'Getting my teeth done' overseas aka dental tourism

I was living in Australia at the time I first flew away to ‘get my teeth done.’ Yes - before I left I got the standard...

  • But how do you know it will be safe?

  • Are you joking? Going to Asia to get your teeth done?

  • How do you find a dentist there?

  • What if something goes wrong?

  • I wouldn’t trust them – how do you know they are any good?

  • No way would I do that – you’re kidding right?

The point is, how do you know a dentist back home is any good either? Most likely the only way you choose a dentist, other than picking one from the white pages, is through word of mouth referrals. So its the same deal, I found mine exactly the same way – through word of mouth. It just happened to be online word of mouth.

The next thing that I did when looking for the right dentist, was to check out their qualifications, check out what other patients had to say, and talk to  dentist in person before I left – a lot more than I had ever done before when looking for a dentist. How many of us ever check the dentist to this degree 'back home?' Doing this meant that before I even stepped foot on a plane, I knew that I was dealing with people very used to working with foreigners and who had an excellent reputation among their clientele.

Sure there are always ‘horror stories’ but I will note that I have had some bad dentistry done in countries like England, France, and Australia (and some good of course). However, now I can say I have had excellent dentistry done in Malaysia! (Plus members of my family have followed me and had the same result.) For sure, the next time I need anything major doing I’m hoping I am already in one of these dental tourism hot-spots, otherwise I'm going to be heading straight for the airport!

As to why you would do the same? Well, quite simply it saves you money – a lot of money, and combined with a bit of R&R makes for a holiday that pays for itself. 

Let’s add it up in round figures based on my trip from Australia to Kuala Lumpur.

Flights to and accommodation in KL $900

Dental costs in KL - $850

Quoted costs in Australia $2900

The math is fairly simple. A holiday plus top dental care = cheaper than staying in Australia and getting the work done locally. And you get to do things like hang around with baby elephants in your spare time.

Downtime activities during dentistry in Kuala Lumpur

Downtime activities during dentistry in Kuala Lumpur

I will recall a forum thread I was reading on this ‘dentistry overseas’ topic and in particular a comment made by one person who really has got to have made the most ignorant comment ever (well ok maybe not ever)

“Sure they are trained and qualified in places like XXXX – so why would they live in a third world country getting paid badly when they could live in XXXX and get paid properly?”


Umm let me see.....how about: because they want to live where they call home; because they want to live where their friends and family are; because they like it there; because they want quality of life; because they like the tropics; because the cost of living there is a lot lower than in XXXX and so they end up with plenty all the same.....

Ok rave over!

There are plenty of overseas options for excellent cheap dentistry (and medical tourism) and these are just some of the countries known for their high quality, well priced dental work – but do your research as there are likely to be equally high quality dentists in most other countries near these:

  • Thailand

  • Malaysia

  • India

  • Hungary

  • Czech Republic

  • Dubai

  • Costa Rica

  • Mexico

  • Guatemala

It is important to note however that you must do your research – you are not going to want a dodgy job done on your teeth – and for some it has gone wrong, so do spend time searching forums for up to date information, do ask people on the forums for more information and if you can contact them direct to talk about their experience, do ring the dentists in question and talk to them beforehand (yes in my experience they will take time out to talk to you - nice bit of customer service), and do send your x-rays ahead so they can provide you with information before you even get on the plane as to what they think needs doing, how long it will take and what it will cost.

Before you book of course, figure the cost of your flights and accommodation plus dentistry and then do the math! I used airbnb for my accommodation, apart from a couple of nights where I decided to treat myself to a room with a view where I could watch the nightly light display below the Petronas Twin towers in comfort!

Coping with the view following a day at the dentist in Kuala Lumpur

Coping with the view following a day at the dentist in Kuala Lumpur

Back to one of the key questions everyone has – how about their qualifications?

I chose a dentist, who turned out to be the biggest techno-geek ever! I did have to ask him if he had missed his calling in technology – not that he didn’t have plenty of technology right there in his dental rooms! He had just returned from a conference in Germany and finally (after apparently waiting for years for them to get to a quality he thought was good enough) had brought his new CEREC machine (i.e. ‘make-your-new-crown-on-the-spot’ machine). It was quite a fascinating process watching your new tooth being crafted – and all finished in no time flat. I now (a couple of years later) can’t even remember which tooth it was I had done which is interesting – you certainly can’t tell by looking!

I also used an endodontist – who discovered the niggly little on-again-off-again pain I had for the last ‘quite a while’ was in fact an abscess which had been missed by the dentists I had seen in Australia! He had it sorted again in no time flat. One happy client and no trouble since!

The dentist was trained and qualified in Australia.

The endodontist was trained and qualified in Singapore and Australia.

Both estimated they dealt with approximately 50/50 of local clients and of British, Australian and other foreign clients – some of whom I met in the waiting room. It seemed typical for these foreign clients to just come once a year for any work that needed doing.

I can see why – the cost, the quality, and the destination are enough to make anyone come back!

Feel free to ask me any questions and add any comments if you have had an overseas dental experience :-)