Thursday, February 05, 2009

Mr. Happy Tooth No More.


I brush every day; use one of those Oral B spinning, vibrating brushes. Floss nearly as often, and use an anti plaque pre- rinse, and a Listerine clone after. I don't drink sugared soft drinks, and I avoid fruit juices. I visit my dentist every... uh. Hmm. Yeah, I visit a dentist every
20 years or so....?

Okay, so I have a scheduling problem. It's associated with a recurring financial problem.. I can't afford to go t0 the dentist. No big, I thought, having only one emergency since my last root canal, sometime in the early Nineties.

Well... last month, while parked in Texas, watching TV and eating popcorn, I noticed.. my tongue noticed.. a big hole in the middle of a molar that wasn't there before the second handful of popcorn. This was a cause for concern. But not enough for emergency concern. There was some pain, but not the kind you associate with exposed angry nerve endings... more just uncomfortable. I figured I could just chew on the left side until we got to our Wintering spot in New Mexico. Which just happens to be 30 miles north of La Paloma, Mexico. Home to several English-speaking dentists, optometrists, pharmacists, etc.

I made the appointment with Dr. Oscar Daniel Perez at American Dental Care, located just a block and a half from the border, behind the famous Pink Store, (where we would have an excellent lunch afterwards, and use our free Margaritas coupons).

Border crossing from New Mexico into Paloma is, we'll say, informal. Park the car at the Duty Free shop in the US, and just walk on in to Mexico. (Returning would take only slightly longer).

For reasons I still don't quite understand, Margaret requires a dose of antibiotics prior to dental work, so we went first to one of the many pharmacies on the main drag. It may be of some interest to dog owners, that we picked up a 50-count package of Cephalexin, 500mg, for all of $4 and change, US. Just about any drug that's not a narcotic is available over the counter at great prices. The prices in Mexico would continue to amaze us, after our visit to the dentist.

When we arrived at the office, there were only a handful of people in the waiting room; all Yanquis like us, and either full time RVers like us, or dwellers of the borderlands region. It's easy to see what Dr. Perez's target demographic is.

Margaret was just getting her teeth cleaned. I was getting my teeth cleaned and, I thought, getting my filling repaired. That's when everything started to go south... figuratively speaking.

Dr. Perez looked at the tooth and what remained of the filling, and found evidence of decay around the gum line. He advised that it would be better to get a crown, than repair the filling, because I would just be paying for work on the same tooth twice. That made sense to me.

Then Dr. Perez's partner (and wife), Dr. Karla Marmolejo, commenced to cleaning my teeth. She promptly hit a nerve in the wrong side of my mouth, swabbed on some topical pain killer and went to work again, then stopped. She had a long conversation with Oscar in Spanish and he then took over.

This is where the real bad news starts. He told me there was a line of brown material over most of the gum line, top and bottom. He thought at first it was tarter, except it wouldn't come off. It's tooth decay. He's not sure why it's so prevalent, hazarding a guess about minerals in water, but whatever the reason, it's there. It will need extensive filling.

The good news is... or part of the good news is, it's not an emergency situation, (except for the original crown thing). I can get it done in stages, and since we'll be living here it won't cause a scheduling issue. I'm getting the crown done in two weeks, before we pull out of Deming for the last big road trip with the Express. The rest will be done over the next year, after we've moved into the Mountain House.

He wrote out an estimate. That's the second part of the good news. To see what all this would cost in the US, click on the amounts:

Bridge. 4 teeth... $600

Extractions. 2 $50 each

Porcelain Crown. 1 $150

Fillings. 12 (yeah, TWELVE) $50 each

So there you have a brief report on my very first visit to Mexico. I'll be saving a lot of money, and tequila is unbelievably cheap at the Duty Free.

And speaking of Duty Free.. this one came as quite a shock to someone who's used to the Duty Free shops on the way to Canada. Here, you park your car in the lot, go into Duty Free, buy your $12 Cabo Wabo, walk into Mexico, cross the street, walk back into the US, get in your car and go home. Get drunk.

We're going to like living here.

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