When dreaming about around the world travel, the last thing you would think about is sitting in a dental chair. Well, unless you want to try Muay Thai kickboxing, then having your front teeth knocked out is always a possibility. But I am not talking about sitting in the dental chair for an emergency caused by some super misadventure that would have you telling the story for years to come. Oh no, what I am talking about is the mundane dental cleaning that every long-term traveler must face eventually. While sounding mundane and easy to arrange back home, traveling in developing and non-English speaking countries can make it much more challenging.
Before leaving Portland for our around the world adventure we took advantage of our soon-to-end health insurance and had our teeth cleaned and checked. My dental hygienist was sad to hear that I would be leaving, but very excited to hear about the trip. She also gave me some advice about international dentistry. The first bit of advice was to never, ever, ever see a dentist in Ireland. She had a coworker that worked there and said the dental care is absolutely awful and they like to pull teeth when they can easily be saved. She also recommended that we have dental cleanings and anything else we might need in Germany. She claimed that the Germans are the world leaders in dentistry and are pioneers when it comes to new dental techniques and technologies. Unfortunately, we were not in Germany long enough to arrange for a teeth cleaning and cannot say for sure if they are truly the best.
As we moved through Eastern Europe we realized that we were due to have our teeth cleaned. We had planned to look into it, but shopping around for a dentist is the last thing you want to do when there was so much to see and do. As we moved through Turkey, Greece, and the Middle East, we always said we would look into it, but we kept forgetting. I mean, who wants to go to the dentist?
We found ourselves in Bangkok, Thailand for a week and knew this was going to be the last place for a while that we would be able to find a dentist that would come close to meeting Western standards. Some people we talked to were shocked about hearing our plans to see a dentist in a developing country. We must admit we were a bit concerned as well. Over the years I have read countless news stories about American dentists improperly sterilizing their tools and infecting patients with HIV and hepatitis. This was the last thing we wanted for our family.
Even though we were in a developing country, we wanted nothing less than first world standards. In doing an online search for dental clinics in Bangkok we found several that cater to Westerners. Their prices were all the same for a dental cleaning of 1000 – 1500 THB, which is about $30 – $45 USD. We chose one that looked promising, as they are the only internationally accredited dental clinic in Thailand with ISO 9001 certified by Bureau Veritas for both their dental clinic service and dental laboratory. Whatever that means, it sounded good and we agreed. They were able to get us in the next day, which was unheard of in the United States. A next day appointment that was not an emergency? Amazing! They emailed us the directions and the next day we took the BTS Skytrain to the stop they suggested.
When we arrived to the clinic we entered and found a nice modern waiting room and friendly English speaking receptionists. We filled out our personal information on a computer and they then took our photo for their records. They took our blood pressure and body temperature and then offered us bottled water while we waited. It seemed all very professional and we were impressed.
We each took turns seeing the dentist and were impressed with the speed and quality of the cleaning. For the cleaning, there was a team of two people, a dentist and an assistant. They both wore masks and the dental tools came from a sealed, sterile package. The method for cleaning was ultrasonic, which I absolutely hate. To me, it sounds like fingernails down a chalkboard. But the ultrasonic was different compared to what I have experienced in the US. The type of ultrasonic they used sprayed water, which made it much more tolerable, especially while wearing Bose noise canceling headphones. While the dentist cleaned with the ultrasonic water spraying thingy, the assistant ran the suction to keep you from drowning. From start to finish the whole process took only 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, our daughter Sydney had a small cavity in one of her back teeth but they were able to drill and fill the tooth immediately. The extra cost for filling the cavity was only $50 USD.
Seeing the dentist in Bangkok was not as scary as we thought it would be and we were very happy with the results. Our teeth were very clean afterwards and I actually feel they did a better job than back in the US, and at a fraction of the cost.
The name of the dental clinic we went to was called Bangkok Dental Smile Clinic and their website is www.bangkoksmiledental.com. I am sure there are other great clinics in Bangkok, but this is the one we went to and were very happy with the results.
You are incredibly brave, but it sounds like it paid off. Good for you taking care of your teeth.
Medical and dental tourism is becoming a huge industry in SE Asia and a lot of people good have things to say about it, being price and quality. But not knowing where to go and what to expect made us a little nervous and luckily we chose a good place that did great work.
Good choice of dentist. I used them for porcelain veneers, whitening and a couple of crowns in Dec 2012. No complaints. Since then however, I have a new favourite dentist that I first visited in March 2013, Happy Dental in Hanoi (Quan Su). So impressed, I returned for 6 crowns this April 2014. You think Bangkok was cheap, yet professional? Try Vietnam!!
Good to hear that you also liked them. We are currently on our way to Hanoi, but hopefully we don’t need to visit the dentist while we are there 🙂
Alison Carlisi says
Well the American dental Community invites you to kiss our collective butts. As your sister in law and an RDH I can tell you that the best dental practices in the world and here in the United States. Ninety percent of research and innovation happens right here, with Germany and Japan just a few steps behind. Your comment about the cleanliness of clinics in the US is incorrect. There are very few stories of cross contamination infection because in AMERICA WE HAVE CLEAN CLINICS. tested, monitored, trained staff, and OSHA, State and federal standards to meet. And when there is such a story it is SHOCKING, because it is NOT THE NORM. oh…. and ALL ultrasonics use spraying water to cool the instrument. . Your RDH was using something different if it didn’t use water. Your theme that everything is better when it’s not in the US does not apply here. I am glad you had a good experience and found a good clinic to go to. Prevention is the key to a healthy mouth. However, when going to clinics outside the US I would require a tour of the sterilization area. I would want to see a few things there: A working autoclave, clear separation of dirty and sterile instruments, a record of weekly spore testing, and a general feel of cleanliness.
Makes you never want to go to the dentist again!
Alison’s comment is typical of americans that think the US is the biggest and best at everything in the whole world. My suggestions to Alison is to pull her own head out of their “collective butts” and get out and explore the world. Other countries and their citizens are just as capable of being highly trained and skilled at vocations.
I just had one of my permanent molars pulled yesterday because an overzealous dentist that I had been going to decided that my tooth was hurting because the root canal I had wasn’t done properly. He then proceeded to redo my root canal, but after 6 months of telling how badly that same tooth was hurting, his reply was “Well, it can take up to 6 months for the pain to go away.” (I went to him because of the tooth pain in the first place)
Two years later, after complaining about that pain to two other dentists, one of them sent me to a specialist who blew up the x-ray of my tooth and even I could see that the dentist from two years ago had gone all the way through both roots into the bone. He couldn’t save the tooth, so he sent me to another specialist and he explained that since the recession, a lot of dentist think they can do root canals and all sorts of other procedures, so he’s seeing this more and more of this kind of thing. He is going to do an implant for me, costing us at least $2000 out of pocket, Yes, there are good dentists here, even great ones, but I just don’t believe we are number one.
Sorry to hear about all the pain and hassle you have had to go through. You have been complaining about that tooth for a long time now. Hopefully the implant goes smoothly. From the sound of it, you can fly to Hanoi, Vietnam (see above) and get an implant for really cheap! 🙂
Ooooooh thank you so much for the Hanoi and Bangkok dentist tips, guys! I am dying for a cleaning and we’ll be in both cities soon… Although I bet they won’t compare to Green Apple in downtown Portland. 😉
We had a really hard time choosing a place in Bangkok, so I thought I would share our experience for others looking for dental care, and it’s always good to hear of other good dental clinics in different cities . We had Kaiser insurance in Portland, so never went to Green Apple. Any good?
Yep, they were great – super nice, efficient, thorough, plus parafin wax hand treatments and heated massage chairs while your teeth were cleaned. I almost added that as my #5 for our “what we miss about PDX after 365 days on the road” list!
Sofia Rhodes says
Wooh..!! I never thought to visit some place that to be thousand miles away just to clean my teeth..!! You are really brave..!! I didn’t know.. cleaning teeth is that expensive 😉
Heidi (@WagonersAbroad) says
Perfect! We will be looking to have our teeth cleaned over there too. We’ve had them done in Spain and we will be due again later this year. We will also be on the hunt for an Orthodontist, as Lars is now the proud owner of upper and lower retainers. We will only get 3 adjustments in, while in Spain and then will need to seek out Ortho’s as we move around. Fun!
Interesting teeth cleaning, and Thailand is a lovely country as well.
That’s quite expensive for SE Asia. In most countries here a cleaning is around 5-10 dollars and removing and filling a cavity is an extra 10 dollars at a dentists office. 50 dollars sounds more like US prices.
I went to The Smile Bar for teeth whitening and it’s also great. The price is quite reasonable also. http://www.the-smile-bar.co.th/en/teeth-whitening-packages