Tucsonans head by the van load twice a week to dentists across the border


Tucsonans head by the van load twice a week to dentists across the border
  1. Tucsonans head by the van load twice a week to dentists across the border
    tucson.com
    “The first time people come down most go, ‘Whoa, that was easy. I can do tha…
    Arizona (AZ)

Just beyond the pedestrian entrance on the Nogales border lies a courtyard lined with pharmacies and dentists’ offices. Inside the waiting rooms sit Americans seeking cheap dental work.

Former Tucson dentist Mark McMahon decided to capitalize on this phenomenon and now takes van loads of people across the border twice a week.

“The first time people come down most go, ‘Whoa, that was easy. I can do that,’” he said.

Every Tuesday and Thursday patients meet McMahon at the Denny’s near St. Mary’s Road and Interstate 10 in Tucson. They pile into his yellow 12-passenger van to make the hour drive down to Nogales. Magnets on the side of the van show a smiling coyote advertising “70% off.”

On a good day, six to eight people will meet McMahon for the drive.

Some are repeat customers who choose to ride with McMahon, even after seeing how easily they can make the trip themselves.

“We also encourage people to drive on their own,” McMahon said. “We even have a little video that we send out to people to teach them how."

Janice Crannell booked a third trip with McMahon after a consultation and gum surgery in the weeks before.

“It’s great,” she said. “You never know how you’re going to feel after a major enough surgery, and then you don’t have to deal with the driving. Dr. Mark is really very pleasant.”

Others make the trek from Phoenix to meet with McMahon.

Larry Romero, a dispatcher at the sheriff’s department, brought his daughter, Amber, to Nogales to have her wisdom teeth removed. Romero’s wife is from Nogales, so his only concern was the procedure itself.

McMahon calls his service “Coyote Dental”— a reference to the smugglers who help migrants cross the border. He charges $50 for the drive and receives a commission from the dentists.

He first thought of the idea after selling his practice in 1999 and traveling for four years, journeying to the southern tip of South America.

Upon his return, McMahon searched for job opportunities in Nogales, Sonora. He scoped out prospects at four dentists’ offices undercover as a patient and was impressed with the quality of service offered by the Mexican dentists. 

“I realized, because the prices were so low, I wasn’t going to make a lot of money as a dentist,” he said. “But I saw this huge opportunity for the fact that just across the border is this incredible wealth of dental providers and technology.”

After parking the van at a Burger King on the U.S. side, McMahon and the group cross the border with ease. A Mexican guard waves them through without checking IDs. On the other side, a representative from one of the offices takes Romero, his daughter and Crannel to The Tooth, Inc.

Over the past two years, McMahon has worked with several of the dentists just across the border, figuring out which work best for his patients.

Dr. Abraham Chavez Portillo and his wife, Zuleika Valdez, opened The Tooth in November. The office is housed in a nearly-empty retail center atop a flight of marble stairs. The waiting room is small, but has cushioned seating, a fridge with bottled water and a Keurig coffee machine.

“As far as the offices go, I was actually quite impressed,” Crannell said. “They are quite clean and state of the art and so much less expensive.”

The Romeros wait patiently, reading magazines and looking at their phones while a television shows scenes of Ashton Kutcher playing Steve Jobs.

Meanwhile, Crannel sits in the dentist's chair, her mouth wide open as Chavez and Dr. Ricardo Milan, a gum specialist, make small talk and prod around in her mouth.

A painful experience with an Illinois dentist left Crannell skeptical of the trip to Mexico, but her concerns vanished in the chair.

“They were much more accommodating,” she said. “The doctors over there are very pleasant.”

Valdez explains that Chavez grew up in the United States and went to Pima Medical Institute where he studied as a dental assistant. He decided to go to Ciudad Juarez for dental school because it was cheaper and faster than studying north of the border.

Chavez and Valdez live in Rio Rico and drive 15 minutes to Nogales for work. 

Some of their most popular procedures are root canals and extractions. 

“It is a very good deal considering the price,” Valdez said, “and the dental quality is as good as if you did it in the United States."

However, American dentists contend the care received in Mexico is not always as safe as it is in the United States. 

“It’s important for people to understand that, here in the U.S., we have a very robust system of safeguards for health care in general, and that includes dentistry,” said Dr. Edmond Hewlett, professor at the UCLA School of Dentistry and a consumer advisor for the American Dental Association.

A factsheet released to members of the Arizona D…

  1. American Jews vs. American Muslims: How do they compare?

    Azjewishpost.com - Arizona (AZ)
    07.26 / 07:29 azjewishpost.com
      NEW YORK (JTA) — Since it came out in 2013, the “Pew study” — a landmark survey of American Jewish demographics, beliefs and practices — has been at the center of American Jewish scrutiny and handwringing. Now it’s American Muslims’ turn. On Wednesday, the Pew Research Center released a survey of American Muslims focusing not only on numbers and their way of life, but also on how the community has responded to the election of President …
  2. Havasu motorist crashes into office building after medical issue

    Havasunews.com - Arizona
    07.26 / 06:16 havasunews.com
    A motorist suffered a medical emergency before swerving into oncoming traffic and ultimately crashing through an office building on South Acoma Boulevard on Tuesday afternoon, police…
  3. Gov. Ducey appoints Mohave County Supervisor Steve Moss to Superior Court

    Havasunews.com - Arizona
    07.26 / 06:16 havasunews.com
    Some powerful jobs in Mohave County are changing next week now that Arizona Gov.Doug Ducey announced the appointment of Mohave County Supervisor Steve Moss to the county’s Superior C…
  4. Cypress Park project OK’d, moves forward under budget

    Havasunews.com - Arizona
    07.26 / 06:16 havasunews.com
    Lake Havasu City Council voted unanimously to award construction and management agreements for the city’s Cypress Park p…
  5. ASU Havasu alumni association revamped

    Havasunews.com - Arizona
    07.26 / 06:16 havasunews.com
    Officials at ASU Havasu have decided it’s time to reactivate its alumni a…
  6. MCC partners with Goodwill to offer job services

    Havasunews.com - Arizona
    07.26 / 06:16 havasunews.com
    Mohave Community College and Goodwill Industries are teaming up to get students and community members trained and to find good…
  7. Sen. King Calls For Health Care Compromise: 'This Is About Real People'

    Wvasfm.org - Arizona (AZ)
    07.26 / 05:52 wvasfm.org
    Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: Only two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, broke ranks with their party in today's vote. This vote does not repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act, but it sets the Senate on a course of discussing and perhaps amending a bill that would do just that. We're going to turn now to a senator who voted against today's motion to proceed, Senator Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the…
  8. CBP officers seize $130K in meth, cocaine

    Yumasun.com - Local
    07.26 / 05:15 www.yumasun.com
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the U.S. Port of Entry at San Luis, Ariz., arrested a 20-year-old Yuma man after finding nearly $132,000 worth of cocaine and methamphetamine in his vehicle Saturday…
  9. YUHSD board OKs purchase agreement for Somerton school site

    Yumasun.com - Local
    07.26 / 05:15 www.yumasun.com
    On a vote of 3-0, the Yuma Union High School District governing board OK’d the purchase agreement for a parcel of land in Somerton for a planned high school t…
  10. Evening closures coming to 24th Street in Yuma

    Yumasun.com - Local
    07.26 / 05:15 www.yumasun.com
    Yuma motorists would do well to avoid the area of 24th Street and Arizona Avenue for the next three evenings, as Southwest Gas will perform emergency repair work to a gas…
  11. IDA ratifies actions, fixing potential violation of open meeting law

    Yumasun.com - Local
    07.26 / 05:15 www.yumasun.com
    Following legal advice from the city attorney, Yuma’s Industrial Development Authority held a special meeting Tuesday to ratify board actions that potentially violated the open meeting l…
  12. Two Yuma candidates report missing signs

    Yumasun.com - Local
    07.26 / 05:15 www.yumasun.com
    At least two political candidates have had their signs taken, and the city is reminding residents that it’s a violation of state law to remove or tamper with political s…
  13. Documents, video reveal new information in Jayden Glomb's death

    Tucsonnewsnow.com - Arizona
    07.26 / 05:12 tucsonnewsnow.com
    This new footage has enabled detectives to create a timeline into Jayden's…
  14. Removal Of Metal Detectors At Holy Site Do Little To Quell Palestinian Protests

    Knau.org - Arizona (AZ)
    07.26 / 04:24 knau.org
    Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: Israel has dismantled the metal detectors at the Jerusalem hill top that is revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount. The move was meant to ease tensions with Palestinians. But plans for a new security system have led to more protests. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem that the dispute is less about hardware and more about control. DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Overnight, while it was still dark,…
  15. Elderly Flagstaff Man Injured In A Head-On Collision Tuesday Near Cottonwood

    Gcmaz.com - Flagstaff
    07.26 / 04:24 gcmaz.com
    An elderly Flagstaff man is recovering after he was injured in a head-on collision Tuesday morning near Cottonwood. Police say 23-year-old Nathaniel Holmeyer of Cottonwood was heading northbound on State Route 260 near Thousand Trails at around 11 a.m., when he crossed over into the southbound lane, hitting another vehicle. The victim was a 71-year-oldFull…
  16. Chamblee brother talks fire and deadly deputy shooting

    Tucsonnewsnow.com - Arizona
    07.26 / 04:07 tucsonnewsnow.com
    The mobile home belonged to Chancy Chamblee. If the name sounds familiar, he was killed by Pima County Sheriff’s Department at midnight on Thursday, July…
  17. THINK ABOUT IT EDITORIAL: Sun Tran avoids repeat strike

    Tucsonnewsnow.com - Arizona
    07.26 / 04:07 tucsonnewsnow.com
    Let’s give a shout out and a little praise, with reservations, for the way the Teamsters and Sun Tran management pulled together to avoid another long, frustrating bus strike?  After all, One of the things we have NOT had to report on recently is a long, drawn out bus…
  18. YCSO Looking For Clues Into A Spring Valley Fire And Theft

    Gcmaz.com - Flagstaff
    07.26 / 03:12 gcmaz.com
    Yavapai County Sheriff’s detectives are looking for information in connection to a fire in Spring Valley back on July 5th. The blaze took place at around 8 p.m. at the home at 17,178 Hillside in Spring Valley. A disabled couple had to be rescued from the home by neighbors. They had been living in theFull…
  19. Sedona Man Sentenced To 120 Years In Prison

    Gcmaz.com - Flagstaff
    07.26 / 03:12 gcmaz.com
    A Sedona man will be spending life in jail after he was found guilty of 12 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, under the age of 15. An investigation found numerous videos in 44-year-old Samir Wadi’s home in 2014. Wadi admitted to the possession and he was charged with multiple counts related to theFull…
  20. Deaths in Southern Arizona

    Tucson.com - Tucson
    07.26 / 03:04 tucson.com
    The deceased are from Tucson unless otherwise…