The Occidental Tourist
- Written by The Word
- Be the first to comment!
As one clinic is discovering, dental tourism has arrived in Vietnam
Do a search on Google for dental tourism in Bangkok and you’ll most likely come across this question on TripAdvisor:
“Hi, I am in need of some major dental work which will include 28 crowns. Will cost me A$46,000 in Australia so looking at alternatives in Thailand. Has anyone got any recent stories to tell? Any recommendations?”
The post gets 266 responses, with people suggesting anything from dental clinics in Bangkok through to centres in Phuket. The overall conclusion? When it comes to getting dental work done, heading to Thailand is the way forward. It’s cheaper and, as many people believe, better quality.
Now it seems dental tourism is making its way to Vietnam. And it’s not just people from overseas who are taking advantage of high-quality dental work in this country, but expats as well.
The Price Factor
Dr Tran Hung Lam is one such dentist who’s noticed the change. At the helm of Elite Dental, this French-trained, PhD-qualified implant doctor specialises in the All-on-4 treatment, a Swiss-developed procedure for the total rehabilitation of patients without teeth or for patients with badly broken down teeth, decayed teeth or compromised teeth due to gum disease. Using a bridge supported by four implants, 10 to 14 teeth are placed onto the bridge within eight to 12 hours of surgery, a procedure often called “teeth in a day”.
“The advantage of this concept is that we only use four implants,” explains Dr. Lam, who lectures in All-on-4 and holds a Diplomate from the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI). “So it’s a cost-saving solution and it avoids having to do a sinus graft or bone graft. The patient can wear this temporary bridge for two months and after that they will have a definitive bridge.”
When it comes to cost, Vietnam has a distinct price advantage. With Korean implants Elite Dental charges US$7,500 for a package including the implants, the temporary bridge and the final bridge. For Swiss implants the cost rises to US$9,000; the healing time is shorter with the final bridge being ready in just four to six weeks. Compared with Australia the cost for the package is 50 percent lower, and even with Thailand it’s 30 percent less.
“We’re starting to get patients in dental tourism,” explains Dr. Lam. “In 2016 alone, ten percent of our customers are from Australia and New Zealand and we’ve had six or seven cases with customers from overseas using the All-On-4 concept. We also have two cases from France and patients from the US.”
As with all such tourism — whether it be dental, health or anything else — a key element is trust. This is something that Dr. Lam is implicitly aware of, and without that TripAdvisor thread with 266 responses, and thousands of personal testimonials, it’s often difficult to get the customers from overseas.
“For people who come to Vietnam or other countries to get dental work, they may feel vulnerable,” he explains. “So first we have to prove our experience, our qualifications — so for myself, where I’ve been trained, what I’m doing exactly and what is my experience. And second, the equipment in the dental clinic. Third is testimonials from patients who’ve already had work done in our clinic.”
As Dr. Lam is discovering, patient numbers from overseas are on the increase, as are the number of expats using their clinic — now, 15% of all patients are foreign. Much of this rise is through (literally) word of mouth. Having a good set of teeth can be life-changing; in many cases, people have been waiting for a solution to their dental troubles for years. Naturally this is something they want to share.
Elite Dental has also had success through their presence on websites such as whatclinic.com and dentaldepartures.com. Good work generates good reviews, and good reviews generate customers.
One thing Dr. Lam is sure of is the expertise and professionalism of dentists living and working in Vietnam.
“Most Vietnamese dentists graduate in Vietnam,” he says. “But after that, most of us are trained abroad — in the US and Europe. And we have experience because we do a lot of cases every day. I have some dentist friends living in France, and the number of cases they have doesn’t compare to the numbers we see in Vietnam.”
Indeed, this year Dr. Lam has already performed 30 All-on-4 procedures for customers both living in Vietnam and overseas.
He adds: “As they say, practice makes perfect.”