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My Experience with Dental Tourism in Thailand

Thai temple

Medical tourism (or medical vacation) is defined as traveling outside of one’s country for the purpose of receiving medical (or dental) care. Years ago, I was watching a documentary on medical tourism in Thailand.  It was specifically about plastic surgery and how for about $10,000, you could get all this work done in a state-of-the-art facility with medical staff available to you as needed during the weeks of recovery, and still also be able to enjoy the country. I always thought it was fascinating that people would go on medical vacations. Never in a million years did I think I’d get or need the opportunity for any kind of medical or dental tourism.

More recently, I had heard about dental work, such as crown, fillings, and implants being much more affordable and just as good in other countries, including Thailand. That got me to thinking that, if necessary dental work is available  and affordable, then what about cosmetic dental work?

I interrupt this regularly scheduled post to insert some back story before I continue. So what happened was, when I was in Atlanta, I got my teeth bonded to close my front gap. I’d had a retainer as a teenager that I wore that worked really well and eliminated the gap. Then, as I got older, I stopped wearing it as much and of course my gap returned. It just so happened that I was working in a doctor’s office and one of the dentists in our building was offering 90%off all dental services. I didn’t have insurance at the time, so I knew this would be the best chance at having a dentist look at my gap. I think I originally wanted another retainer, but he told me he could fix it semi-permanently on that same day. Yes, please and thank you. I was elated! My smile was perfect and all was right in the world when he finished. Over the years, I would get it redone twice more. But there is a limit on the number of times that the same teeth can be bonded. All of my dentists afterward said I’d need veneers to further correct my gap. I thought they were just trying to get more money from me because most cosmetic surgery is not covered by insurance, so the cost would be out of my own pocket. At $1,500-2,000 per tooth, it probably was not going to happen because that’d be a range of $6,000-12,000 depending on how many veneers and any other additional services like teeth whitening and a gingival lift I would need.

Despite being told by almost all dentists that I would need veneers (I can be dubious at times), I continued to ask any new dentists. Well, finally one in the practice said she could do it. I was so excited! Naïvely I thought that someone finally had the confidence to do this and wanted to save me money. The long story short is that that dentist had my teeth looking worse than when I came in. It was so bad that even the dental assistant admitted on my next visit that the dentist did not do a good job. But guess what? They offered me $500 off per tooth discount for veneers! That should make it all better, right?

Well, I suffered (yes, suffered) another year or two embarrassed by my smile and finally got it through my head that veneers would be my only option.

Pre Veneers
Pre Veneers

So back to the regularly scheduled post. I did extensive research on cosmetic dentistry in Bangkok. I looked for reviews and recommendations because there would be nothing worse than going to another country, especially so far away, paying my hard-earned money and coming back looking even worse or having shoddy work done. The worst. During my research, I kept coming up with the Bangkok Smile Dental Clinic in Bangkok. So my research became very specific and when I was satisfied with what my research had yielded, I anxiously took the plunge and emailed them. They emailed me back the next day with information about the clinic and answered the questions I had asked, including about teeth whitening and the number of days I’d need to be there. They let me know that a bare minimum of seven days would be needed and advised me on what types of veneers would be best. I was satisfied with their professionalism and speed of reply so I booked my appointment for 2.5 months later.

Vacation time rolled around and I came into Bangkok at around 2am. My dental appointment was scheduled for 3pm that day and I didn’t want to waste any time because I was only going to be in Bangkok for 10 days. After a train ride and a further-than-anticipated walk due to a delayed train, I arrived at Bangkok Smile Dental Clinic, sweaty and out of breath. Thankfully, the facility was cool and the staff was welcoming. They literally walked me through the steps for my consultation.

I met with my team, the dentist ( a UCLA graduate) and her assistants. The dentist discussed my expectations, which was only that my gap was closed and my teeth white. Once everything was decided, she took impressions of my teeth and sent me on my way. The entire appointment took approximately 1-1.5 hours. They told me to come back the next day to place my temporary veneers. The office staff asked for half the payment that day with the remaining balance to be paid the day after. This was all moving so fast! I was excited and nervous but it was too late to turn back now.

Temporary Veneers
Temporary Veneers

The next day was the placement of my temporary veneers. This visit took about two hours. I was numbed up really well and felt no pain at all. When they were completed, I was ready to go explore Bangkok with my new (temporary) teeth. They felt awkward and foreign in my mouth and the composite used was rough, but I was content nonetheless because I was on my way to a beautiful, gapless smile. My next appointment was made for four days later when I’d get my permanent veneers. Yay!

The day for my permanent veneers came and I was beyond excited. This appointment took approximately two hours and I felt so much activity going on in my mouth that I couldn’t see but I knew it would all be worth it. And it absolutely was! I was in love with my new smile. The permanent veneers were way more attractive and smoother than the temporary ones. My dentist made sure I was completely satisfied before leaving the office. I was scheduled for my last appointment the next day to make sure everything was okay. I went throughout the day cheesing like a cheshire cat.  The last appointment went well and my new teeth were beautiful.
I would highly and unequivocally recommend this facility in Bangkok for cosmetic dentistry, and specifically for veneers. Everything was organized, smooth, clean and modern. The staff was great and they explained everything.

So, if you remember a few paragraphs back, I stated that my total in the States would have been between $6,000-12,000. Well, four veneers, plus teeth whitening and a night guard cost me a whole—-$1500. And I repeat, $1,500! My entire trip to Bangkok for 10 days, INCLUDING veneers was roughly $3,000. That was less than half of the lowest veneer estimate. Insane! Of note, one of the staff told me that the dentist had given me a discount on two veneers, so I feel very fortunate. I was prepared to pay about $3,000, which was still a bargain.

Post Veneers
Post Veneers

It’s almost surreal to me now. I’d do this again in a heartbeat. It’s been several months now and I haven’t had any problems whatsoever. Veneers typically last about 10 years or so before they need to be redone. Guess where I’ll be headed in 10 years?

Would you ever consider medical or dental tourism? What would you get done?

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