I'll be the first to admit that I (Emily) am a complete wimp when it comes to all things dental. Although I have had lots of dental work over the years, I am really sensitive to the slightest pain in my mouth, and I whip myself into an advanced state of anxiety whenever I contemplate even a dental cleaning. Back in North Carolina, when I needed to get a crown or root canal, I opted for "conscious sedation" in order to avoid the anxiety, and it was a godsend for me, despite the extra cost that wasn't covered by the dental insurance I had at the time. I wish they could just knock me out for cleanings too, but that's not an option, so I just sweat it out -- literally.
Since I am such a dental-phobe, I had put off going in for a cleaning since we returned from Belize. I'd found a great dentist on Ambergris Caye, retired from his practice in Minnesota, and his sweet wife (a hygienist who is his assistant) even gave me nitrous oxide for my cleaning when I told her how nervous was. Score!
I had heard that Mexican dentistry was quite good and much less expensive than in the US, so I had been planning to get my teeth cleaned when we got here. I managed to drag my feet until I caught a bad cold, which necessitated waiting a few more weeks, since I didn't want to cough in the poor dentist's face!
But finally, I could avoid my fear no longer and made an appointment -- through email, no less! I'd found a dental practice (http://playadentist.com/) that was highly regarded on the Playa forum I read, and the dentist spoke English, a huge plus, since I needed to be able to answer his questions, and my Spanish is still weak, especially when I am anxious, when everything I've learned seems to fly right out of my head.
Barry and I took a reconnaissance walk up to the office a few days ahead so I wouldn't have any trouble finding it when the time for my appointment came. On the same street, we were amazed to see this huge and beautiful mural. In all likelihood I would never have had the pleasure of seeing this if I hadn't decided to go to the dentist, so I guess it was meant to be!
At last the day had come, and I walked over to the dental office with fear in my heart. It's in a very attractive and tidy Mexican-style home, and it would be easy to miss the small sign on the door indicating that this is a dental practice.
When I walked in, I was greeted by a clean and airy waiting room, but there was no receptionist's window! Hmmmm, I wasn't quite sure what to do. Fortunately, a young woman walked out from the back, and I was able to indicate to her that I had an appointment in my halting Spanglish. She seemed to speak only Spanish, but perhaps she did speak English and just wasn't letting on.
While I was waiting, I thumbed through some glossy Spanish magazines with ads for beautiful restaurants and resorts, mostly in Cancun. There were a few dental related posters on the walls, and other than everything being in Spanish, I could have been in an US dental waiting room.
A few minutes later, Dr. Jorge Armenta came out and greeted me, and although he spoke Spanish to me at first, once I told him my Spanish was not good, he switched to English, which he spoke perfectly. What a relief!
Here's where things started to get very, very different from a US practice: I filled out no paperwork. Nada. Even more surprising and interesting, Dr. Armenta himself did the cleaning! In the US, the hygienist cleans, and the dentist usually just comes in at the end and pokes around for about 30 seconds, so this was really different.
Aside from that, the office was not different from a nice dentist's office in the US. It was sparkling clean, and all the equipment appeared state-of-the-art. I was impressed! Dr. Armenta even used an Ultrasonic cleaning machine, just like my dentist in the US and the American dentist in Belize. This is not my favorite instrument as the high-pitched sound reminds me of a cross between a determined mosquito and the dental drill (i.e., instrument of torture), but it does do a good job. Every now and then it will hit a sensitive place, so my muscles are always tensed up, and and I have to remind myself to breathe while it's doing its magic.
I got a bit of a lecture from the dentist about waiting so long between cleanings, and he even asked if I was a smoker! I'm not at all that, but I know the backs of my teeth were stained from some of my other "vices": coffee, blueberries, and red wine. Fortunately, he was able to take care of the staining and some plaque build-up in short order, and after doing so, he said things didn't actually look too bad. I felt like he did a really good job, taking his time, and was as gentle as any hygienist I've experienced. He was a total professional!
The final surprise was that I paid Dr. Armenta directly, not a receptionist. And the cost was a very reasonable $600 MXN (just a little over $40 USD).
Although going to the dentist is never what I'd classify as fun, this experience was as good as it gets for me. If you are ever in need of a dental cleaning in Playa del Carmen, I can recommend Dr. Jorge Armenta without hesitation. Since I haven't had any further dental work done here, I can't speak to that, but I have no reason to believe that he wouldn't do just as good a job on other procedures.
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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