People are flocking over the Mexican Border towns by the 1000's in search of dental work priced at a fraction of their North American counterparts. Crowns for $125 compared to $1200-$1500 can be extremely enticing. This story may have you think twice.
We visited the offices of Sani Dental Group on the morning of January 16, 2007. We were accompanied by my cousin who has visited Sani mani times over the past few years. She recently had all her front teeth crowned and they looked pretty good! When we arrived at the Sani office we were all surprised to see a major renovations taking place. What used to be a one man show was undergoing a rapid expansion program given the exploding dental industry in Los Algondones, Mexico. Red flags should have gone up when we walked in the front door. The offices did not resemble any dentist's office I had ever visited in Canada. The place looked a little dingy and tired. His equipment looked like something you would expect from a Mexican Dental Clinic, old and antiquated. Leslie & I met with Dr. Jimenez and after a brief examination, he informed her that she needed 4 crowns that could be completed at his office the same day. He showed us his credentials, that of a dental surgeon, educated in the U.S. My cousin and I left Leslie at the office and were asked to return about noon when all the prep work was to be completed. That was our first mistake! Dr. Jimenez said he would have the crowns manufactured in his lab a few blocks away and ready for placement by 5 pm. We returned at noon to find Leslie's face looking like a boxer that had just gone 12 rounds. She had a concerned look on her face and I asked her what was wrong. She said Dr. Jimenez did not do the work and the "so called dentist" looked like a Wal-Mart tire mechanic, complete with blue coveralls and a baseball cap on backwards. I began to share her concern and then the nightmare began. We returned to the clinic shortly before 5 pm and there was nobody at the clinic. Dr. Jimenez and the rest of his staff had gone home and the only ones left were the dentist, his assistant, my cousin, Leslie and myself. I got my first glimpse of the "Wal-Mart Mechanic and I couldn't believe my eyes. The dentist could not speak a word of English even though 99% of their patients were English speaking Americans or Canadians. I got a sick feeling in my stomach and could only imagine how Leslie was feeling. We waited until 7 pm an finally the crowns had arrived, 2 hours late but there non the less. The dentist began placing the crowns and immediately Leslie voice her concern that they did not fit. The dentist continued to place the remaining crowns and claimed they were perfect. Leslie continued to argue that the crowns did not fit and in fact, she could get her tongue underneath the margin on 3 of the 4 crowns he had placed. He removed the crowns and began grinding them with a hand grinder, than tried placing them again. Leslie was still insistant that the crowns were not right and she even questioned if these were her crowns. The communication gap did not help the matter either. He continued to work on the crowns for another hour but we could see we were getting no where and had a BIG problem on our hands. She asked the dentist if they do not test the crowns for proper fit with the blue paper all dentists use anywhere else in the world. He didn't seem to know or understand what she was talking about. Finally his assistant grasped what we were asking and came back with a sheet of the blue bite paper. After a few taps, up and down, side to side, he said they were perfect and he was done! We the clinic tired and extremely concerned. Leslie insisted that these were not her crowns and just before reaching the border crossing, we spotted the dentist and told him we were not happy and the crowns did not fit! He ushered us back to the clinic and sat Leslie back in the chair. He grabbed a tool from his box that looked like a "nail puller", something I am very familiar with being in the construction business. Before we could say a word, he had this device in Leslie's mouth and began reefing on one of her crowns with the tool, practically pulling her out of the chair. As I ran to her defence, the crown came off and her mouth began bleeding profusely. He got out his trusty hand grinder and began to work on the crown. I looked at Leslie and my cousin and said "let's get out of here!" He re-installed the crown and we left the office without delay, dashing for the border as fast as we could. By this time, the freezing in Leslie's mouth was beginning to dissipate and she began feeling excruciating pain. What have we done??
We dropped my cousin off at her home and started making our way back to Phoenix. The drive home was painfully quiet for a number of reasons. Both of us new we had made a huge mistake but it was too late for regrets. She was experiencing major pain by the time we left Yuma and it rapidly got worse. By the time we arrived home, she had taken at least 4 Tylenol 3's and they did nothing. She did not sleep a wink all night and first thing in the morning we contacted a local dentist in Phoenix. He asked her to come to their offices immediately and when we sat her down in the chair and asked her to open her mouth, the expression on his and his assistant's face said it all. He said it was the worst attempt at dental work he had ever seen and not of the crowns fit. He too believed that the crowns were not fitted for Leslie and whoever did the work could not have been a dentist. To ad more insult to injury, Leslie just had a $1200 crown installed a few months ago that had been damaged beyond repair by the Mexican dentist and it would have to also be removed. He informed us the crowns would have to be removed immediately and the site treated for any potential infection or worse. As he began removing the crowns, the porcelain was flying in every direction. He claimed in his 30 plus years of dentistry, he had never seen that happen before. He claimed that even if the crowns were properly fitted and installed, the porcelain would not have lasted more than a few years and Leslie would have been left with 4 silver or aluminum gangster teeth! The situation went from bad to worse. The dentist discovered some major infection setting in and suggested Leslie immediately get on a major dose of antibiotics and let things settle down for 2-3 months before attempting to replace the crowns. The whole experience left us numb and terribly concerned about the long term effects of this nightmare.
The next few weeks Leslie experienced constant pain. We were spending $100 on antibiotics and pain killers. Finally the pain was beginning to subside and she began sleeping through the night. She visited the dentists office on a weekly basis for the first few weeks so they could monitor her progress closely. He was confident that the temporary crowns could be removed after 3 months and the permanent crowns could be placed. He recommended she continue with the antibiotics for at least 4-6 months to insure all the infection was gone.
It is now December 2012, almost six years after this Horror Show and she is still paying a price for this monumental mistake. She has had root canals on 3 of the 4 teeth that Sani destroyed, one just a few months ago at a cost of $2000. This monumental disaster has cost us in access of $10,000 and years of pain and suffering.
If your thinking about getting a deal on dental work south of the U.S. Border, remember Leslie's experience!