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Dental tourism in Thailand – “Searching for Adventure, and Dentistry”

In a series of New York Times articles published this week entitled “Searching for Adventure, and Dentistry” and “Being a Savvy Medical Tourist While Enjoying a Vacation,” one American journalist chronicled her family’s trip to Thailand for dental tourism.
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Dental care in the United States

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a relatively high percentage of Americans receive dental care on a regular basis:

  • Percent of children aged 2-17 with a dental visit in the past year: 84.7% (2015)
  • Percent of adults aged 18-64 with a dental visit in the past year: 64.0% (2015)
  • Percent of adults aged 65 and over with a dental visit in the past year: 62.7% (2015)

Yet according to 2014 data from the National Association of Dental Plans, 114 million Americans lack dental insurance, rendering the cost of receiving regular dental care in the United States quite expensive.

Dental care in China

Per capita frequency of dental care in China lags far behind that in the United States, however a growing economy and demand for treatment are fueling growth in the Chinese dental care and product market.

There were already more than 29,000 dental care delivery organizations in China in 2014, generating revenue equivalent to more than USD $4.4 billion according to an 2016 KPMG report entitled “Commercial Opportunities in the Dental Care Market in China.” At the market’s current growth rate, it’s estimated there will be more than 42,000 dental care delivery organizations by 2020.

However, today’s Chinese market remains plagued by a shortage of skilled practitioners and access to quality care. For example, despite strong growth in the number of registered dentists in China, the country only averaged one dentist per 10,000 people in 2013. Additionally, because of this shortage of dentists, as well as a lack of widespread dental insurance, receiving regular dental care in the People’s Republic of China is also quite expensive.

Dental tourism in Thailand

Many of the doctors and dentists at respected hospitals and clinics in places like Thailand have (i) trained in western countries like Australia, the United Kingdom or the United States, (ii) speak English and (iii) are internationally accredited.

Moreover, many Thai dental clinics specializing in international patients make it easy to get estimates and make appointments online. In addition to locking in costs and appointments, patients should be sure to ask how much time is needed for the work to be done, as well as recovery.

The New York Times’ journalist found that in addition to saving on overall procedure costs (for root canal therapy), she was also able to opt for higher-quality, longer-lasting materials in Thailand, rather than the lesser options that she would have been limited to back in the United States.

According to Dental Departures (an international dental tourism company that matches customers with clinics):

Thailand boasts some of the largest and most modern dental hospitals in the entire world. Tens of thousands of dental tourists have been successfully treated by expert dentists in a tropical locale. Most frequent visitors: Australians, Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders. Some of Thailands top rated clinics include Bangkok International Dental Center and Sea Smile Dental Clinic in Phuket.

In addition to Thailand, Dental Departures lists the top destinations for dental tourism as Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dubai, Hungary, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, Spain, and Turkey.

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