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Dental Care with a Smile

Updated on July 29, 2009

Nice Smile

Only floss the ones you want to keep.

As Congress spits and sputters trying to find a solution to our health care woes, I found a place that offers dental care at affordable rates. It’s a well-established clinic offering services you’ll find at most local dental offices including extractions, fillings, crowns, root canals, complete dentures and complete oral rehabilitation.  One can even find expert periodontal care. The catch? These clinics are all along the border towns with Mexico and are fast becoming the preferred care for seniors and the uninsured.

Personally I have never had dental insurance. Since my 30’s I have flossed religiously and managed to reverse a bad gum problem and have had few cavities since then also. Health insurance rarely covers dental work, one must purchase that separately unless you work for the government or Google or some other large corporation. No dental insurance motivates one to take care of the pearly whites, now not so pearly, but still I haven’t lost a tooth, until I recently chomped down on a last bite of popcorn and bit into a kernel that split a molar down almost to the gum line. What a shock. It’s located second to the back on the bottom and is covered with a huge filling from my youth. The filling stuck, the tooth is hanging on but just barely. I knew I was in for a huge dentist bill, as it would need a crown and possibly a root canal. This began my research into the border dental clinic located in Juarez, Mexico, just two blocks south of El Paso, TX.  It’s a short 2½-hour drive from my home.

Open wide.

Where to go.

I’d been hearing about this clinic for years from various friends and health providers, all good stories with happy endings. The thought of entering that infamous city full of gangsters and murders chilled my bones. Yet the difference in the possible solution of my tooth problem would be around $500, enough to investigate further. I called the clinic and they assured me the violence occurs on the other side of the city, they have not experienced any such activity. I called a few more friends and decided to take the trip down and give them a chance to save my jagged tooth. The Washington Clinic in Juarez has a contract with a big parking garage near the border where you have a valet take your vehicle, then are picked up by their own van painted with their name on the side. The driver was very polite and helped me into the van along with another couple who became my friends for the day. The air conditioning kept us cool for our short drive over the border.

We were offered cold drinks from a cooler beside the driver’s seat. Crossing into Mexico we saw young soldiers with big guns patrolling the streets. Traffic was moderate with many pedestrians walking along the sidewalks. In a few minutes we arrived and were greeted by a young man who opened the door for us. As we entered a beautiful young woman smiled and gave us a short form to fill out with our names and reason for the visit. There were about 15 other people, Mexican and American, waiting to be seen. All the workers in the clinic were professionally attired and fairly young. I barely sat down to wait when I was called by another handsome young man who served as my interpreter for the session. He led me to a clean room and introduced me to the waiting dentist and assistant. They made me comfortable and proceeded to look at my chipped tooth speaking in Spanish as the interpreter took notes. They took one x-ray. I was told to wait and given my magazine to read as they left to study the results. Only a few minutes later the interpreter returned with a set of options. I asked for another set after hearing them. He put the little x-rayed tooth up for me to see on the light box in front of me and pointed to the tooth and to the real problem. My gums have receded more than I’d realized and my teeth don’t have enough bone structure to make a root canal effective. I would need a root canal to be able to have a crown placed on the tooth. They didn’t recommend that given the state of my gums.

Be kind to your teeth

The options

What to do? I could have the tooth pulled, or just leave it as long as it will last until the filling falls out, then it will have to be pulled. Aauurgh. I couldn’t stand the thought of having a big hole in my mouth – they didn’t think I could have a bridge because of my gums, either. I decided to leave it and take my chances until another day. The dentist came back and filed the sharp edges and I was done. Here’s the clincher. NO CHARGE. They said it was a consultation. When I was ready to have the tooth pulled or other work, remember them. Wow. That was a $100 visit to any dentist I know here.  I was given some brochures and a handy magnet business card and returned to wait for the van to take us back to El Paso. The waiting room has a refreshment dispenser with water and sodas that are complimentary. There is coffee and cookies and two television sets. Also there are plenty of recent magazines to read. The trip back to the border took longer, one must have some patience for this trip, but it was definitely worth the trouble and I was so surprised at the level of courtesy and customer care the clinic offered.

If you live anywhere near the border, I recommend you investigate your choices for expert and inexpensive dental care from our Mexican neighbors.  I found one video describing the clinics, and there is a sequence about a very dissatisfied patient from the Washington Clinic. They say she wasn’t reimbursed, either, but I bet there were other factors not mentioned. There are by far more satisfied customers who visit these clinics. I’m one of them! 

About the Clinics

Part II

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