In recent years, the words “medical tourism” and “dental tourism” have become a popular buzzword, particularly on the internet. According to Wikipedia, the phrases above refer to individuals who are seeking medical or dental care outside their local healthcare systems.
It may surprise people to know that dental tourism is not a new phenomenon in Singapore. In fact, Specialist Dental Group, formerly known as Henry Lee Dental Surgery, has been seeing international patients for over 30 years. Most of our foreign patients in those days were from the neighboring countries of Indonesia and Malaysia.
Why do people travel for dental services?
There are generally several reasons that patients would travel out of their home countries for dental treatment in another country:
1) Access to more advanced facilities/equipment or specialists that can manage complex cases; or
2) Quicker access to treatment, i.e. longer waiting list in their home country;
3) Lower cost of treatment in another country; or
4) A combination of the above factors.
While Singapore may not top the list for being the lowest in fees for medical or dental care, Singapore has a solid reputation for excellent healthcare facilities and expertise with complex procedures in the Asian region.
In some countries, it is not uncommon for a patient to shuttle from one clinic to another to see several types of dentists during the course of a particular procedure. This inevitably leads to a longer treatment period and time spent travelling from one location to another. In other countries, there is a waiting list before much needed dental treatment can be received.
At our clinic, it may be possible for patients who have undergone their initial consultation on their suitability for a procedure, to start off the procedure during the same visit…. as long as there are no outstanding dental treatment that needs to be done ahead of time, e.g. gum treatment or extractions.
It is also possible for patients to access different types of specialists with one appointment, if the appointment booking is made ahead of time – this is a savings of time and costs for patients. For example, a patient with gum problems who also had missing teeth, could have an appointment with a gum specialist (periodontist), prosthodontist (teeth replacement specialist) and oral surgeon during the same visit. In the same way, a patient who need a consultation for crooked teeth and a protruding jawline could see both the orthodontist (braces specialist) and oral maxillofacial surgeon) at the same visit.
Why has dental tourism become popular?
Dental tourism has seen a surge in growth in recent years due to several reasons:
1) Increased number of budget airlines making it affordable to travel overseas for dental treatment;
2) Increased access to the internet — more people are able to use the internet to search for healthcare providers via internet cafes, mobile internet access, etc
3) Increased media coverage of medical tourism and dental tourism – with more news stories on people who have travelled to another country to obtain medical and dental treatment, the interest (and demand) in becoming a dental tourist has also increased
4) More advertising and online marketing by healthcare providers as well as online word of mouth referrals /reviews by patients and their families
Considerations for dental travelers/dental tourists
If you are considering scheduling in a dental makeover on your next vacation / business trip, do your research ahead of time. Most clinics will have a website with information on the services provided and qualifications of their dentist.
- what is the standard of dental care in the country you are thinking of having your dental work done?
- Do you know anyone who has had dental work done there? How did it turn out?
- What is the qualification of the dentist who will be performing the procedure? Is the training/qualification recognized in your home country?
- Is he or she a specialist dentist or a general dentist? A dental specialist may charge more for a procedure but he or she also has had more extensive training/experience in a particular area, and will be more equipped to handle complex or difficult cases.
- Where was he or she trained, and how much experience does he or she have with the procedure in question?
- What methods of communication are available with the clinic/dentist – e.g. email? Telephone? How prompt is the response?
- How detailed is the clinic about the cost of the procedure and what to expect? Do you feel comfortable about the amount of information that has been provided?
Once the research has been done, the tickets booked and the bags packed, bring out the sunglasses and enjoy your dental vacation. You will find that it is a life changing experience !!!