Getting Dental Work Done – The Mexican Way
During our two years of traveling through South and Central America we have had little to no health issues. Which is good, as we currently didn’t have health insurance. However, the times we did have minor problems we always went to local hospitals and clinics. Just like our fellow Ecuadorians, Peruvians, or Mexicans. In most cases there were private clinics available, but we decided to undergo the ultimate cultural experience, going through local healthcare. In this post I will take you by the hand as Sheree undergoes some dental work in Puerto Escondido, Mexico.
But first, a little taste of Latin American healthcare in general. In the jungle of Costa Rica, the children had to deal with a Staph infection, which is serious but quite common in the tropics. After trying to cure this the natural way I decided to go to the local clinic for a medical consult. Quite the cultural shock, I may say. There seemed to be endless walls of paper medical files. There was no computerized system at all, and before getting to see an actual doctor we were sent from one window to the other, filling out the same details over and over again, waiting for hours on end. Efficiency was definitely not on the Costa Rican priority list. Besides the fact that anti-biotics are still prescribed like they were cotton candy, the actual consult seemed professional, and of low costs. I left with mixed feelings. However, after a few weeks the infection was cured. On another occasion I wanted to get some blood work done, in Ecuador. The most common of blood tests, I may add. Here too, efficiency was not a priority. Unfortunately, the machine seemed to be out of order and I was asked to come back tomorrow, the day after, or in a few weeks. I ended up going back three times. I wondered how the local Ecuadorians dealt with medication not being available, or medical machines being out of order. In my case, I was able to pay for a private clinic. My blood results were fine. In Mexico, I injured my shoulder during surfing. For days, I couldn’t properly move my shoulder and the pain (to me) seemed worse than childbirth. While my brain slowly moved into panic mode I decided to visit the (private) 24-hour private clinic. The air conditioning was blazing, and the walls were of a white so bright it almost blinded my eyes. A Mexican woman greeted me in perfect English. There were real estate flyers on the table, along with luxury car and yacht rental leaflets. The furniture was impeccable, which itself is a rare commodity in Mexico. I explained the situation and she took a few minutes to poorly examen my shoulder. Within 5 minutes I was 500 Pesos lighter, and my shoulder still hurt like I was having twins. So, I took a cab to the local hospital, saw a doctor, had an x-ray done got some medication, and was sent home. It took me half a day, but it cost me less than 75 Peso and I was helped properly. My shoulder wasn’t dislocated but would be healed in a few weeks.
Now, Sheree needed some dental work done in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. We decided to opt for the local dentist. After all, we are world-citizens, we don’t just travel to change climates, we travel deep. We travel to experience different lifestyles and visions. Of course, I did my homework. In Europe we had an organic and holistic dentist, so I was quite aware of the do’s and don’t in the world of healthy teeth. As we entered the local clinic the door was open, while I could actually see the dentist work his magic on a patient. So much for privacy. I hesitated. There was no secretary to ask questions or make appointments. I hesitantly peeped around the corner, and was greeted with a smile ‘Please, come in’. While he made sure ‘Maria’ patiently kept her mouth open, I fire away with my questions. We don’t need an appointment and I can just pass by anytime.
A week later we were back at the clinic. The name ‘Ayuda Humanitaria’ made it sound like the clinic was subsidized by the government, but it wasn’t. He explained how charging less than the other private clinics, is his way to give back to the local community. Looking around I could tell the equipment was not of the highest quality, but it was clean and seemed sufficient. There was still plastic on the chairs, which didn’t do aesthetics justice. There was a huge flat screen tv, as entertainment for both dentist and patient is of the highest priority, I guess. The Champions League was playing, and in between filling teeth he cheered happily for his favorite team. This is why I love Mexico. A lawless country where all is possible. Where you can ride your bike transporting your family, plus your dog. Where you don’t need an helmet, driving your scooter. Where privacy is overrated. Where you can get your dental work done while the dentist watches his favorite soccer match.
However, local dentists do still use amalgane to fill teeth, which is quite toxic. In Europe I had all my amalgane fillings removed and replaced, which I may add, had cost me a fortune. In Mexico, I would advice you to do your homework. I did, and we were fine. When I told him we’d rather not have amalgane fillings due to toxicity he shrugged and he used the requested, healthier, option. We easily chatted away, and there seemed not much of a barrier between doctor and client. He did his job thoroughly, and seemed relaxed. There was no time schedule to stress about. When all was done, he charged 100 Peso (roughly 5$) per filling. No additional costs. No matter how long it would have taken him. For adults, he would have charged 150 Peso. After I thanked and paid him, he looked at me sincerely, and tells me he’s here to serve and that the door is now always open for us. In between getting dental work done, watching a soccer game, and chatting away, we had made a new friend too. I smile, and wave goodbye.