Getting Dental Work Done in Los Algodones, Mexico

Every winter, thousands of people visit the small Mexican town of Los Algodones for what has been coined ‘medical tourism’, specifically dental care, eyeglasses, and medications. At about 1/3 the cost of dental care in the US, the price is right, but is the quality there? And what about safety concerns? On Tuesday the 7th I made the crossing to visit a dentist for the first time in five years and find out for myself.

Los Algodones is located less than a half-hour west of Yuma, Arizona, and there are numerous RV parks in area that can be used as a staging point, Q Casino being the closest. There are also several free boondocking options within a reasonable distance – I camped on BLM land along American Girl Mine Road in Winterhaven, CA.

Sign out front of a shop

While taking a vehicle across is perfectly doable (Los Algodones is where Katina and I crossed to go down to Rocky Point a week ago), parking is limited on the narrow streets. The easiest thing to do is walk across. For $6 you can park your vehicle at the Quechan parking lot, which is the very last stop on the US side. The lot can accommodate RVs if you do not have a separate driving vehicle. From there it’s a short walk to cross the border, and Algodones is immediately on the other side.

There are a lot of dentists, pharmacies, and eyeglass stores to choose from, and many of them have hawkers out from who will try their darnedest to get you in their store. For dental care you can go in without an appointment or a plan and find service, but for the best experience I recommend finding one you like ahead of time and making an appointment to be sure you can get in.

Just as in the US, there are good dentists and bad dentists in Algodones, but the internet has made it easy to look up reviews and get recommendations to make an informed decision. RV forums like RV.net and the Escapees Forum have threads dedicated to dental care in Algodones if you do a search, and RV blogs are also a good place to go – Wheeling It, and Cheap RV Living both have posts about dental work in Algodones and I’m sure there are others. That first visit I crossed with a group of fellow RVers (safety in numbers, right?), and my decision was influenced by which dentists the members of our group were going to see.

The entryway for Eva Ureña’s is quite hidden in that back corner in the deep shadows

Here it is up close

In the end I picked Dra. Eva Ureña, who has a good reputation and is a member of the American Dental Association. Her office is farther away from the main hubbub and the entrance is unassuming, no hawker stands out front. She gets a lot of business from referrals and is always busy, so making an appointment is necessary – I’d made mine early in January.

The building is nice looking and well-kept on the outside, and the waiting area inside is nicely decorated. The receptionist speaks good English, and the wait to be seen in short, in no time at all I’m being whisked into the back. The exam rooms in back are also well-appointed and clean. The equipment looks new, the chair is comfortable. I could be at any dentist office in the US.

My cleaning is done by a hygienist, and is more comfortable than cleanings I’ve had done in the US. I’m not sure if this is because she’s more careful about it or because she wasn’t as thorough. Other people who’ve visited dentists in Algodones have said similar things and I’d read about it ahead of time, so it didn’t come as a surprise. Even though it’s been five years since I last saw a dentist, I don’t have a lot of tartar – I never do. I do brush vigorously and floss daily, but I think this is partly due to genetics too.

Peeking inside a Purple Pharmacy

Dr. Ureña does the exam afterward. Her English is more accented than the receptionist, but is still perfectly understandable. She tells me what I already know from past trips to the dentist, the enamel on my teeth is weak and I’m prone to getting white spots that eventually become small cavities. I use a high-fluoride mouthwash daily to help counteract this, but I always have cavities when I go to the dentist. After five years I have 11 of them. Nine little ones and two regular-sized ones. I’m not surprised, I was expecting to need fillings. She prescribes this paste with a much higher concentration of fluoride than my mouthwash with directions to use it once a day before bed.

The next day I come back alone to get six of the fillings. Dr. Ureña thinks I’ll only need to be numbed where the two larger cavities are, but I’m a wuss and after a small sound of protest she numbs me for the small ones too. She starts the procedure, but leaves after the two larger cavities are drilled to work on someone else, and another lady takes over.

This other lady is an unknown, which makes me nervous. But she seems competent and things go smoothly.

Inside an eyeglass shop

It takes about an hour and 15 minutes total for the six fillings. When the Novocain (Procaine) wears completely off an hour later I have some soreness from holding my jaw open that long, but no tooth sensitivity which is amazing for me. I’m able to eat normally as soon as the numbness is gone, no problems.

Almost a week later on the 14th, I go back for the second round of fillings. I’d anticipated my mouth needing that time to recover between procedures but honestly would have been fine with just a day or two between.

The five small fillings on my left side take about 45 minutes and they numb me automatically without me having to ask which I appreciate. It’s the same lady and hygienist doing the work, Dr. Ureña stops by once or twice to check up on them but doesn’t interfere. Again I’m satisfied with how things go.

While Algodones is mostly about medical tourism, there are shops with goods too.

Of course, only time will tell how good of a job they really did. I intend to update this blog post periodically with the state of my fillings. In the meantime, as a person who experiences mild to moderate anxiety over dental procedures, I’m happy with the care I received. The people who worked on my mouth seemed competent, their manner was professional, the clinic was clean, and I actually had less pain and discomfort than I usually have after a visit to the dentist. Right now I’m considering this experiment a success, assuming that the fillings stand the test of time.

Likewise, I felt safe visiting Los Algodones. The tourist areas were kept very clean and regularly policed. Having veterans to go with the first time was beneficial as they knew where to go and what to eat (mmm, food cart tacos), it also relieved any worry I had about safety. The second and third trips I crossed alone and had no problems. There were so many other Americans around that I was never truly alone. As with Rocky Point, the hawkers could get annoying at times, but if you just keep saying no they’ll leave you be.

The tourist section of Algodones

Cost Analysis:

  • Cleaning, exam, and fluoride paste: $55
  • 9 small fillings (includes Novocain): $40 each, $360
  • 2 standard fillings (includes Novocain): $80 each, $160
  • Total: $575

Recap and additional notes:

  • You need a Passport to cross. Mexico doesn’t care, but it’s necessary to get back in the US.
  • The border station is open from 6 am to 10 pm, but it’s probably best to limit visitation to daylight hours.
  • The tourist zone of Los Algodones (where all the dentists, pharmacies, and eyeglass stores are found) is kept clean, regularly policed, and considered quite safe. The residential areas outside the tourist zone are not kept clean, and I can’t speak as to how safe they are.
  • Despite being in the Pacific time zone, many businesses in Algodones follow Arizona time.
  • Street tacos, yum! And no, didn’t get sick

    Bring cash. The street vendors take cash only. Some businesses will accept checks (my dentist did) but not all of them do, so confirm payment options when you’re making your appointment so you know what to bring with.

  • Not all dentists in Algodones are equal, look online and ask your RVing friends for recommendations for the best experience.
  • The general rule of thumb is that dental care in Algodones costs about 1/3 of what it does in the US, the work I had done follows this. If you know you need work done before arriving, this should give you an idea of what to expect cost-wise.
  • To see a specific dentist, you’ll want to make an appointment ahead of time to make sure you can get in.
  • Pharmacies and eyeglass centers are walk-in. Most of the eyeglass places I peeked in guaranteed a two-hour turnaround time. If you have multiple things to do in town, get your glasses order in first to make best use of your time.
  • There are several purple buildings in town called ‘Purple Pharmacy’. They’re not all owned by the same person though and prices and stock will vary between them. If you can’t find something in one place, try another.
  • The hawkers are much bolder than salesmen in the US. Get use to saying ‘no’ repeatedly. Avoiding eye-contact and walking with a purpose helps if you’re in a hurry. If you show any interest in something and decide not to buy it, expect that it’ll take a while for ‘no’ to sink in.
  • The worst time to cross back into the US is after lunch, the lines at border patrol are longest from about 1-3pm Arizona time. If you can, come early and go back before the lunch crowd. Or, come later and wait to cross until after the lunch crowd leaves.

Border crossing back into the US

And that’s a wrap. Have you had dental work done in Mexico? We’d love to hear about your experience in the Comments section. Questions are also welcome!

* Please, I’m not looking for dental care advice. I shared my personal health information so that you’d be better informed about the cost and quality of care that you might receive down in Algodones, and I couldn’t do that without telling you what I had done. Thank you for keeping comments on this post about the work and not about me.

* * *

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53 Responses to Getting Dental Work Done in Los Algodones, Mexico

  1. John & BJ February 17, 2017 at 5:17 pm #

    I just got finished with some pretty major work in Los Algadones: extraction, bone graft, root canals, and a five unit bridge. I used Dr. Maria Fonseca who’s office is about a block closer to the border crossing and was VERY impressed. Costs were less than half of what my COPAY would have been in Arizona. I’ll be going back for my future regular exams and cleanings.
    John & BJ recently posted..Old Stuff and Fun StuffMy Profile

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 5:47 pm #

      Thank you for sharing your experience John & BJ!

  2. Sheila Hagadone February 17, 2017 at 5:26 pm #

    I’ve never been to Mexico so I’ve never have any work done there. Thanks for the info! When we don’t have insurance anymore, I’ll consider going.

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 5:48 pm #

      You’re welcome Sheila. And yes, cost was a huge part of my decision to get the work done in Mexico. I saved $1,000 easy. Hopefully the fillings hold up.

  3. Jeff February 17, 2017 at 5:38 pm #

    Very well presented Becky! Living in San Diego we go to Tijuana for our ‘dental tourism’, and for certain it is not the small town feel of Los Algadones. As you note there are good facilities to be found with a little research.

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 5:49 pm #

      Good to know that Tijuana has similar opportunities Jeff, thanks for sharing.

  4. Robin February 17, 2017 at 6:35 pm #

    Thank you for this very informative blog post!

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

      You’re welcome Robin!

  5. Ron February 17, 2017 at 7:45 pm #

    We have gone to the dentist’s in Mexico for 12 years. Nuevo Progreso Mexico across from Weslaco Texas. Parking on the USA side here is only $2.00, we walk across the bridge over the Rio Grande River. The quality of work and equipment is similar to what we had in Minnesota. The cost is about 30 – 35 percent of Minnesota costs. The town has the reputation of being safe. We have been 100 per cent satisfied with the work we have had done. He did get numerous references from other snowbirds. Meds are an even better bargain, meds we paid $120.00 for in MN for $5.00 and they work.

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Ron, it’s good to know about other towns in Mexico with good dentists too for those travelers who don’t visit the Yuma area.

    • Maria_levy February 20, 2017 at 5:19 am #

      Do you need a prescription for med purchased at the pharmacy?

      • Becky February 20, 2017 at 8:26 pm #

        Maria, Ron talks more about medications in a comment farther down.

  6. Judy Blinkenberg February 17, 2017 at 8:10 pm #

    Thank you so much to you and other comments. I have put off dental cleaning for a long time and may need more. I will certainly consider this.

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

      You’re welcome Judy, glad you found this helpful.

  7. Suzanne February 17, 2017 at 9:51 pm #

    I’ve been to both Dr. Eva and Dr. Maria Fonseca that John mentioned. I much preferred Dr. Fonseca. I went to both for a night guard (I grind my teeth in my sleep.) Dr. Eva’s was not a good fit, and I couldn’t stand to wear it. So I had one fitted by Dr. Fonseca the following year. It was a much more comfortable fit, and $20US cheaper. I also.found Dr. Fonseca’s “bedside manner” to be much better.

    And I highly recommend Lupita’s fish and shrimp tacos. It’s a bit off the main street, but the line will tell you it’s worth the wait!

    I find a smile with a firm “No, Gracias” usually works for me…after all, a man’s gotta eat. 😉
    Suzanne recently posted..Zihuatanejo is That Kinda PlaceMy Profile

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 6:04 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Suzanne!

  8. Milly February 17, 2017 at 11:06 pm #

    My mom had a seven tooth bridge done last year. Turned out great.
    Milly recently posted..Mud and Misery in TexasMy Profile

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 6:04 pm #

      Glad it worked out well for her Milly, do you happen to know which dentist she went to?

  9. Annie davis February 18, 2017 at 7:03 am #

    hello
    we are former rv’ers
    about 20 or so yrs back we were in mexico
    over near winter haven for teeth work
    we only needed a picture ID to cross
    over I saw you said we need a passport now
    We’ve never had a passport. Was this correct
    or will an enhanced drivers license also work
    like we’ve read about?

    I had a root canal done way back then
    and it’s still good today Annie in MI

    • Ed@Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets February 18, 2017 at 10:28 am #

      Passport of passport card is absolutely required . The card is good for Canada and Mexico. It cannot be used for air travel. Gone are the days of a simple ID. Welcome to a post 9/11 world.
      Ed@Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets recently posted..2016 Financial RecapMy Profile

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

      Ed is correct, the laws changed after 9/11 and yes a passport or passport card is required now. My family crossed into Mexico for a day trip when I was a child and I hadn’t needed one then either.

    • Tonya February 24, 2017 at 10:10 pm #

      Enhanced drivers licenses or IDs are acceptable identification for land travel to Mexico and Canada. Only certain states offer them WA, MI, NY

      https://www.dhs.gov/enhanced-drivers-licenses-what-are-they

  10. Jim February 18, 2017 at 8:17 am #

    Excellent report! Just the sort of information people can use about dentists in Mexico. Very helpful.

    I’ve had dental work done in various places in Mexico, (Mazatlan, Palomas, San Felipe) and just finished getting two crowns, and a bridge here in San Felipe and like your expirience cost was 1/3 of the US. The doctor was extremely good with the needle too. Didn’t use a topical first but I did not feel the needle at all! Impressive. That’s never happened before.
    Jim recently posted..Just a bit of news…My Profile

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 6:09 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Jim. Dr. Urena’s did use a topical before injecting the Novocain, I think I’d be pretty nervous about forgoing it but I’m glad you had a good experience.

  11. Dawn from Camano Island February 18, 2017 at 8:22 am #

    Great write-up, Becky! Jim & I went to Dr. Urenas for cleanings last winter & Jim had one filling done. I get a lot of tartar on my lower teeth & they did a good job getting it off. Jim is happy with his filling too. I was told I needed a night guard so I purchased one. The fit was not good–I wore it one night. We’ve decided that one cleaning a year in Mexico & one with our dentist at home (who gives us a senior and cash discount) works well for us. If we needed major work, I think we would have that work done in Mexico.

    We also found a great little taco stand just down the side street from Dr. Urenas’ office–best ever. I wish I could tell you the name of the place but I don’t think it had one. Lots of locals eating there, which is always a good sign!

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 6:13 pm #

      Your the second person to report a poor-fitting night guard from Dr. Urena’s, so readers perusing the comments – you probably want to look elsewhere for one of those. Glad the rest of your work there went well.

      The place I got my taco was close to her office, may have been the same place. 🙂

  12. Chey February 18, 2017 at 8:22 am #

    What can you tell me about pharmacies there? What do they need to get prescription drugs?

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 6:16 pm #

      Looks like Ron has your answer in the next comment Chey. Some drugs in Mexico still need a prescription (and one written by a US doctor is fine). This wasn’t something I researched as I’m not on any prescription medication.

  13. Ron February 18, 2017 at 8:45 am #

    You can buy pretty much any common prescription drug you want without a prescription. They will usually be a generic. Check the expiration date as they often are closer to their expiration than what we get in the USA. One possible reason for the lower cost. When going thru Customs you must say the medications are for personal use. You may not buy for others, you are limited to a 3 month supply if they check but they likely won’t care if you have a few more. You can also go back the next day and get another three month supply. If asked say you have medications, never say you have drugs. If they don’t ask don’t offer. Narcotics ate a different story, some say you can bring them back with a prescription, some not. We have had good luck with meds purchased in Mexico. Seem to work as they should and depending on med often only 5 to 10 per cent of USA cost.

  14. Renee February 18, 2017 at 9:57 am #

    I have recently had an almost total reconstruction done at Supreme Dental in Algodones, including 4 implants (2 were part of a 3 unit bridge) 4 upper/front crowns and 9 lower front crowns, and my teeth are beautiful. I chose to have my work done in stages but could have had it done in probably 2 consecutive days. Frank (owner, not a dentist) will negotiate pricing, and the more work you have done, the better the discount you can get. Frank speaks perfect english and is always there to translate if needed. I highly recommend Supreme Dental.

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your experience Renee!

  15. Alan Belisle February 18, 2017 at 10:01 am #

    Good information! Lots of people see Mexico as some third world backwater country, unknown and scary, without any technology or medical skill. It is good to know that people have low cost options available there.
    Alan Belisle recently posted..San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, MexicoMy Profile

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 6:21 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed this Alan.

  16. Reine in Plano when not camping February 18, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    Great informative post. FYI for folks that aren’t close to Mexico and need medications check out GoodRX AND check different strengths. I take generic Crestor (rosuvastatin). Getting the generic on my drug plan was $200 for qty 30 of the 5 mg pills last fall. Using the GoodRX card I could get the same 30 pills for $60 at Kroger. But I could get qty 30 of the 10 mg pills for $20. Go figure. My doctor is fine with me cutting them in half so I spend $20 for a 60 day supply and it doesn’t count towards my Plan D thresholds. GoodRX has an app for your phone so you can check the price ahead of time. Note that I haven’t checked the copay for 2017 but the idea is still valid. There’s no charge for the GoodRX card. GoodRX would be especially useful for folks without drug coverage or those seniors who’ve hit the “donut hole”. Standard disclaimer – I have no association with GoodRX other than using them to save money and always check with your doctor before cutting pills in half to be sure precision dosing isn’t critical.

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 6:23 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Reine!

  17. Sherri February 18, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

    I just had 6 all porcelain crowns done by DENTIST D.D.S. DR. GUILLERMO MARQUEZ REYES. I am extremely happy. It’s a bit of a culture shock that you don’t have a bunch of forms to fill out. I made a day trip in November to meet him. Went back Jan 2nd for prep and temporary caps. I was done early enough that I opted to drive home to Phoenix instead of staying in Yuma. Went back the next day for the permanent crowns. They use CAD technology so it was fast. it’s only been 6 weeks so only time will tell.
    I also brought home prefilled paperwork to self bill my ppo dental. They will reimburse you out of network. They used the wrong dental code so I only got $224 back from delta dental but I resubmitted with the right code and fully expect to get more reimbursement soon. It takes some work but you can get reimbursed.
    Shopping was a bonus! Brought some beautiful vases. jewelry and birthday presents home.

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 6:24 pm #

      It’s great to hear from so many people who’ve had positive dental experiences in Mexico, thanks for sharing Sherri!

  18. Pete Cantele February 18, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

    Thanks, Becky, for all your ongoing advice.
    This post brought up a question I had and that is what does food cost there near the border. For example, the street tacos you bought. I hope you don’t consider this a ‘stupid’ question; it’s something I have been wondering for a long time.
    Best wishes and great adventures to you!
    Regards,
    Pete Cantele

    • Becky February 18, 2017 at 6:27 pm #

      You’re welcome Pete, thanks for reading.

      I paid $2.50 US total for the taco and glass bottle coke. Down at Rocky Point last weekend I paid $1 each for street tacos and empanadas, sit-down restaurants cost more, $6-$8 a meal. If you can pay the sit-down restaurants in pesos you get a better deal than US dollars. Of course this is a very small sampling and I don’t know how universal these numbers are.

  19. marijka February 18, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

    I’m not traveling yet, but am definitely saving this post for that time. Thank you and the other posters for such great info!!

    • Margo Wasfy February 19, 2017 at 1:34 pm #

      I have been using Loval Dental for two years for cleanings. Previously, when I carried insurance through an employer I went to a periodontist every six months and my general dentist every six months. Always told how important it was to have cleanings on a three month basis. Now my dentist at Loval says six months is fine and I have been doing that for a year. Apparently I was a cash cow for 15 years or more. Need I say more.

      I can’t say enough good things about their clinic. They have dentists in every specialty. They have their own lab. Everyone’s English is good. Very clean and modern equipment.

      928 377 4565 US number

      • Becky February 19, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

        Thanks for sharing Margo!

        And I’m glad you’ve found this helpful Marijka

  20. Joseph P. February 18, 2017 at 9:38 pm #

    Great blog! Thanks for sharing.
    I had a ton of work done last October, six implants root canals 8 crowns and four cavities. I’m in the process of writing a pretty detailed blog as I researched many of the prominent Dental practices in Los Algodones like Sani Dental, Circle Dental, Ect.
    I can tell you two of the cavity fillings failed within the first month, and also one implant failed after two months. Everything else is pretty solid work. With all the work I had done cost me about $8,500 so far, would have cost me over $30,000 in the US. That’s some serious cash.
    I ended up going with Circle Dental, which they do warranty all the work and are going to replace the failed implant.
    I’d say the quality is very good. I’m not sure it’s as good as I would get w a US Dentist. As I had to get the failed cavities replaced by my us dentist, and they are fine now. I guess you get what you pay for. With that being said I still am very happy with the results so far.
    Going back in a month to get implant crowns. Fingers crossed! Thanks again. 🙂

    • Becky February 19, 2017 at 5:36 pm #

      It’s good that Circle Dental is going to replace the failed implant Joseph, thanks for sharing! I’ll cross my fingers too.

  21. Gerri & Mike February 19, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

    Thanks for all the great information. We’ve never had any dental work done in Mexico but know many who have.
    Glad all went well!!
    Gerri & Mike recently posted..Making Our Oliver More HomeMy Profile

    • Becky February 20, 2017 at 8:21 pm #

      You’re welcome Gerri and Mike!

  22. Clarke Hockwald February 20, 2017 at 9:48 am #

    Becky, we love Dr. Ureňa! Our experience mirrors yours. Heading back there for an appointment on March 1st for Elaine’s crown impressions.

    • Becky February 20, 2017 at 8:22 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Clarke! Hope Elaine’s work goes well. 🙂

  23. Rand February 20, 2017 at 3:47 pm #

    Tijuana has a new pedestrian bridge that makes it easy getting back. Otherwise the car lanes can be a few hours wait.
    I walk to Dr Criss Melendrez 619-502-9242 office behind McDonalds. Years past she would handle the insurance but now I have to submit with the codes and her signiture on the form. She charged 5% for using my health debit card – not sure about that. Prices were the same as Dr. Urena who did some work previous.
    It would be a $5 cab ride. I go past the open markets and a block that is wholesale fish. Trucks with iced fish unload and restaurant people are buying. I usually end up with a kilo of fish for $2-4 per pound. A bottle of good booze is half US price.

    • Becky February 20, 2017 at 8:23 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Rand! Katina thought about bringing fresh shrimp back on our trip to Rocky Point, prices were good.

  24. Tina February 23, 2017 at 7:22 am #

    Glad it went well for you. I went to a different dentist there some years ago, and after the dentist did the first part of the prep for a crown, “somebody else” came in to finish there as well. That individual (never did find out if she was a dentist) decided to keep drilling and went all the way to the gum line. There wasn’t enough tooth left to crown. I had to have it extracted. NOT there though–went back into the US for that one! For me, none of the work I had done there held up. I’ve ended up doing extensive restorations with dental implants, but I now go to my trusted dental surgeon in Mesa, AZ. Certainly many are satisfied with the work they’ve had done there, it just doesn’t work out for all of us.

    • Becky February 23, 2017 at 8:10 pm #

      Sorry you had a bad experience Tina, and yes I’ve heard horror stories about bad dental care in Mexico. I’m glad I took the time to research reputable places ahead of time because if nothing else it made me feel better about the whole process. Glad you got everything fixed up here in the US with a good one!

  25. Tina February 23, 2017 at 8:20 pm #

    Thanks!😬👍🏻

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