Los Algodones, Mexico: The Molar Capital of the World

One of many dental offices in Los Algodones

A week ago we headed to Yuma, Arizona for a week long stay. The reason for choosing Yuma was its close proximity to the small Mexican border town of Los Algodones, nicknamed “the molar capital of the world.” There are over 350 dentists practicing here with more dentists per capita than any other city in the world. While visiting our California dentist in November, Mark got an expensive quote for a deep cleaning, the only service she offered him. Rather than spend $1,000 dollars, he decided to give Los Algodones a try. We have been aware of the popularity of south of the border dental care since full time RVing. I have read blogs and watched you tube videos of people coming here for reasonably priced dental work. Most people seemed to be happy with the care they received. But which dentist to choose as there are so many.

Border crossing into Los Algodones

The day of the appointment we drove to the border and parked in a lot close to the crossing. Although we could have driven in, we decided walking would be less problematic. It was quicker to cross than I expected as there were no Mexican officials checking visitors. We just followed the pathway and there we were on the streets of Los Algodones. The first building we saw was the big purple pharmacy across the street which definitely sticks out from all other buildings. This is the most popular place for people to get prescription medications at a much reduced cost. Throughout the day, we often saw people carrying their purple bags from the pharmacy.

Most popular pharmacy

We took a look at the drug store and noticed an optical center next door. Mark had been wanting to get new eyeglasses and since they are cheaper here, decided to pick out a pair. He didn’t have an appointment but was able to get an exam right away to check his prescription. The exam was done in no time with the glasses ready for pick up in a couple hours.

Selection of glasses at Mendoza Optical

Our next goal was to find the dental office. When we made the appointment, the receptionist told us they had a shuttle that could pick us up from the purple pharmacy. Since we had time to kill and planned to have lunch before the appointment, we decided to find it on our own and started walking. There were signs on buildings all over advertising dental offices. These offices were interspersed with shops selling a variety of items appealing to tourists. There was no shortage of locals to ask for directions. Dental offices hire people to stand out front and encourage visitors to come in. In some places dental work can be done on a walk in basis. Personally, I can’t imagine getting dental work done at an office that I haven’t checked out beforehand.

Wandering the streets of Los Algodones

A young man flagged us down and asked if we needed dental work. When we explained Mark already had an appointment and we were trying to find the office, he told us we had chosen a good one but the most expensive in town. He laughed and said we must be rich and encouraged us to consider his dentist who was much less expensive. He kindly insisted on showing us where we needed to go, walking with us to our destination, the Rubio Dental Group.

Our informal Los Algodones guide

I did some research before choosing Rubio Dental Group and found it to sound reputable and have positive reviews. There are actually several dentists in this office with different specialities. Mark checked in at the counter and confirmed his appointment.

Rubio Dental Group

Now that we had our bearings and still time for lunch, we headed off to find a restaurant. Los Algodones has a number of places to eat but we were looking for a place that had great reviews on Trip Advisor. Someone pointed us in the right direction and we found ourselves at Molcas Taco.

Molcas Tacos

The owner was bustling around the small cafe seating people and taking orders. The place definitely seemed to have some charm and a menu with a wide array of offerings. They served four different sauces with the tortillas chips as well as some fresh veggies. I ordered the chicken soup (Caldo de Pollo) and Mark had a taco plate with rice and beans. The total was only $12.00. There are signs all around that “If you don’t like the food you don’t pay.” The food was great but all through the meal people selling items including jewelry, purses, hats and even cigars kept coming around hawking their wares. Mark said he could just tune it out, but I found it difficult to not tell them we weren’t interested. In the photo below, you can see the young man behind me with hats on his head he is selling.

Molcas Tacos

With lunch done we went back for the appointment. It was a bit of a wait but Mark was very happy with the outcome. He said that the equipment was high tech, liked the dentist and felt he got good treatment. The building looked a little nicer than some of the other offices, but infrastructure is definitely not the same as the states. In the parking lot were cars from Canada and the U.S., but there were only four spaces for this busy dental practice.

Rubio Dental Group

I didn’t have any work done here as I had completed a checkup and cleaning appointment with our dentist in California. To be honest I was glad, because I am perhaps more cautious than Mark about using a dentist in Mexico. Throughout my life I have always dreaded dental appointments and I like the comfortable feeling of going to my practice in California that I know and trust. Luckily my appointment was not expensive like Mark’s or perhaps I would have to reconsider for the future. Some people have major dental work done in Los Algodones including not only root canals and crowns but implants and surgery. In the process, they save thousands of dollars. Even with insurance, dental care in the U.S. is just way too expensive. Mark paid $140 for what would have cost $1,000 in California and we had a rather fun day as well.

Waiting to cross the border

When we left the dentist the traffic on the street was backed up as cars waited to cross the border back to the U.S. We heard that the wait to get back on foot would be long but I was still surprised to see how long the line was. It ended up being about two hours before we reached the customs counter. During our wait we were entertained by accordion players and talked with other travelers. It was a relief when our wait was over and we were back on familiar ground. Visiting Los Algodones was an interesting experience. We might be back again some day.

Border Fence

3 thoughts on “Los Algodones, Mexico: The Molar Capital of the World”

  1. Such a fun post. Did the experience make you more interested to travel more in Mexico? dealing with hawkers is always tough, I feel like in part its great to buy stuff and stimulate the economy and at the same time a little peace and quiet is nice. Glad it all went well

    1. Nice to read your comment Matt! Yes, there are definitely places in Mexico I am wanting to visit: Mexico City, the Mayan Ruins such as Chichen Itza, birding in the Yucatán, San Miguel de Allende, Pueblo and Oaxaca (where one of my favorite Mexican foods originated – mole). I really enjoyed the group tour I took to Baja and I know I would love other trips to Mexico. Hopefully some day!

      1. Yes Mole is one of my favorite flavors too. Anthony Bourdain did an episode featuring hispanic LA and featured a restaurant famous for its Mole and I cant wait to go

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