A look at the rise of dental tourism in Thailand and why those with dental care needs from around the world flock to the country’s major internationally accredited dental clinics.
by Zipporah Gene.
The last decade has seen a surprising rise of the phenomenon in the Thai tourism industry. In 2015 alone, an excess of THB 100 (US$3) billion was generated by medical tourism; reflecting a steady revenue growth of roughly 15% (year-on-year growth) in the sector. As the foremost tourist destination in Asia, these figures unsurprisingly reflect but a fraction of overall arrivals and gains to the nation as a whole.
And with the announcement in the 2014 of a new and more pro-active tourism action plan by the Thai government, it would appear that over the coming years, the focus will be to solidify Thailand’s status as Southeast Asia’s leading healthcare destination.
This plan, which encourages foreign investment in healthcare in-frastructure, is aimed at attracting a higher caliber of tourists. But it has also been argued that it could potentially slow and reverse the emigration of skilled professionals and health care workers. To put it simply, the growth of this industry has a positive wider economic and developmental impact on Thailand’s economy and the population at large.
But what exactly is medical tourism and why do so many people choose Thailand?
Medical tourism encompasses all manner of convalescence and can be anything from a relaxing and restor-ative spa retreat or getaway, to corrective medical procedure. Although other Southeast Asian countries are attempting to also gain footing in this lucrative sector, only three countries in the region really stand out as the main hubs: Singapore, known as the center for cardiovascular, neurological, and joint replacement surgery; Malaysia for its burgeoning cardiothoracic facilities; and Thailand, which in particular, is predominantly associated as being the hub for all kinds of cosmetic or sex change procedures.
This carefully marketed and targeted niche market has pushed up the demand for competitive, modern, and innovative healthcare especially over the last couple of years. So much so that, when compared to the price in most Western “developed” nations, many reportedly are able to shave off as much as 50-75 percent off their treatments.
Even with the clear and subsidized pricing laid out by the National Healthcare System of England (NHS), the UK has some of the highest private dental costs in Europe. Many, put off by long waiting times, and the general lack of steady access, often travel further afield in order to seek treatment. Historically, this search led most to other countries in the European Union. However, rising prices, epidemiological shifts and quality differentials in some EU nations has led some to seek out, what one researcher has succinctly dubbed, “sun, sea, sand and… surgery.”
What to expect?
A quick Google search of the Thai capital clearly reveals the extent that this trend has had on the Bangkok cityscape. The Thonglor area alone, which is roughly only about 4km of land from start to end, boasts over 10 major internationally accredited dental practices. Further study shows that this trend is citywide.
Asavanant Dental Clinic, located at the junction of Sukhumvit and Thonglor, is a famous dental practice that has just recently entered its 20th year. Originally a small local practitioner above the jewelry shop that heralds the start of the Soi Thonglor, the practice, which is still run by Doctor Asavanant himself, has long since expanded around itself into the sleek and modern 5 -storeyed building that can be found today.
Catering to locals, expatriates, celebrities and medical tourists alike, the practice uses state-of-the-art dental machinery, and deals with everything, from endodontics and orthodontics to prosthodontics and periodontics, to name but a few.
Dr. Sunil Dental International Clinic (Tel: 085 909 1155; Sukhumvit 71, Soi Pridi Banomyong 14), is one of the most sought-after dental practitioners in the city, especially by international clients and the expat community.
Owned and run by Dr. Sunil, a prosthodontist who graduated from Chiangmai University, and who has headed the Dental Departments at both Kloynthai and Phetcharavet hospitals for years. Dr. Sunil specializes in procedures such as inlays, onlays, ceramic crowns, implant crowns, bridges, and veneers as well as partial and full dentures.
His clinic is backed by years of extensive practice with multifaceted and international cases, and he is often regarded as Thailand dental industry’s “wunderkid.”
Dr. Sunil promises to provide the best dental solutions, including various dental and cosmetic challenges in smile makeover and dental reconstruction with the help of his team of 35 certified professionals providing optimal dental health within state-of-the-art facilities in the relaxing environment.
Patients needing a smile makeover or full reconstruction, done within a week’s time, can save up to 70% of costs all-inclusive compared to costs from their home country. Dr. Sunil offers customized packages, consultations, free limo pick-up service, treatment plan; and promises a valuable service.
So much to offer
With so much transparency and so much to offer, it’s not surprising then that dental practices in Thailand are contacted by prospective patients from all over the world daily. Many, however, wrongly assume that with a prior call or email, they can correctly ascertain the entire cost of their treatment.
While most dentists are happy to advise you on the procedure, i.e. how many days a particular treatment will need or even how much downtime is required, without direct inspection, or at the very least an x-ray it is near impossible to predict the exact final cost of the visit.
That said, the fact that there are agencies entirely aimed at creating packages for specific treatments, is clear indication that this market can only expand further.
More leading Dental Practices in Bangkok
15/63 Srinakarin 2, Srinakarin Road, opposite Seacon Square,
Inspire Smile Clinic
6th Floor Siam Square 1, Rama 1 Rd (BTS Siam Square, exit 4),
Truth Dental Clinic
1st floor Alma Link Building, 25 Soi Chidlom, Ploenchit St.
Smile Signature at Seacon Square
Inside Seacon Square, Level 3, Room 3016, 55 Srinakarin Road
257/26 Ratchadapisek Rd // 205/2-3 Phyathai Rd // 1701/12 Phaholyothin Rd
Thonglor International Dental Care & Cosmetic
113/9-10 Sukhumvit 55 (Thonglor 5) – BTS Thonglor
The Ivory Dental Clinic
167/16 Ratchadapisek Rd
Bangkok Smile Dental Clinic
32/5-6 Sukhumvit 21 Asoke Rd/ 546/2 Ploenchit Rd
Seacon Square, Srinakarin Road // 1st Floor, Fifty Fifth Plaza, Thonglor // 2nd Floor Fifty Fifth Plaza, Sukhumvit // Chaeng Watthana Road, Don Meuang
Asok Montri Dental Clinic
38/8 Asok Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21
Dental Bliss Bangkok
1000/76 Sukpaisan SoiCharoenrat 7, Ratchada-Rama 3 Rd