El Dentista

Our friend, Gisella, has been going to Mexico for years to have her dental work done.  The dental group she uses is excellent and the prices are at least half that of U.S. dentists.  A couple of weeks ago, Gisella mentioned that she had to have a root canal and wondered if we could drive her in a one-day turnaround trip.  Since Bill and I haven’t been to the dentist since we moved to Arizona, we agreed, with the condition that she try to get us in for X-rays, a cleaning and an exam so we could get an estimate on possible future work, which she did.

Gisella informed us that it would be almost a 4 hour drive to the southwest corner where Arizona and California and Mexico meet, so we were up at 5 a.m. and on the road by 6 for our 10 a.m. appointments.  I drove, so we were there 45 minutes early.  We parked on the U.S. side and walked across the border into the city that has more dentists, pharmacies and optical stores per square block that any other place in the world – Los Algodones.

As we walked the six short blocks to the office, Gisella gushed with excitement, eager to show off her beloved dentista and introduce us to an honest-to-goodness affordable dental plan.  I gushed with anticipation, excited to get to a liquor store and buy some $7 Jose Cuervo tequila and $5 rum.  Bill just gushed – mainly with perspiration – as he continuously glanced nervously over his shoulder.  Maybe he was worried about rogue dentists hiding in doorways and alleys, ready to pounce and begin feverishly scraping our teeth with well-sharpened cleaning picks.  I’m afraid all the warnings and scary news stories about the dangers of traveling in Mexico had gotten to him.  The only really threatening aspect of walking down the streets of Los Algodones, however, was being caught in the crossfire between two competing optical stores or dentists’ offices who were hawking their practices like street vendors.  We were offered free X-rays, free eye exams, free dental exams, $20 teeth cleanings and $25 prescription glasses – all in the first block.  And this didn’t include winding our way through the straw hat and leather goods and turquoise jewelry vendors.

All in all, it was pretty typical of a visit to a U.S.-Mexico border town – except with Novocaine.


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