* Implant with abutment, $850.
* Crown, $250.
* Root canal, $300.
* Extraction, $50 to pull the first tooth, $25 for each additional one.
* X-rays, etc., no charge.
The total was $9,075. He does not refer any work to others except full mouth periodontal reconstruction.
Root canals and implants take about 30 minutes each. His quote calculates out to over $1,000 per hour for the approximately eight hours to do all my work. Bottom-feeding Wall Street lawyers get by fine on that. Maybe they should take up "lowest cost" dentistry in West Virginia at $3,000 per hour?
Travel and lodging costs us about $1,250 per trip for four trips, totaling $5,000, plus the $9,075 dental fees come to about half the price here. He also saved us more than $1,000 for work he did on my wife. Two trips down, two to go. A side benefit is the vacation -- great shopping, sightseeing and food. My No. 1 and No. 2 best seafood meals and second best cup of coffee ever were in Mexico.
The devices Dr. Gutierrez installs were made by the Israeli/German company AB. His cost for all the implant hardware is about $25, and they gave him the installation tools free, as they do all others. For a root canal, the rods are under $10. And the greatest revelation -- he has his crowns made by a dental lab in El Paso, Texas. They deliver to him every day, charging him the same for crowns as they do dentists in the United States. I chatted with one of their deliverymen in Dr. Gutierrez's waiting room. He agreed that on the American side, "markups are hellacious."
Dr. Gutierrez, his wife and child, live extremely well, have two cars and a maid. Our dentist in Colombia, Dr. Pizarro, who charges even less, lives in an upper class neighborhood, has a pool, late Ford Explorer, maid, gardener, two children in college. His wife drives a Mercedes. When they beach vacation in Cartagena, they stay at the $400-a-night Hotel Americana. Both those dentists, following cultural custom, regularly give pro-bono treatment to the indigent.
So why is there one poor child in need of dental repair in West Virginia? There are 908 practicing dentists in our state, charging from three to five times as much as those well-off Latino guys. If each one would have a heart and donate an eight-hour Saturday (when school is closed) every two months, in rotation, that would be 43,584 hours of sorely needed treatment per year.
Another option is for the Legislature to legalize interim, expedited licenses for immigrant dentists who agree to treat the poor two days per week -- and license a class of dental "nurse practitioners." Their work would parallel midwives, who charge a fraction of obstetricians' fees.
Or we can just license the guys with the pliers.
Cook is an author, artist and inventor who lives in Hurricane.