I first learned about Los Algodones, Mexico from an article posted on Facebook by a friend. It caught my attention because I needed a dental procedure which would be extremely expensive in the States.
I’ve traveled abroad for medical care many times, including for dental. Even after paying for a flight to San Diego, a taxi across the border, a hotel, and the dental fees to see my dentist.
When a tooth becomes infected, there are no happy options. You can have a “root canal” done but this carries its own health risks. You can pull the tooth and have a “bridge” put in, but you need two healthy teeth on either side which you’ll damage severely in the process. The only other option is to pull the tooth and leave an empty hole.
I had tooth loss at the very back of my jaw, so there was no option of a bridge. It was out of sight, but my bite and jaw were being effected by not chewing there, so I made the difficult decision to get dental implants.
I would’ve preferred going to Thailand, but implants require several visits with intervals of time in between, making a 20-hour flight to Bangkok impractical.
I’d investigated options in Tijuana, but that town is so uninviting. Los Algodones is a small town of five square blocks and 350 dentists which swells in the winter months with hundreds (sometimes thousands) of Americans and Canadians crossing the border daily for dental treatments. It’s safe, navigable by walking, and just felt more inviting than Tijuana. I did a bit of research and decided to go for it.
When it was all said and done, I made three trips to Los Algodones and my experience was mixed. I believe you can have a positive experience if you do your research and take precautions. My treatment was not successful, so I’m writing this review to help others avoid the pitfalls I made.
The Good News
The town is fueled by medical tourism. We are their livelihood and they’re protective of us. I traveled down three times alone: A single blonde woman in a Mexican border town – no problem. The first two times I flew down and had no car. I walked to and from my hotel at the edge of town and never felt unsafe. The majority of the tourists on the street were over 50 years of age. Many wearing flashy jewelry and carrying a purse, which I normally don’t do in Latin America.
Border Crossing & Accommodation
Crossing the border is quick, easy, and convenient. You can park in a secure, fenced lot run by the Quechan Indian Tribe on the US side, then walk across. The town is quiet after dark. For this reason, many people stay on the US side at the Quechuan Casino Resort or 11 miles down the road in Yuma, Arizona. I stayed in Los Algodones at Hacienda Los Algodones, which was the only hotel in town and charged about $50 per night.
Many people in Los Algodones speak English. Even if they don’t, they’ll try to help you.
Establishments accept US dollars so there’s no need to change US dollars to pesos. If you’re Canadian, you can remove cash from ATMs in the local currency, but this may incur international fees. You could also bring US dollars from an ATM at Yuma airport. There’s usually an additional fee for using credit cards in Los Algodones. I carried cash (Yes, a few thousand dollars).
Depending upon which dentist you choose, the facilities are modern and proper sanitation is adhered to.
For routine dental procedures, glasses, hearing aids and prescription medications, you can get great deals and walk away happy.
This video provides familiarity on How to cross the border: Yuma AZ to Los Algodones MX
Nearly a million Americans go abroad for health care each year; Some with great success, others end up with a horrible mess.
Plenty of people have a positive experience in Los Algodones. I was not one of them. The results put me in a worse situation than before I started. I’ve compiled a list of advice and precautions based on my first-hand experience:
Know what you need
Don’t leave it up to your Mexican dentist to diagnose your condition. Your Mexican dentist may be more interested in making a sale than choosing the best procedure for your health. There are plenty of ethical, trustworthy dentists in Los Algodones, but cover your bases by seeing a dentist in your home country to find out exactly what you need to be done. I understand wanting to save money but don’t be cheap. (Get your own Xrays previously).
Do your homework before you go. Search review boards and forums to get advise choosing the most experienced and high rated dentist for your specific procedure. When you find one who meets your requirements, ask for references from previous patients. Call or email these references and ask if they’d be willing to speak with you regarding their experience and long term results. If the facility cannot produce positive references, perhaps they don’t have satisfied customers!
A “Picker” is the name used for people positioned on the streets calling you toward the dental office they represent. They get paid a cut when you buy services. Don’t be lured in by these people. You are only money to them! Reputable establishments won’t use pickers because they don’t need to.
Make sure to get a signed price quote before doing the work. On one occasion (in Nicaragua, not Mexico), I went for a routine dermatology procedure which normally costs $100 in the US. I never bothered to ask the price because I assumed it would be cheap. Afterward, she charged me $300! I had no choice but to pay and the procedure wasn’t even effective in the end.
You DO need to make an appointment (as with any dentist), especially during the busy winter season. You’ll have better luck with same-day appointments during the hot summer months and can usually negotiate a sizable discount as well, but temperatures can be well over 100 F.
Yes, you do need a passport
There are no customs entering Mexico, but there are returning to the US, and often with very long lines. You WILL need your passport to re-enter the USA, so don’t forget it!
Have you received dental work in Los Algodones, Mexico? Help others by sharing your experience in the comments below (Please no long, seething, emotionally emotive reports. Keep it to useful facts).
If any of my information is out-of-date, please send me a message and I will update this post. Thanks!