OK, it is true I am no fan of the dental business in the USA. Their rates are astronomical. A lot of people may not see all those high rates because they have dental insurance. Since I have always been employed by myself, I have avoided this insurance expense for my employees (including me), so I have always seen and paid my dental bills in full. Wow. The costs for dental treatment in the US between 1998 and 2008 increased at a higher rate than medical care, and far exceeded the increases in inflation. Dental insurance costs have skyrocketed over the last decade, and many companies are no longer making this part of the employee benefits. So now more Americans, like most self employed people, are seeing their total dental costs, with most or all coming out of pocket. (reference: The American Way of Dentistry – Slate).
A typical dental office in the US has one dentist (sometimes two, but not often), and that dentist hops from patient to patient (sometimes working on three or four patients at the same time) to maximize income (your money). That one dentist is presumed to be an expert in every kind of dental work: crowns, filings, cleanings, X-rays, tooth pulling, and extraction of all available funds from the pockets of patients.
Thailand dentist offices usually work on a different concept. A Thai dental office (clinic or sometimes a “dental hospital”) will generally have several dentists. In the Bangkok dental hospital that I personally have had work done, there are 13 doctors of dentistry. One will be an expert on root canals, another on crowns, another on simple filings, and on and on. As a patient at a good Thai dental hospital or clinic, you are likely to be involved with two or three different dentists that work in their specialty. Thai dental clinics are as modern as any typical American dental office, or better. From what I have seen in my non-scientific study getting my teeth fixed is that Thai dental clinics have more modern equipment and seem much higher on the technology scale than your typical little American dental office. The quality of work in Thailand at a good dental clinic is on par or superior to the work you get in the US in my opinion (and from everyone else that I know that has work done in Thailand).
In the US, you will pay pretty much the same high price no matter where you go. That’s because the American Dental Association cartel suggests (sets) the fees dentists should charge, and all dentists seem to listen to their cartel leaders. And most dentists only work four days a week (they don’t need to work full time with their exorbitant incomes). Remember, it was this association, the American Dental Association, that unethically pushed fluoride in US water systems, giving children learning disorders, a greater cancer risk, more tooth decay, possible brain damage, thyroid problems, bone damage, possibly kidney damage, and a host of other problems. (Why hasn’t the American Dental Association apologized for the damage they have caused America?) Definitely don’t trust this mafia-like organization that sets the prices your American dentist can squeeze out of you.
According to the American Dental Association, in 2006 the median income for a dental general practitioner was $180,000. That’s a whisker below the median annual wage for primary care physicians ($182,000), and on an hourly basis it’s higher (because dentists work fewer hours). The median for a dental specialist was $296,640. Source.
In Thailand, the prices for dental work generally run about 10% to 30% of the costs in the US. This is not an exaggeration. This means, if you are about to pop $6000 to your local American dentists for some simple repair job on your teeth (which seems to be what costs generally run for typical dental work in the US), it would cost about $900 to $1800 for the same work in Thailand. Many Thai dental clinics have their price sheets printed right on their website, so if you know what needs to be done, you can get a good estimate right on your computer before you go. So with this example of a $6K job in the US, if you came to Thailand to do your dental work, you would be saving about $4200 to $5100 by taking a trip to this side of the world. And the way tourist prices go in Thailand, that gets you a luxurious vacation, with money left over.
Of course, it’s not unusual for a patient having dental work done in the USA to rack up bills of $10,000, 14,000 or even more. Dental work in the US is very expensive, and it is my contention that it should not be that way (but it is).
Dental Implants – This is a wonderful procedure if you get it done right and you are not put into the poor house after having it done. A single dental implant in the US can cost $6000. The same procedure can cost $1000 in Thailand. Now if you are going to need a half a dozen of these things, it makes the price in the US available to only the 1%. But if you had six implants done in Thailand, you would be saving around $30,000!
Even if you have dental insurance in the US, there is a limitation to how much they will pay out in a year, usually $1000-$2000. Nowadays, with the extortionist rates charged by American dentists, it is easy to go over that and you end up paying 100% of anything above your limit.
How to do it.
First, locate a good Thai dental clinic. There are plenty of Thai dentists all over the country, but the best are located in Bangkok. Also, because Bangkok has many dental offices, they are more price competitive than other cities.
There are also good dental clinics in Phuket, Chiang Mai and other Thai cities, but my personal opinion is that they are not quite up to the level as Bangkok Dental Clinics (and I live in Chiang Mai and have gone to dental offices in my city). You will still save big money in these other cities, and it may be a better venue for a vacation, so if that is what you have in mind, you should check these locations out as well.
Fortunately, the internet is very helpful. Here’s a good place to start: Thailand Dental Clinic List by Thai Travel Tips. One of the best sources is the Dental Departures website (click on the banner below), and they can connect you with almost any good Bangkok Dental Clinic
Second, once you have been connected to a Thai dental clinic, contact the dental office via email and describe the treatment you need (or what is wrong) and request an estimate. English is spoken in almost any well-established dental office in Bangkok, and most offices have a lot of overseas customers, so your email is likely to be answered promptly.
Third, set your appointment up according to your holiday vacation availability, and start planning for a great trip. Bangkok is a very big city, so you will want to find many levels of accommodations at somewhat close to the dentists. It is easy to find a first rate 4-star hotel for less than $75 a night. Outside of the scheduled dental appointments, plan a excursions to some of the great Thailand destination cities, like Phuket, Chiang Mai or the tropical paradise island of Koh Samui.
Are you a bit skeptical about the legitimacy of dental offices in Thailand? And further nervous about traveling to a distant exotic place like Bangkok? I understand completely, and that is why the Dental Departures organization is a good way to go. This site lists almost all of the established places with direct links to the dental office website and customer reviews and testimonials from Westerners that have gone there. Booking a hotel in Bangkok is very easy, and the best starting place is at Trip Advisor. Bangkok is loaded with hotels of every price range, but generally at almost every level it is half or less of what it is for comparable accommodations cost in the US.
And, of course, there are lots of shopping and amazing vacation destinations all over the City. With your savings, it will be as if the vacation is absolutely FREE.
Then, after you have had your dental treatment and a great vacation, you will truly have a smile and a fatter wallet. You can make this trip to the dentist the best one you have ever had.