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Crossing the Border for Care: My Dental Experience in Palomas, Mexico

Crossing the Border for Care:  My Dental Experience in Palomas, Mexico

I had never considered getting dental care outside the US, but about a year ago a friend of mine encouraged me to accompany her to Costa Rica to have dental work done.  She was a school teacher and simply couldn’t afford the $10,000 worth of dental work she needed.  Surprisingly, it was her own dentist in Santa Fe that suggested she get the work done there.  He had recommended a number of his patients to a dental referral agency in Atlanta when they couldn’t afford the extensive dental work that was needed.  The agency referred his patients to Costa Rica.

Being a teacher, my friend was off work for the summer and could take the time to spend a week in San Jose getting her dental work done.  It also made sense for her to spend the $1000-plus it cost to go there, and to pay for lodging for five days because of the amount of work she was having done.  We couldn’t do that.  So I started looking for an alternative closer to home.

I had heard about dental services in Tijuana and Juarez, but I simply didn’t want to risk going to either of those cities.  Both have populations of a million or more, and have shady histories regarding drugs and crime.  On top of that, I’ve heard stories of people spending hours in line crossing the border.  So I contacted friends of mine in Southern New Mexico who weren’t far from the border to see if they had any experience with dental work in Mexico.  “Palomas is where you need to go,” they said.

Palomas?  Where the heck is that?  They said it was close to Las Cruces NM, where they lived, and they had a number of friends who received very good dental care there.  Palomas is a quiet town of about 5000 people just across the New Mexico border.  A clinic they had used many times was recommended, and we realized that we could get there, just south of Columbus, NM, in only a 4 1/2 hour drive.  Instead of over $1000 for travel, and many days lost from work to go to Costa Rica, we had a good clinic that we could access and be home in a weekend.  It was also really important that we had good recommendations from people who had been going to Palomas for years, and who had good experiences there.

To begin with, I visited my dentist in Santa Fe and got a dental treatment plan identifying the work that was needed.  One crown needed immediate attention I was told, so I forked over $1500 to have that done.  But when I learned that my wife, Terri, also needed two crowns, we decided to take the advice of our friends and try Palomas.  The work done was four crowns, and the cost was $920 for all four!  In addition, Terri had some cosmetic dentistry done that would have cost about $1000.  The charge was $210, and the work was beautiful.

In the course of a few trips to Palomas to complete the dental work, we learned that we could save a lot of money on eyeglasses and prescriptions in Palomas as well.  Terri’s brother got same-day service for new glasses for about $125.  The price in the US for the frames and lenses would have been about $400.  He was thrilled with his glasses and with the savings.  Terri replaced her glasses for about $100, which would have cost her about $350 in the US.  I’m next.  I called my optometrist to find out the cost to replace the lenses in my current glasses.  The cost, with the eye exam, was $405.  The eye exam in Palomas is free, and the cost for the same work is $90.

We’ve also had positive experiences with prescriptions in Palomas Terri was able to replace her $80 a month prescription medicine with a $12 a month supply!  The people were knowledgeable and helpful, and explained how the Mexican government monitors and restricts the profits on pharmaceutical products, so they can remain affordable for their citizens.  Now we could benefit also.

We’ve now made half dozen trips to Palomas.  We love the drive, and we love the people we have met there.  We always take time to visit The Pink Store, which is a famous gift shop and restaurant.  It has the feel of Mexico with Mariachi bands and items for sale that come from all over Mexico, but we never have to worry about eating the food or drinking the water there.  Almost everyone we see in the shop, eating and leisurely looking at the products, is American.  We’ve gotten to know Sergio and Ivonne who own The Pink Store, and it’s like seeing family each time we go back to Palomas.  Crossing the border is easy and we’ve never had any problems there.  Safety was a concern when we considered other Mexico dental destinations like Tijuana or Juarez, but we don’t worry about that in Palomas.

The savings?  It’s already in the thousands of dollars, and counting.  As a friend who was considering dental insurance told us, “Invest in Palomas instead!”

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