Dental Tourism Bangkok

Bangkok traffic

There’s no doubt a life as a bon vivant can have its repercussions, the least of which might be putting on a few extra kilos. Greedy Girl has to work hard to avoid cholesterol dictating her lifestyle choices, while gluttonous husband’s love of eating and drinking has taken its toll on his teeth.

While incorporating exercise and making sensible food choices when not on the road for The Foodie World seems to be keeping further medical intervention at bay for Greedy Girl, gluttonous husband was faced with a very hefty bill in Australia for his teeth. It got to the point where urgent action needed to be taken, or his teeth would be taken – pulled out and replaced by dentures. That would have been his reality had he kept ignoring the problem; his teeth would literally have gone away.

Several friends have travelled abroad for medical or dental tourism. Bangkok seemed to be the place to go. A number of clinics are located in Phuket, but we opted for the big city. Not being beach people, we didn’t feel the need for long walks along sandy shores and Bangkok presented a number of advantages – we like cities, prices on average seemed cheaper and the clinic we chose had its own workshop on site for whatever was required.

Still, dental tourism is not something to enter into lightly; the prospect of travelling to a foreign country for any kind of medical or dental work is nerve-wracking at best and – at worst – potentially dangerous. We cast around for a number of recommendations – and the most solid seemed to come from our friend, an international flight attendant for Qantas. He’d had work at the Dental Hospital in Bangkok and was very happy with the result – and he’s one very, very fussy individual.

We did however, get in touch with a number of clinics and a service that basically acts as a broker for visitors to get work done. Communication was easiest, most straightforward and most helpful with the Dental Hospital in Bangkok. Sold. We sent them details of a treatment plan that had been prepared here for rough costing purposes and booked in for the first appointments. Given gluttonous husband needed a lot of work, we decided to stay in Bangkok for 10 days, to try to achieve as much as we could.

There are dental clinics pretty much everywhere you look in this huge and chaotic city. We opted to stay near the Dental Hospital on Sukhumvit 49 so that we didn’t have to rely on taxis or other transport during the stay. It was a prudent choice, for several reasons. Firstly, the hotel we chose, the Bangkok Marriott Sukhumvit, was excellent and secondly, the traffic never seems to slow down. Even though there is a BTS train station reasonably close to the Dental Hospital, we didn’t want to worry about crowded public transport, particularly after treatments and taxis, while relatively cheap, would have added to the stress levels because of the crazy traffic.

Having said all that, walking in Bangkok is not for the faint-hearted. Pavements can be very poorly maintained and, in some of the side streets, or ‘Sois’, absolutely non-existent. You need to walk on the road and protect yourself from the constant stream of cars, tuk tuks and motorcycles, especially the motorbike taxis, which are numerous. One particularly interesting aspect is that these bikes are allowed to ride on footpaths/sidewalks. Keep looking behind you if you decide to change direction – which you have to do a lot in Bangkok when the pavement runs out, it’s too cracked or broken to walk on or there’s a street food vendor taking up the available space – and they are everywhere.

Dental tourism Bangkok

Motorcycle taxis lined up waiting for fares

We opted to take a cab from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport to our hotel; we arrived mid-evening on a direct Jetstar flight from Melbourne, taking around nine and a half hours, and figured the traffic had to have subsided a fraction. While the train is recommended from the airport to the city, given we were in a residential area, we would have needed to change trains and navigate which direction to go once we left the station. Having said that, arriving in peak hours, the train would be the only way to go, unless you were happy to have a very leisurely ride. We also discovered at the nearest station, Thong Lo, there were escalators going up, but only stairs coming down. Tricky if you’re managing luggage.

And so, day one arrived; we navigated the 15 minute walk from our hotel to the Dental Hospital and checked in at the reception. There seemed to be a bit of confusion at first that two people were there; they kept looking through booking records to find appointments for both of us but eventually understood gluttonous husband was the lone patient.

The hospital is a multi-storey modern building with examination rooms on the ground floor and four floors of rooms for specific procedures. Gluttonous husband was whisked away for x-rays, a thorough teeth cleaning and his first procedure – stage one of a root canal. He survived that and was promptly booked in for several more services.

And so the trip progressed; out of the 10 days, only two were free of appointments. The dentists worked fairly seamlessly as a team to provide whatever services were needed with exceptional efficiency for the most part. Gluttonous husband ended up with two root canals (each requiring two stages) and five crowns. His dentists spoke great English. Many of them had trained in the US, UK or Australia; his main dentist on this occasion, doing the crowns, had trained in Sheffield and she kept him well up to speed with what she planned to do. Another specialist looked after the root canals. Emboldened by the success and efficiency, gluttonous husband decided to push on for a further procedure – an implant for a tooth that had been missing since his 20s. That had been lost on a fishing trip in Australia’s outback. He was swimming a net across an inland river when it became tangled. Keeping part of it in his mouth while treading water and trying to work through the problems, a mate on the riverbank became impatient – and gave the net an almighty yank. Out it came of gluttonous husband’s mouth and a tooth with it. More than 15 hours’ drive across bumpy, unsealed roads to the nearest dentist, he drowned his pain in beer and never contemplated doing anything to replace the tooth … until now.

At the clinic, there was no scratching of the head, or furrowing of the brow; the facility was more than equipped to get the specialist in to do the work. It turned out gluttonous husband needed a bone graft next to where the implant post was inserted, so he was a little the worse for wear after that procedure but now, more than a week after returning home, he has finished his course of antibiotics, his mouth is returning to feeling normal and he is healing well, making sure he follows all the hygiene and other protocols required of him.

At no stage during all the treatment did he have to avoid eating. We even ventured out on one night to one of the more highly-regarded local restaurants but more on that in another post.

All told, the work came in around A$8000; the implant is not yet complete – the mouth needs to stabilise and heal for at least three months before the second stage can be fitted, so it will be back to Bangkok in early 2016 for another round.

Putting your hand up for any kind of medical or dental tourism can be nerve wracking but research, research, research. Try to get recommendations from people who’ve actually gone. Take some heart from the efficiency and thoroughness of the communications in the lead-up to your trip. If it’s difficult to get in touch with a clinic or to get answers from them, it’s perhaps telling you something about the organisation. But even when pre-communication is excellent (as it was here)  make sure you evaluate once you’re there. If the facility had looked sub-par we would have turned tail and ran; but it wasn’t. It was a modern, pristine clinic with some very talented staff.

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