Los Algodones, Baja California is one of the most unusual places in Mexico, or anywhere in the world for that matter. Located just across the U.S. border, about eight miles west of Yuma, Arizona, this small town with a population of just over 5,400 plays hosts to tens of thousands of visitors from the USA every year. Can you guess why?
While Los Algodones has some of the things you might expect from any border town in Mexico—vendors in open air markets selling souvenirs, sunshine, music, outdoor cafes—what you may not expect are the literally hundreds of dentists, doctors, opticians and pharmacies that line the streets. Many claim that there are more dentists in the four blocks square of el centro of Los Algodones than in any other four blocks in the world. There are so many dentists tucked into every corner that they defy counting as this attempt demonstrates.
Snowbirds (migratory retirees) and citizens from both Canada and the U.S. flock to Los Algodones for inexpensive dental care, medicines, eyeglasses, and medical care. For many, a trip to Los Algodones is an annual ritual. And why not? Dental procedures are a fraction (typically 25-35% percent) of what they cost on the U.S. side of the border and most of the dentists and their staff members speak English. The dentists are licensed, some are members of the American Dental Association, some were trained in the U.S. and while the work varies in quality somewhat based on the training and experience of the dentist and the quality of the materials used, it is generally good to excellent.
But the real benefit of a place like Los Algodones is that there are important dental options available to patients that are simply not offered to patients of modest means by dentists to the north, namely: those procedures based on dental implants. Why not? Because these procedures are so expensive in the U.S. and Canada that many dentists never or rarely do dental implants and seldom offer the option to those living on a fixed income. If a single tooth is missing, they offer bridges involving healthy teeth to either side of a missing tooth with an artificial tooth filling the gap. If several teeth are missing they offer “partials” or other dental devices. And if a patient needs all or nearly all of their teeth replaced, they are told they need dentures.
In Mexico the recommended solution in all of these instances is much more likely to be a solution based on the technology of dental implants. This is by far the preferred treatment if you qualify. For example, All-on-Four and All-on-Six solutions, where a full-arc bridge is permanently affixed to four or six dental implants, is a much more satisfactory long-term solution than removable dentures for patients who don’t have health issues that might eliminate them as candidates.
From the U.S. side, Los Algodones is most easily reached via the international border at Andrade, California. From Andrade, visitors can park their vehicles for a fee in a Native-American owned lot (no overnight parking) and walk across the border, or simply drive across to Los Algodones.
Monica Rix Paxson is an expert in the field of Mexico healthcare. She is author of the English Speaker’s Guide to Medical Care in Mexico, and co-author of The English Speaker’s Guide to Doctors & Hospitals in Mexico – eBooks available for immediate download. She resides full-time in Mexico.