Tales: Riviera Maya: Playa smiles: A husband and wife expand dental services for tourist and locals

Editor’s note: Bruce Bouchard, former executive director of The Paramount Theatre, and his partner Maureen McKenna Padula have traveled from Rutland to the Riviera Maya for the past three years. This series covers adventures, food, and testimonials from Vermont to the tropics.

I sat with Ricardo Perez, DDS and orthodontist for beers at Manne’s, a popular German Bier Haus in Playa. Perez is a tall, affable man, carrying a warm, ready smile. He is a beer enthusiast and is an excellent dentist/orthodontist. Along with his wife, Cecilia, they established a practice in Playa in 2008. (Full disclosure: They are our dentists.)

Ricardo was raised by a family of dentists in Guadalajara. His father came from a large family of eight siblings. His father’s oldest brother, Viviano, was also a “dentist” — self-taught, mind you — who specialized in pulling teeth for all comers free of charge in one of the central squares in little towns in Guadalajara. He was known for his charro (one of those giant Mexican hats) and an outsized personality. One day per week, his uncle pulled teeth (that was dentistry in the old days, according to Ricardo). “Pull it, cauterize it and you are on your way,” he explained. “Uncle Viviano was very good at it…and became ‘the legendary tooth puller’.”

However, his uncle was also a compulsive gambler, and a serial womanizer. His love of women must have impaired his judgment, as one of his mistresses was the mistress of a powerful Guadalajara “politico,” and on one of the “pulling” days in the square he was gunned down and “killed” (per Ricardo). Uncle Viv had pulled his last tooth. Following his tragic end, the entire Perez family had to flee to Monterrey, as “the politico” was threatening violence against the whole family. Ricardo’s father (also a self-taught dentist) met and fell in love with his wife soon thereafter, but she had one iron-clad condition: he had to receive a formal education in dentistry. He readily complied.

Ricardo had began working at his father’s Monterrey practice — observing and helping in any way possible; and, thus, was born his love of dentistry. He learned much from his father and had a good head start on his formal education. He got his dental degree in the University of Nuevo Leon, an orthodontist degree at the Latin American University in Mexico City. During his dental studies he met his wife, Cecilia Mendoza from Bolivia, and immediately labeled her as “very sweet” (I concur, from times of her working in my mouth). He told me that he exercised great caution with Cici, and two years later they were wed.

During his time working in a practice in Monterrey, he became part of an incubator and launched a study to analyze the growth of dentistry in three specific locations: Monterrey, Puerto Vallarta and Playa, for both locals and the burgeoning dental tourism industry. Playa was the choice they made and they arrived in 2008. 

I asked Ricardo about the growth in dental tourism and how that breaks down in percentage of patients. 

“I am most enthusiastic about this new phenomenon and its rapid growth over time: 60% of my practice is dental tourism and 40% is local,” he said. “One of my concerns was to maintain a high level of care so I founded the Medical Tourism Association and helped to create a code of ethics to monitor this new line of service.”

“What do you believe in, Ricardo, what is your mission?” I asked.

Courtesy  Bruce Bouchard
Dentist Ricardo Perez (left), a dentist and orthodontist, established a practice in Playa in 2008, expanding dental services for locals and tourists. He is pictured above with Bruce Bouchard (right).

“Three main things: We seek to offer the best options for care, at the best price and in a manner most convenient to the client.”

Maureen and I both needed some work done: bridge work and crowns. These procedures were perfectly done (best dentistry ever); and this work was delivered at 30%-35% of the cost of the same work in the U.S.  

Courtesy  Bruce Bouchard
Dentist Ricardo Perez founded the Orthodontic Association of the state and a Rotary service to correct cranial facial deformities in children of poverty as seen in the three photos above.

“How do you give back to the community?” I asked.

“In addition to maintaining a high standard of service to the dental tourism patients, I founded the Orthodontic Association of the state,” he continued. “Through Rotary we established my newest commitment, a service to correct cranial facial deformities in children of poverty. This is an invaluable service done in Playa del Carmen with doctors from  Merida, Chetumal and Monterrey,” he said showing me before and after pictures of this breathtaking surgical work. “What could be better than to give a child an opportunity to rise, to feel good about what they see in the mirror, to no longer be ‘different’,” he said. 

Ricardo Perez is a man of distinction, class and compassion; a true gentleman. 

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