,800.

The reasons for this incredible discrepancy in price are many: It is cheaper to live in Mexico. Mexican dentists don’t have to buy malpractice insurance and they generally don’t have to track down reimbursements from insurance companies. 

Essentially, the market sets the bottom line. Which means that along the border, it is a constant race to the bottom to lower and lower prices. 

From Cantinas To Cavities

In Los Algodones, the pressure has spawned a cycle like that in any competitive marketplace: New dentists arrive and do whatever they can to try to attract customers from other dentists. Then the more established dentists try to stop them. Perhaps there is no better example of this than Dr. Bernardo Magaña, a dentist who moved to Los Algodones in 1969.

At the time, Los Algodones was a dusty border town. Magaña remembers that there were no less than 48 cantinas. Still, he sensed that if he put his practice here, people would come, Americans would come. He started advertising on television in the U.S. He became mayor and shut down the cantinas and the brothels. He worked and worked and so they came — not only more American patients, but also more Mexican dentists. The dentists moved into the empty spaces the cantinas and brothels left behind.

And the Americans came; mostly retirees. Some of them were snowbirds wintering in the southwest, while others were U.S. residents who lived near the border. Another group drove down to the area, from as far as the Midwest, in search of cheaper medications, tequila and an economical way to fix their teeth if they lacked dental insurance.

All kinds of people started making money from this. Besides the Mexican dentists, there was also the American newspapers that suddenly had more advertisers, and the local Quechan Indians, who built a huge parking lot — akin to what you might find outside of a large stadium — so Americans can park right next to the border and walk into Mexico.


For years,  the local dentists had been undercutting American dentists. Now, new and cheaper Mexican dentists are moving in undercutting the old-timers.

These new dentists hired hawkers, dressed them up in scrubs and sent them right to the border, near Magaña’s office. The hawkers call themselves promoters.

Jorge Cruz, who belongs to an elite professional dental association, has another name for them — jaladores, which means pullers.

“It is just that they are not that honest,” Cruz said. “You can try it yourself. You can take one of my cards, and they are going to say they don’t know where I am, I don’t know him, he is dead, he killed a patient. But I’ve got a better doctor.”

This is a downside of a competitive system without much regulation. You get hawkers driving down prices and making up their own rules. One hawker tells tourists she has a dentist who studied at Harvard–which he did, but only for one week in the continuing education department.

The older established dentists are in fact so irked by this that they are trying to lobby the local government to regulate the promoters and prohibit them from hawking on the street. One promoter, Jesus Daniel, said they just can’t stand the competition.
“See the big guys — all these guys got the money, so they want to shut us down,” Daniel said.

The dentist he works for is far from the border — in Los Algodones terms, this might mean only four blocks — with little foot traffic.

So far, competition for American patients in Los Algodones and Yuma has played out as small town dramas.

“The world has gotten small enough that there will be more and more global competition for healthcare,” Said one expert. “It is proximate competition right across this little demarcation that we call the U.S.- Mexico border.”

Already some American insurance providers have decided to expand their coverage into Mexico, offering in-network dentists and doctors whose rates for services are as much as 70 percent cheaper than those in the United States. 

For its part, some tourism officials in Mexico are working on an online and print directory, like one that lists board certified doctors and dentists in Baja California, so that Americans can find Mexican providers easier.

By Devin Browne, Jude Joffe-Block  for KPBS Radio News

Los Algodones, Mexico is located approximately 10 miles from Yuma, Arizona.

 If you live with an easy drive of of  Los Algodones, getting your dental work there is the thing to do. 
But get a Board Certified Mexico Dentist Association dentist to be sure your dentist is not a general dentist learning root canals and dental implants at your expense (and pain). Over 90% of the dentists in Mexico are only general dentists - un-trained in advanced dentistry.  If you are flying in to Yuma or Phoenix from out-of-state, spend a few extra bucks for airfare and have a real dental vacation in Cabo, Puerto Vallarta or even Tijuana (stay and play in San Diego). The cost will be about the same for the dental procedures  as Los Algodones.  -ed

Useful links: 

For free  estimates and referrals to Board Certified Dentists in Los Algodones, Cabo  San Lucas, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Tijuana and others visit: 

Certified Doctors & Dentists Internationale' 

Los Algodones, Mexico Dentist Reviews

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