About our only visitors these days are the wild burros, seen here out our back window. They come around at all hours, sometimes treating us to their retarded braying in the middle of the night.

After hearing amazing stories, from several sources, of dental bargains at a place called Los Algodones (the cottons?), we went to see for ourselves. Let me tell you folks, this is the answer to our country’s health care woes.

Los Algodones is a healthcare outpost consisting of perhaps six blocks surrounded by scruffy Mexican desert on three sides and the U.S. border on the fourth. Thousands of past-their-prime Canadians and Americans visit each day, eager to partake of bargain basement prices for drugs and medical/dental services to shore up their failing bodies. There were plenty of limpers, shufflers, and coughers in the assemblage we crossed the border with. I think we were the spryest of the bunch.

As soon as you walk through the turnstile into Mexico you are accosted by hawkers offering all sorts of medical/dental services. We took the first offer and followed the salesman into a dark purple building. In ten minutes we were sitting in dentist chairs with probes in our mouths.

We both needed cleanings and I had a chipped tooth, the remnant left behind when an old filling failed. Our Wenatchee dentist had quoted me a price of $800 (plus tax) for a porcelain crown. The Mexican price was $180 (no tax). After being shown a short video involving various crowns subjected to sledgehammering, I opted for the ultra-premium, indestructible zirconia crown ($400). With this crown, only diamonds are off limits as dietary fare.

The tooth cleaning was $25 per person, although Mary opted out because she didn’t like the feel of the ultrasonic cleaner. It felt fine to me so I went ahead.

Now, I suspect the latent racists among you may be wondering about the level of professionalism of Mexican dentistry. No, this was not some back-alley operation. My dentist was an attractive young woman with D.D.S. behind her name. My crown fits perfectly and is the same pallid yellow as the rest of my teeth (ha ha!). (I was going to include a photo of my mouth’s interior as the opener for this post but teeth and tongue surrounded by the ring of coarse black beard hair looked vaguely pornographic which also, by the way, reminded me of a t-shirt caption I saw for sale on the street yesterday. It read: “I’m not a gynecologist but I’d be glad to take a look.”)

There were several choice t-shirts for sale. The one I couldn’t resist should go well with our tandem bicycle, don’t you think?: