I live in the Phoenix area but went to a dentist in Los Algodones, Mexico, as I had a broken tooth and also needed attention to the other side where this same dentist had worked three years previously. I was told I needed four crowns in all. Three days later one of the crowns came off. I returned to them and was told I needed a root canal before the crown could be cemented back on. I asked why I was not told about a root canal on the previous visit and was told that root canals are not always necessary and often times do not work. So I got the root canal and the crown was put back on.
Within a day or two I started having sensitivity to hot and cold, along with worse pain after eating. When the tooth was touched or lightly tapped with fingernail it hurt. I called and spoke to the receptionist who told me I would have to come in again. It’s 500 miles round trip to the office, so instead of going in, I started researching online.
Then I made an appointment with a local dentist. I simply told him that the tooth was giving me problems. I was told that there was a crack in the tooth and that it should be extracted and replaced with either a bridge or implant and that the existing crown could not be used.
I would appreciate advice as to the best way of handling this with the dentist in Los Algodones as I feel that I have had poor work. I feel that a reasonable proposal would be that they extract the tooth and do an implant and new crown, but that the credit the cost of the existing crown towards the new work.
– Dion from Arizona
(See Dr. Hall’s answer below.)
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Yes, poor work for sure. I think you have pinned down the basic points where this dentist messed up. A permanent crown that comes off within a few days—that is definitely below the standard of care. A basic part of dental school training for doing dental crowns is doing them so that they don’t come off.
I also believe you were right to question whether or not you needed that root canal. The tooth wasn’t hurting. From what happened subsequently, it is clear that the tissue inside the tooth was alive, and if the tooth wasn’t hurting I seriously doubt that it needed a root canal. It sounds suspiciously like an excuse.
And then it doesn’t look like the root canal was done correctly. For the tooth to be sensitive to hot and cold and to touch there has to be some living tissue in it. But a root canal is supposed to remove all the tissue inside the tooth. So it was an incomplete root canal. And, of course, you have the other dentist telling you the tooth is cracked. But I will be honest with you, I don’t know that you’re getting the best advice there either. A crack in a tooth doesn’t make it unrestorable. You obviously have a failed root canal treatment. Why didn’t they tell you that?
But if I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t want this dentist in Los Algodones to touch my teeth any more. He screwed up your crown, then he told you that you needed a root canal when there is good reason to believe you didn’t. Then he screwed up the root canal. You have a true dental horror story here that keeps getting worse with every subsequent step. I’m starting to wonder if this dentist can do anything right. Implantology is one of the most demanding areas of dentistry. If you have him place the implant he could end up drilling into your nerve, your sinus, or some other serious place. From what I know of him so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to place one of these cheap knock-off dental implant fixtures that will maybe breed infection and come loose in a couple of years. What you need to do is find a competent dentist to start fixing you right. If you want to go to Mexico to save some money, I know of two excellent dentists just across the border.
I don’t know enough about the legal system in Mexico to know what recourse you have against this dentist who has committed malpractice on you. If there is any hope for justice there, you could try that. But you may just have to swallow hard, cut your losses, and move forward. Maybe a quality Mexican dentist could help you recover something from your dentist.
I have a question for you. How do you know that you needed these four crowns that he did for you? Do you have any suspicions that he wasn’t honest with you about that? If this dentist was willing to sell you a root canal that you didn’t need, would he also be willing to try to sell you crowns you didn’t need?
Bottom line, dental tourism is a risky business. Just going across the border to save money can end up being a very expensive choice, as it has in your case. The standards of dental care in Mexico are not what they are in the United States. As I said, I know of two excellent Mexican dentists who operate practices in border towns and can legitimately save a patient considerable money, if they are willing to travel. But I would advise strongly against picking any dentist in Mexico at random. Dentistry isn’t cheap if it doesn’t last, if you’re sold treatment that you don’t need, or if it causes problems that later have to be fixed.
– Dr. Hall
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About David A. Hall
Dr. David A. Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does advanced internet marketing for dentists.