Spending Retirement Dollars? Over the Border in Search of a Denist

"Who's driving?" Sis asked in her uniquely perky, cheery twang.

"Not me! I can't drive for more than half an hour without needing a nap." I answered.

The two of us looked toward Gopi.

"Don’t look at me," she said in her British/Indian best.

"You can have the front. I'm happy to sit in the back and relax,” I said as we piled into Sis's car before she officially accepted the fact that she was driving. We settled in, double-checked our water supply and triple checked that we all had our passports.

And off we went ... To Nogales in Search of a Dentist

A specific dentist who was recommended by Sis's friend S-Y-N-D-I (pronounced Cindy). Dr. Espinoza in case you are wondering or have heard of him.

You see, I have, in Tucson numbers, in American Dental Association numbers about $15,000 worth of trouble ahead of me; and Gopi was told that she needed a suspiciously large amount of work in the $30-$40,000 range and Sis around $2,500. Ridiculous, and not covered by medical insurance or Medicare (as if the head is not a part of your body).

The three of us made our way to the border, parked, walked through to the other side, headed toward the center of town, turned right instead of left, got slightly lost, turned on the walking version of GPS, and made our way to the dental office with forty minutes to spare.

The receptionist reviewed our appointments, to which Gopi and I strongly objected. Sis was there for a real visit (ex-rays, cleaning, treatment plan), but not us.

"No. No." We said in unison.

"I don't want to have ex-rays taken, nor do I want to have my teeth cleaned. I simply want to meet the doctor, have a chat, a consultation."

"Yes, that's right. A consult." Gopi agreed.

The receptionist tried again to explain...."that is what we do on the first visit."

I could feel that impatient part of me surfacing; the part of me that talks through gritted teeth, the big city part of me that I sometimes find amusing but not today.

Once again, I explained that this was not a first visit. They might think of it as an interview...to see if I like--if we like the doctor and more importantly to see if we trust him.

I drove...well, Sis drove...from Tucson to Nogales, we'd crossed The Border, we were in Mexico, and we wanted to assess if this was something we were wanting and willing to do. You know, establish ourselves with a dentist that's nearly two hours away, in a foreign country. A foreign country, over a border, in Mexico, a foreign country, not down the road.

I'd been forewarned by my Tucson dentist, "You what? You want me to tell you how to find a dentist in Mexico? I can help you find Mexico...you take Route 10 to 19...but I can't find you a dentist." She continued, genuinely horrified (wish you should have seen her face), "You know, you get what you pay for. What if there's an emergency? What will you do?"

"Okay." The receptionist smiled and left it at that and the three of us settled down, making ourselves comfortable in the waiting room, which mercifully was nicely decorated.

About twenty minutes later a lovely, young woman, sporting the most amazing orange lipstick that I've ever seen came out of the back and called my name. The three of us, as we do travel in a pack, stood and walked into the examination room together.

The Orange Lipsticked Person went with it. No problem. As it turns out, she is the dentist's wife, and she assured us that not only is he a great dentist, an oral surgeon, but in addition he is a good person and handsome, too. Muy guapo. (How do you like my Spanish?)

She wondered if we didn't want ex-rays because we were afraid of the radiation, because she said looking straight at me, "Even if someone is pregnant, it’s not a worry. It’s less radiation than when you go on a plane.” The three of us laughed at that one. She continued, "Well, you never know. Sometimes it happens."

When I disclosed my age, “63,” The Dentist’s Wife was shocked as she imagined that I wasn’t a day over 46. Yes, that’s right...46!

Gopi quickly announced her age, “66!” Sis followed with a proud “70,” as Gopi entertained us with her flexibility. She squatted, Indian style, down and then up again in one graceful move! Magnificent.

That’s when the doctor walked in, and now there were six of us in a tiny dental room, with all of its equipment and the enormous dental chair; the dentist, the wife, the assistant and the three of us. He smiled and said, "I hear that no one wants ex-rays or to have their teeth cleaned. Why are you here?"

I, the self-appointed spokesperson, said, "We are here to meet you. See if we like you. If we trust you. But don't worry. Your wife has already done a magnificent job of clearing the way and assuring us that you are an incredible doctor, a kind person and handsome. Guapo.

“And, your wife has great teeth and style. All three of us just love her orange lipstick. You know, not everyone can carry that look! Your teeth look good, too, by the way. And your wife thinks that I look like I'm 46. I am ready for my ex-rays, cleaning, whatever."

Sis was whisked off to another room to see another dentist for her ex-rays and cleaning, as I had already appropriated the chair. This could have pissed her off, as she was the only one who was planning on having a working appointment with the Great Doctor Espinoza, but we were too busy laughing and whoopin' it up with the handsome doctor to notice, let alone ask if she minded.

"Can Gopi sit in?” I asked the Greatest Dentist Ever. “We have no secrets, and I’m sure she'd feel more comfortable after seeing how you work."

"I'll take the ex-rays, clean your teeth and then I'll get Gopi from the waiting room. Together, the three of us, can review the photos and decide on a treatment plan for you," which we did.

Gopi helped with the plan. “What’s happening with that tooth? Oh, yes, pull that one out.” Lots of laughs.

So…there you have it.

Our criteria was met:

A youth-related compliment, good style (love that orange lipstick available at Sephora, but honestly I don’t think anyone else could pull it off), a young, smart, handsome doctor, a few good laughs...all at a third of the price. A third of the price!

My real dental work begins next week. Here's hoping I come out of it still looking like I'm 46!

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