Going to the Dentist in Mexico

Rita at lunch in Los Algodones

We’ve ended up spending over a week in Yuma, AZ, which didn’t seem likely when we were calling around to make a reservation. This is a major snowbird destination, and most RV parks only allow ages 55 and over. Plus, many places have dog breed restrictions, with pit bulls at the top of the list. We finally found a park that allows both kids and all types of dogs (I had to keep myself from groveling: “We won’t be a problem, I promise!”, after getting an affirmative answer to both questions).

Who doesn’t want this happy guy in their RV park?


The reason we stopped in Yuma was to go to the dentist in Mexico. The town of Los Algodones right across the border is a big “medical tourism” destination, offering prescriptions and dental and vision services for a fraction of the cost in the US and Canada. I’ll be up front that I didn’t know anything about it, and was a bit skeptical when Chris suggested we all go and get our teeth cleaned across the border. But I learned that the industry in Los Algodones is well established and respected. There are lots of reviews online, many for extensive dental work. We only needed cleanings, so I figured it was low risk. And with all of the rhetoric regarding the US-Mexican border, I was curious to experience a (round-trip, hopefully!) crossing by foot.

Based on reviews, I called an 800 number for Sani Dental Group on Saturday and was able to make back-to-back appointments for the four of us on Tuesday. We drove a few miles to a large parking lot at the border run by the local Quechan tribe. There is no town on the US side, only the border crossing. The Colorado River is narrow here, and the buildings in Los Algodones, including the very noticeable and obviously named Purple Pharmacy, are visible above the river reeds and cattails just a couple hundred feet away. We followed a sidewalk along the road that passes through the border and walked into Mexico without any checks. The little of the town that we saw was compact and bustling. There were a few people handing out cards for doctors, and craft and souvenir stands lining the sidewalks. It looked like a port-of-call tourist town, except for all of the medical offices, and the young doctors and technicians in scrubs walking around amidst the older North American tourists.

Before crossing I called for the dental group’s free shuttle bus, and a minivan was waiting for us in front of the Purple Pharmacy as promised. The Sani Dental Platinum office was clean and modern, with a round reception desk in the center and long white couches. The kids quickly settled in to watch Zorro in Spanish on the large TV while Chris and I filled out our registration forms.

Charlie went first. I accompanied him to the exam room and met Dr. Gretter, a young woman who mentioned later that she was from Cuba. Dr. Gretter and the hygienist were very professional, but also affectionate towards Charlie; they exclaimed “que lindo” and kissed him on the cheek. Multiple times. He passed his check up.

Rita’s always been good with dentists and doctors – unless a needle is involved. Things were going great until Dr. Gretter found that she had a small cavity, her first, on one of her permanent molars. Chris and I both agreed that we should go ahead with the procedure after the dentist explained that there would be minimal drilling and a resin filling. Fortunately for all of us, it did not hurt, as Rita had been assured. She survived her first cavity and is a much more thorough brusher now.

Chris and my cleanings were a lot more pleasant and quicker than expected since they used an ultrasonic scaler (I looked it up later) rather than the manual scraping we’re used to enduring.

Happy patients with Dr. Gretter

After eating at a restaurant nearby recommended by the reception staff (Charlie was very excited to get to eat his favorite food, a bean and cheese burrito, in Mexico), we walked the couple blocks back to the border and joined the alarmingly long line to walk across. The line moved slowly but steadily, and had shade cover and benches. When we arrived at the checkpoint an hour later, our two passports (one expired) and two original birth certificates were accepted with no issue, and there was no bag check.

We walked back to our car, drove back to our RV park, and took the dogs out. Total cost for four cleanings and one filling: $185, plus $6 for parking. It was an interesting and positive experience – and the kids’ first trip abroad! We promised them that we would visit Mexico again, and not just to go to the dentist.

It was also Rita’s 8th birthday on Monday. We celebrated with a fun lunch at the legendary Lutes Casino (not a casino currently, but a restaurant/bar) in oldtown Yuma followed by bowling. I also ordered up this rainbow, although Rita was still asleep when it appeared:

Birthday rainbow over our RV park
Rita got a sundae and Happy Birthday sung by the staff at Lutes.
Charlie’s favorite dish (at Lutes Casino): bean and cheese burrito

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Visting from The Rutherford Adventures. Great post! I’ll be saving the info for later. The one dentist I was told about in Mexico was not nearly as close to the border as this one. Thanks for sharing your experience!


    1. michelleneale says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you find it useful… it was a very enlightening experience, and I’m happy to share how positive it was for us; I had my concerns 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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