Monthly Archives: November 2014

Floating University

Take Robert’s word for it.  Everyone should watch these lectures.–2

The Floating University’s first course, Great Big Ideas, is composed of 12 professionally produced video lectures ranging from 40-60 minutes in length. Below is a listing of every subject covered by Great Big Ideas, presented in the order suggested by the syllabus. You can take in the material in the same progression as students at Harvard, Yale, and Bard, or skip around to best suit your interests. Click on a lecture title to jump to the full video, accompanied by supplementary materials prepared by experts to get the most out of every lecture.

Dentist in Oaxaca México: Conclusions

In November 2014 Robert (I) went to Oaxaca, México to have dental work done.  I made an earlier blog post about the trip, which gave some details and included some photos. In this post I will make some conclusions and try to give some advice to those who may be interested in making a similar trip.

I grind my teeth.  This weakens them and causes them to break, and to lose fillings and crowns.  For the last five years these missing fillings and crowns have been an accumulating problem. In late October I broke a tooth while eating a cracker sprinkled with what I am told are “chia seeds.”  All I know is that those little seeds are hard as rocks and broke a pre-molar in two.  I had a very nice local dentist do an initial inspection and give me an idea of the work that needed to be done. The work to be done was as follows:  2 tooth extractions, 1 root canal, 2 enamel-metal crown replacements, 1 bridge/implant to replace one extracted tooth, drill and fill 3 cavities.  I knew that all of this was going to be expensive in the US, so I asked a friend who has been living and raising a family in Oaxaca, Mexico for 12 years to refer me to a dentist in Oaxaca.

Mexican people have teeth.  There are plenty of dentists in Oaxaca.  Just look at the Internet or walk the streets in the center of Oaxaca and you will see many in evidence.  My friend in Oaxaca had two recommendations.

1.  The Tenorio Dental Group.  Dr. Daniel Tenorio and his extended family are a group of dentists in Oaxaca that are well known in the expat community there. They reportedly do very good work, and they speak English.  They reportedly provide good service at very good prices, but they are not the least expensive option.  Here is the contact information.  Dr. Daniel Tenorio (general dentistry) tel. 516.2613, Calle Abasolo 213, [email protected]; Dr. Eduard Javier Flores Corzo (root canals) tel. 516-7357 or 514-6220, Calle Armenta y Lopez 619, email: [email protected]; Dr. Alba Tenorio (periodontist and implants), Calle Reforma 400, tel 516-0834.  I did not use the Tenorio Group.
2.  DuoDent. The second referral I got was to Dr. Tania Martinez Alavez of DuoDent Consultoria Dental, Calle Manuel Doblado No. 622, Suite F, cel. 951-243-45-23, tel. 20-5-44-41, email: [email protected]. Dr. Tania, and her partner, Dr. Leticia Alvarado, are young women (early 30s?) who perform general dentistry, root canals, braces, etc.  Of the two referrals I got, DuoDent is the lower cost option.  Importantly, they do not speak English well.  They can arrange an interpreter during your visits.  I chose DuoDent.

The reason US citizens go all the way to Mexico to visit the dentist is to save money.  So let’s get this out of the way.  Here is the work I had done and the total cost.

2 teeth pulled: 1000 pesos
1 root canal: 2500 pesos
2 crowns measured, manufactured, and installed: 4000 pesos
1 bridge measured, manufactured, and installed: 3000 pesos
3 cavities drilled and filled: 1200 pesos
DENTAL TOTAL: 11,700 pesos (US$ 859.95)

Hotel (11 nights): 5500 pesos (US$ 404.56)
RT Airfare:  US$ 650

GRAND TOTAL: US$ 1,914.51

Only cash accepted.

I’m not sure, but I suspect that if I had gone to a US dentist in Marin County and gotten all this work done it would have cost $6,000-$8,000.  Perhaps more.  So, the financial aspects of the Mexican dental experience are obvious, and they are good.

I am not a dentist and there is no way for me to know whether all the work I had done in Mexico was of equal quality to the quality I would have gotten in the US.  That said, I have no complaints and everything appears to have gone well.  The tools were clean (the dentist took them out of sanitized bags every visit), the fillings seem to be of high quality (they are white and invisible) and the dentist spent a lot of time making them fit right in my teeth.  During the root canal, I got the impression that Dr. Leticia is very competent. It is obvious that Dr. Tania cares very much about her work.

But there are a few “intangible” elements of all of this that are worthy of discussion.

First, the general facilities like the building where the offices are located, and the DuoDent offices themselves.  Let us just put it this way, Mexico is not a rich country.  They do without lots of the cosmetic indulgences that we find very common.  When you visit the DuoDent offices, you will note that they are in sort of a dusty building in a far corner of the city center.  Not bad, but not elegant.  You will note the rather unkempt common areas of the building.  Very typical in Mexico, but perhaps you will be used to more in a dental office.  You will note the sort of cheapo made-in-China dentist chair that you sit in.  You will note the custom of the dentist and her staff to take (and make) cell phone calls during your visit. You will note the lighting fixture in the dentist’s consulting room which consists of a light bulb hanging from a wire.  You will note the traffic noise and car alarms in the background. You will note all of these things and perhaps you will be uncomfortable.  At a minimum, you will understand a little bit why the bill for your work is so remarkably low. The DuoDent offices include all of the above shortcomings.  I’m told that the offices of the higher priced Tenorio group are only a tiny bit better

Second, the language issue.  Do you want your dentist, as he or she is pulling on a pair of pliers attached to your tooth and you hear the breaking of bone and tooth, to be able to communicate with you in English?  Think about this carefully.  I am a person who has traveled the world very extensively.  I’ve lived in three countries in which I did not speak the language. I do not speak Spanish.  I consider myself very flexible and able to handle situations well even though I don’t communicate in the local language.  But even I had some doubt when the Dr. was pulling my teeth.  I am sure the stress level (and there is unavoidable stress at the dentist) would have been lower if the dentist would have been fluent in English.  This is just human nature.

Third. The time element.  Dental work in Mexico takes time, just as it does in the US.  Obviously, most people cannot just take two weeks off work and fly to Mexico to get major work done.  I myself wanted the work to be done as quickly as possible, and DuoDent was very accommodating.  I was in the chair for perhaps 20 hours during 7 days.  Dr. Tania placed rush-orders for the crowns and other outside work that needed to be done.  The process could not have gone more swiftly, but it still took 10 days.

Fourth, and finally, the adventure.  For me, going to the dentist in México was partly an adventure.  Aside from the cost savings, I wanted to do it because I wanted to see what it was all about.  I wanted to have an adventure.  I wanted to have something to talk about back at home. It is probably important that everyone who goes down there for dental work to be doing so, at least in part, because you find value in the adventure and are willing and desire to try new things.  Not only to save money, but to learn about life.

If someone asks me whether they should go to the dentist in Oaxaca, my answer will depend upon who is asking.  People are different and some just may not be suited for a trip down south. That said, it seems to me that m
ost people can and should go if they want to save serious money. Most people will get a little personal growth out of the adventure as well. I can certainly recommend DuoDent in Oaxaca, with the understanding that they do not practice will all the bells and whistles we find here and they don’t speak English very well.


Deaf Officers Keep Watch in Oaxaca

Robert was reminded of this NYT article after noticing the police cameras in Oaxaca.  He has to say, he feels very very safe in downtown Oaxaca. Not quite sure about the civil rights aspect of all this, though.

OAXACA, Mexico — When the police officer spotted the man acting suspiciously, pacing erratically with an odd look on his face, he immediately called for backup. That is, he spun around in his chair at the police command center here and rapidly motioned to a colleague in sign language.

The officer, Gerardo, 32, is part of a cadre of 20 deaf officers formed several months ago to help keep an eye on this tourist hub. The suspicious man that he spotted on a security camera turned out to be a prime suspect in a murder.

“Even though we can’t hear, we can undertake any role,” Gerardo said, speaking through an interpreter. More than 200 cameras watch over this city, one of several in Mexico that have installed such security systems in recent years to fight street crime.

Tennis in Oaxaca Mexico

Here’s some information about playing tennis in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Robert was recently in Mexico for about two weeks on a dental tourism trip.  Since he is a recreational tennis player, he took his rackets and spent a lot of time playing tennis while not in the dentist’s chair.  There seem to be two tennis options in Oaxaca near the center of town.

Neither of the options are posh by our standards.  But the courts are in good shape.  For better or worse, they are full of the same sorts of folks we find at the tennis clubs in the US (middle class professionals, blah blah).

Note:  Robert does not speak Spanish other than a few words that get him from here to there and  to check into hotels, etc.

First, the Hotel Mision de Los Angeles has three hard courts with lights.  Robert took a look at those and they are open to the public.  The fee is 100 pesos per hour during the day and 200 pesos per hour at night. The hotel is directly north of the city center about 1 block north of the Panamerican Highway (HWY 190).  Within walking distance of the city center.

The second option is Deportivo Oaxaca, and this is where Robert spent all his time on the courts while in Oaxaca.  This is a sports club with 7 hard tennis courts, squash courts,  swimming pools, and a cafe.  Robert showed up there at about 7 am almost every day of his trip.  During the weekdays, all of the tennis seems to happen before 10 am. The club has a head pro (a Cuban named Leon when he was there) and an informal staff of very good former university players who will hit with you for a fee of $100 pesos per set.  Leon the pro will give you lessons for 200 pesos per hour.  Robert spent a lot of time with Leon. Of course, Robert also made lots of friends who he played with.  On the weekends, more members show up and hang out all day playing tennis and drinking beer. The “regulars” are largely male, but Robert is sure they would be happy to play with women and let them join in the fun.  The three primary courts where everyone hangs out are populated by the better players (4.0 and up) and most everyone will offer to play with you even if you can’t really keep up with them.

Deportivo Oaxaca is located on the Panamerican Highway (HWY 190) about 6.5 kilometers east (south?)  of the center of Oaxaca (although some of the road markers near the club say KM 9).  It is very easy to get to.  You can take a taxi and tell the driver to take you to Deportivo Oaxaca, KM 6.5, San Francisco Tutla.  It should cost about 80 pesos.  Or, if you are more adventurous and take a shared taxi like Robert did every day. This costs 10 pesos. To get a shared taxi, simply walk out of the center of town up to the Panamerican Highway (about two blocks north of Lllano Park) and find the baseball stadium on that road.  On the highway on the eastern edge of the stadium  you can jump into a shared taxi (a “collectivo,” they are maroon in color) on the same side of the street as the stadium and tell the driver you want to stop at Deportivo Oaxaca. Robert was in the habit of finding a collectivo headed to Tule (they usually say “Tule” on the windshield or the side door), but he suspects that all of the collectivos headed east pass by the club. The collectivo driver will almost certainly know where the club is and will drop you off.  You will have to squish into the taxi with 4 other passengers, so if you have a big tennis bag you may want to ask the driver to put it in the trunk.  The club  is on the north (left) side of the road.  The club is not marked well, but it is an orange building. The driver will almost certainly point it out to you.

Once you get to the building, you can find the club receptionist.  Pay her 100 pesos to be a guest at the club for the day. She should give you a receipt (which is handy to show future taxi drivers).  Ask the receptionist if you can talk with the “jefe de tenis” or the club pro and arrange a lesson.  The pro can introduce you to some other member players.  After you go as a guest for a day or two, you’ll probably be able to set up matches with members.

You can get breakfast, lunch, and lots of beer at the club cafe.  There is also a pro shop where you can buy water, balls, and get your racket strung (50 pesos if you have your own strings and perhaps 100 pesos if you do not).

When you are finished, you can flag a shared taxi outside the club, or you can catch a bus nearby.  All the traffic heading west outside the club is going into the city center.  Just jump out at the baseball stadium.




Dentist in Oaxaca, Mexico

November 3:  Yesterday Robert arrived in Oaxaca, Mexico. How can he afford to leave wife and kids behind in California for a holiday? How dare he!  Now wait a minute. For those of you who are prone to call Robert a slacker, know now that the purpose of this trip is dentistry.  Yes, Robert has finally taken the plunge and come to Old México for some of that low-priced dental work we’ve all heard about.  We shall see how it turns out.

After finding a hotel and getting a decent night’s sleep, today he was off to see Dr. Tania, the Spanish-speaking economy dentist referred to him by  good friend Serena Makofsky who has lived in Oaxaca for many years.

Robert  is going to wait to give a complete description of his dentist, procedures, costs, and his declaration on whether the trip is a success.  He will give a full description and conclusions once it is all over.  But here is a mini summary of his first two days in Oaxaca.

Dr. Tania is a very pleasant lady in her early 30’s (or younger??) who does not speak much English, but Robert persevered.  After she gave Robert her analysis of his mouth (which does not involve anything too extraordinary, but does require work), she cleaned his teeth.  Then she sent him to get a panoramic x-ray of his mouth at an outside labratory.  Upon returning to the office, x-rays in hand, it was confirmed to him that two teeth needed removal.  Dr. Tania began the extraction but it turns out that the first tooth she worked on was “fused” to his jaw.  He learned this because about 30 minutes into the procedure a man walked into the room and pronounced in perfect American English (he sounded like Josh Brankman) that he was going to take over.  Robert learned later from Steve Laffler that the guy is a surgeon from Kentucky who lives in Oaxaca.  He was a nice guy and he got both teeth out after some wrangling.

A bit tired and jaw a bit sore, Robert walked Oaxaca for about an hour looking for a new hotel room.  It is a holiday period (Dias de Los Muertos) so the hotels are packed.  But he found one, took a nap, and by then his jaw seemed to be okay.  For dinner he enjoyed two ice creams, a soda, and a can of Jim Beam and coke.

November 4.  Waking up this morning, Robert felt good enough to hunt for the tennis courts.  He found Deportivo Oaxaca about 5 kilometers out of town.  Very good.  About 7 courts with a teaching pro named Leon.  Leon is a 32? year old Cuban who, according to him,  played  pro  in Europe before coming to Oaxaca 3 months ago to teach at the club and teach at a private school.  At US$16/hr for lessons, Robert is going to be spending a lot of time with Leon.

After tennis today,  Robert took another walk around town to burn time before his return to the dentist.  This time, root canal.  When he arrived at the dental office, he was met by Dr. Leticia who shares the practice with Dr. Tania.  She performed a root canal that took about 3 hours.  Robert is  no expert, and, to this day he doesn’t even know what the heck they are doing during the root canal procedure, but she seemed very very competent. All done.

It would seem that it will be all downhill in the dentist office hereafter.  Need to get something to replace one of the pulled teeth, cap off a couple others, and fill a few cavities.  We’ll see.

November 5. Day three here in dusty ol’ Mexico.  Dr. Tania drilled a cavity and gave Robert a filling on a front tooth.  Feels like it worked well.  That’s it in the dentist chair today.

November 6.  Robert did some good hitting with Leon this morning at the club.  Then to see Dr. Tania where she messed with the stub that used to be the tooth that got the root canal.  Robert thinks she needed to build up the stub so the new crown will seat correctly.  Then she made the impresions of my teeth to send to the lab who will make two crowns.  Almost three hours in the chair, but no pain. Then back to the club for some hitting with one of Leon’s young students who killed Robert.

November 7.  The days in Oaxaca are starting to look pretty predictable.  Today, tennis in the morning.  A little work for clients, then a visit to Dr. Tania who filled in cavity and made the impressions for the fake teeth that will replace Robert’s pulled teeth.  ETA of all Robert’s teeth from the laboratorio is next Tuesday.  And no need to return to the dentist until then! Woo hoo!

 November 11.  Robert went back to the dentist today.  He thought that the crowns and fake teeth would be back from the lab, but unfortunately Dr. Tania wanted to fill three small cavities.  Looks like the new teen will go in tomorrow.  Robert, Dr. Tania and her boyfriend, and the Laffler-Makofsky family went to dinner.

November 12.  Robert finished up at the dentist today.  For three hours Dr. Tania fitted his new bridge and two metal-enamel crowns. Anyway, below was the final bill.

2 teeth pulled: 1000 pesos
1 root canal: 2500 pesos
2 crowns measured, manufactured, and installed: 4000 pesos
1 bridge measured, manufactured, and installed: 3000 pesos
3 cavities drilled and filled: 1200 pesos
DENTAL TOTAL: 11,700 pesos (US$ 859.95)

Hotel (11 nights): 5500 pesos (US$ 404.56)
RT Airfare:  US$ 650

GRAND TOTAL: US$ 1914.51