The Australian Dental Association estimates up to 10,000 Australians go overseas each year in search of cheaper dental treatment. A growing number of patients have learned that they can save tens of thousands of dollars on dental treatment without foregoing on quality…and all of these services are just a short plane journey away.
Read on to find out more about three of the top countries in Southeast Asia where many Australians—including our own IL Correspondents—are taking advantage of low-priced, high-quality dental care.
Gifted with year-round warm weather, tropical rainforests, cool colonial hill retreats and stunning beaches, life in Malaysia isn’t just a feast for the senses, it could even improve your health and well-being. Expats who live here say they are happier, feel better and are generally healthier than they were at home. It also happens to be a holiday hotspot and a top locale for dental tourism.
International Living’s Malaysia Correspondent Keith Hockton says, “Malaysian dental staff are welcoming, professional and genuinely happy to see you. With over 17 years of experience, my dentist’s English is perfect. His dental studio is state-of-the art, squeaky clean and very comfortable. His dental team trained in the U.K., U.S. and Malaysia, and comprises several experts in restorative, cosmetic, oral and wisdom tooth surgery.
“A clean and a check-up costs less than $30. Just before I left Australia, I paid $140 for one. Recently while I was on holiday back home visiting family I was quoted $1,200 per cap. Caps in Penang are $300. Although it was an emergency I decided to wait until I got back to Penang to have the work done. At a saving of $900 per cap it was worth the wait.
“The service in Penang is top notch. Once you have registered in the surgery, you’re shown through to a private, air-conditioned waiting room where you’ll find free bottles of mineral water, a flat-screen TV showing non-stop family movies and two large, soft leather sofas for you to get comfortable on while you wait. The idea is to have you completely relaxed by the time the dentist sees you. And it works. I was not only relaxed but also happy to see him. The costs in Malaysia are immensely different compared to Australia. A crown, for instance, here costs just $350, compared to $1,200 back home. An implant here is just $1,800; it would cost $7,000 at home.”
Wayne Bennett has been travelling from Australia to Malaysia for various treatments for over five years says, “You expect the level of comfort and professionalism to be reflected in the final price, but it isn’t,” says Wayne.
“I come to Penang once a year and I always combine my visit with a holiday, either before or after seeing the dentist, depending on what I am having done,” he says. “It still works out to be cheaper than getting the work done at home and I get a great holiday and catch up with friends into the bargain.”
Dentists in Malaysia also have an amazing work ethic. Lisa Jane travelled from Brisbane to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, for her dental treatment. When she booked her appointment the dentist asked what time she was arriving. She was getting several implants and the dentist wanted to start as soon as possible. When Lisa Jane informed her dentist she was arriving at 7 p.m. and wouldn’t be in her hotel until 9 p.m., her dentist said that it wasn’t an issue. He agreed to see her at 10 p.m., or as soon as she could get there after checking into her hotel. This allowed the dentist to start the process a day early and for Lisa to get a good night’s sleep knowing that she didn’t have to get up early the following morning. The “we are here to serve you” attitude in Malaysia makes all the difference.
International Living Editor, Janet Nisted lived in Penang for nearly three years. She has since returned to Tallebudgera Valley but still goes back to her dentist in Malaysia.
“Since discovering the high quality and affordability of Malaysian dentistry seven years ago, my husband and I won’t go anywhere else for our dental work,” says Janet. “Our dentist is in Penang, there are many great dentists in Kuala Lumpur too, but we love the excuse to spend time in one of our favourite places in Southeast Asia. And he is hands-down the best dentist we’ve ever had—anywhere. Like many Malaysian dentists, his clinic is state of the art and his English is perfect.
“If you need more convincing, dentistry in Malaysia is ridiculously affordable. I received a quote of around $7,500 for an implant (including bone graft) in Australia—Dr Ong’s fixed quote of RM8,000 ($2,494) made my decision to return to Penang recently a no-brainer.
“As it turned out, I also needed a root canal treatment, a crown and a filling. With my Penang dentist I paid RM900 ($280) each for the root canal treatment and crown; RM100 ($31.15) for the filling; RM300 ($93.46) for a CT Scan; RM70 ($21.80) for a scale and polish. Total cost: $3,200.41. In Australia, these procedures plus the implant would have set me back around $12,100.
“Sure, I’ve got travel costs. This trip, I’ve spent around $1,000 on flights, accommodation, meals and sundries and I’ll be going back in six months’ time or so to get the implant finished. The next trip will be longer as I need two appointments, two weeks apart (I’m planning a holiday between visits, either to Thailand or Indonesia). Factoring in the cost of that two-week holiday, I estimate net savings of approximately $7,000.”
Friendly people, golden beaches and fabulous food, it’s obvious why Thailand is known as “the Land of Smiles.” You could also attribute it to the high quality, low-cost, dental care.
A regular check-up and clean that might cost $140 in the Australia is just $30 in Thailand. Or an implant that might cost $7,000 at home can go for just $2,000.
So, it’s not surprising that the kingdom has been a destination for medical tourism for so many years. Wherever you decide to travel to or live in Thailand, you should be able to find a nearby clinic that will meet your needs at an affordable price.
Sydney-native Robert Fretwell says,“I travel to Chiang Mai to see an excellent Thai dentist who studied in the U.S. and speaks excellent English.”
Ian and Gay Beeson from Brisbane found their ideal dentist in Bangkok through a recommendation from a friend.
“Back in 2008 I visited my regular dentist in Brisbane for what was to be a routine filling. However, it turned out to be somewhat more complicated,” says Ian. “My dentist was recommending a crown costing $1,600, along with three visits over a period of three weeks. He was also indicating that further crowns would be necessary.
“In the meantime I had heard that people could get very good dental work done in Thailand for much less cost. Being somewhat sceptical, I decided to check out a friend of ours who had recently had work done there. He was ecstatic with the results and gave me the name of his ‘guy’ in Bangkok.
“Having been to Thailand several times before, Gay and I decided to make a holiday of it and booked into the recommended clinic. To our surprise the clinic picked us up at the airport, delivered us to our hotel and later drove us to and from the clinic over a period of three days—all part of the service.
“The next surprise was the final cost. For high quality crowns the cost was $560 (14,000 Baht) each and laser whitening, veneers and fillings were also about a third of the cost of Australia. The clinic was spotless, had the most up-to-date equipment and the work was painless and done in a minimum of time to allow us to get on and enjoy the rest of our holiday.
“Since then we have been back three times. Gay and I have had absolutely no problems with any of his work. Better still the clinic now owns their own modern accommodation nearby and for us the first night is free and subsequent nights cost just $60 for bed and breakfast.”
Since moving from Brisbane, International Living’s Thailand Correspondent Michael Cullen and his wife, Vivien, have taken advantage of the low cost, high quality, dental care in Hua Hin.
“When we moved here two years ago, Vivien and I knew that Thailand had good quality dental and healthcare. Now here and settled we definitely have no complaints,” says Michael. “There’s a great choice of Dental Clinics here in Hua Hin and a check-up and clean cost from $30 to $55. All these dentists speak English and the quality of care is certainly more than comparable to back in Australia.”
Vietnam is not yet a major medical tourism destination, but the country has become a favourite for its high quality and affordable dental care. Dental procedures in Vietnam cost a small fraction of what they do in Australia and the quality of care is excellent.
When New South Wales native Lyn Fabian arrived in Hanoi she had a broken tooth. After it became infected she contacted the expat community for a reference. “‘Go to Dr Fred at the Peace Clinic’ I was told,”says Lyn. “Wow! What a surprise. The clinic was state of the art, the staff attentive and Dr Frederick Abel, an American expat, combined confidence and empathy with attention to detail. In days, I had a root canal and new crown.”
For Lyn, this was just the beginning of her combining holidays with a trip to the dentist.
“A few years later I needed to get crowns on my front teeth as they were very worn,” says Lyn. “I ended up with 12 new crowns for a third of the cost quoted in Australia. Even including the airfares—and a week-long holiday in central Vietnam—I paid just under half the quote. Since then I have returned for another crown. The first crown took three days. At the time, it was $450 a crown but because I was getting so many he took it to $400. I believe this is expensive for Asia but I wanted to go to a dentist I knew. The last time I went to the dentist here in Australia the quote I got was $1,600 a crown. I would have been $1,200 out of pocket. This was how much I paid for return airfares. At least I got a holiday out of it!”
International dental clinics with English-speaking dentists are located in all major towns and cities. They attract large numbers of foreigners from Australia, Europe and the U.S. Many tourists come to Vietnam to save money on dental work—and then use their savings to stay for a few weeks and see the country.
IL Vietnam Correspondent Wendy Justice says, “I saw a dentist at the well-regarded East Meets West Dental Clinic in Da Nang recently. The English-speaking dentist gave me a full check-up and a wonderfully gentle and thorough teeth-cleaning in her spotlessly clean office. The $8.80 bill seemed ridiculously inexpensive for the quality of service that I received.”