NewsThe pros & cons of dental tourism
The pros & cons of dental tourism

The pros & cons of dental tourism

I should have gotten a photo of her pearly whites while I had a chance, to illustrate better the results of Thailand's dental tourism industry.

But her smile said it all. Go overseas for a month-long holiday, fly business, stay in a nice hotel, and have all your teeth fixed. And it still cost less than her local dentist.

I was checking in this week at Bangkok airport to return home, four hours early as Qantas suggests, and had a chin wag with an Aussie couple.

Both were in their sixties and were recipients of considerable tooth and jaw work in Thailand. Perhaps they had not invested enough in their dental healthcare over the years. 

They are not alone. More than two million of us are behind, mainly due to cost, and with COVID, it's getting worse.

But given all the infection and other warnings, largely from Australian dentists, cynics may ask if self-interest trumps patient care. Would you or have you ventured overseas for better-priced dental or medical care?

And if so, what happened?

My couple in the queue did not doubt the value of dental tourism. She reported poor treatment outcomes in Australia regardless of the cost.

However, the price must come into it. Dental tourism agencies with price lists quote root canal treatment at A$160 a tooth. I endured this nerve-wracking procedure in Sydney many years ago, and even then, it cost hundreds per tooth.

But the downside of venturing overseas might not be so evident at the airport. The Australian Dental Association has a website that doesn't argue about the money, only the results.
"…there is the risk that things can go wrong and cost you much more in the long-term," is their ominous warning before listing infection control standards, antibiotic resistance, and not allowing enough time between complex procedures.

The consumer group CHOICE looked into the rise of dental tourism a few years ago and gave a fair summary with the advice being, as ever, do your research first.

I have been able to invest over the years in ongoing dental care primarily due to growing up in an era before the fluoridisation of water (another touchy subject, for a few).

I also have extras health cover that slightly lessens the blow of the dentist's bills. But above all, after almost 30 years at the same surgery, I trust the husband and wife team with my and the family's teeth.

However, if you face a hefty dental bill for whatever reason and can't afford it and your options here are very limited, what choices do you have?

Tempted to have a go at dental tourism, or will you just limit self-care in Thailand and Indonesia to the odd massage instead?

Any information contained in this communication is general advice, it does not take into account your individual circumstances, objectives, financial situation or needs.


Originally posted on .

Join the conversation

FiftyUp Club
The pros & cons of dental tourism

Share your views with other members. 

Want to leave a comment? or .
Read our moderation policy here.
Someone from QLD commented:

I had breast reduction surgery in Bangkok in September 2022. Cannot fault anything or anyone involved with the organisation from first contact in Gold Coast to last contact in Bangkok. Now considering teeth treatment. 

Someone from TAS commented:

I had a full dental 22 implants (top and bottom) done in Hyderabad, India, late 2019 after reading of an Exec who had not smiled for 40 years, found treatment in Australia unaffordable so did so in India. I contacted him and a few of the Clinic's referrals and the Doctor Motiwala Dental Clinic and Implant Centre. Their driver met me at 1.00 a.m at Hyderabad airport to take me to the Hyatt Hotel near the Clinic. The Clinic organized a better Hotel rate package (inc free laundry etc) than I could have done, and I am no slouch at best hotel rates as a regular world traveler. Their driver was my transport to the clinic and return each day, The work was completed in 6 days, and I stayed an extra two days in case of issues however all was good. The implant work cost me 20K compared to nearly 200K quoted here. First rate work and Clinic facilities. I now have the Bollywood look and I am extremely happy. Dr Motiwala is brilliant! I had been to India a dozen times prior, so I had no issues about India. 

Someone from NSW commented:

Of course the ADA has a website warning against dental, tourism, it’s not exactly in their interests to promote it, is it? Like all medical professions here, they prey on fear to justify their outrageous pricing. I can share with you the experiences of one of my older travel buddies, whom I accompanied to the Phillipines to have implants done. The most important tip is do your research! My mate talked at length with his dentist about the best type of implants, had a bone density scan here and researched online. He got a top notch (US trained, like most dental specialists in The Philippines) dental surgeon, had it done in a top notch hospital (St Luke’s in Manila, better than most hospitals here) and specified the same type of implant as recommended by his Aussie dentist. All professionally done with no problems (we allowed extra time in Manila in case of post surgery issues) and then we were able to continue our annual holiday with a second post op check on the way home. With the accomodation and airfares it was just over half the quoted costs of here, something like a $10k difference. Keep in mind this was over 5 years ago. This is only one story but I witnessed first hand how well it was all handled. Two extra things to keep in mind, I would not recommend doing it solo, for support and communications relay while recovering reasons and English is widely spoken in the Philippines, from the taxi drivers up, not always the case in Thailand. Cheers. 

Comment Guidelines