written by Neil Brook
Sitting on the beach in Nha Trang in Vietnam a casual conversation with a lady sitting next to me turns to dentistry. She’s had them all done! Shiny white veneers from top to bottom. I’ve heard the many stories of great work and cheap prices but for some reason I have avoided, or maybe not really avoided, I’ve just never thought about getting my dental work done in Asia and we’ve lived here for six years.
When I think about it, it’s crazy I haven’t considered it. I guess I’ve always been a little apprehensive and concerned about quality and hygiene. Given I have crowns and fillings lining my mouth it’s something I have now come to consider as previous work starts to degrade and the ravages of time mean that replacement is now imminent. A recent checkup in London before I left revealed a chipped crown. After price checking crowns in the UK (not too bad) and Australia where the price of each one could support a small family in Vietnam for a year or buy a Vespa, both of which are more appealing ways to dish out my cash, I’ve taken the plunge.
I’ve done the internet scroll and found a place that advertised as ‘international’ with clients from all over the world. They have clinics all over Vietnam and opened in Nha Trang three months ago. Given that’s an easy set up whether you have testimonials or not. Reading their website a pop up opens and I start a real time conversation and have booked in for the next day. Just a checkup to start. I arrive to a clean, fresh townhouse with welcoming staff. I’m a little early and escorted upstairs to meet the dentist (doctor) who speaks perfect English and so we begin. She apologises for her English as she studied in Paris so French and Vietnamese are her first languages. OK then.
I have checkups and cleans every six months in London when I am there and the last was three weeks ago, which as we start the initial consultation and Dr Ho mapped out my mouth with a telescopic camera makes me wonder why I bothered. While the front of my teeth seem clean enough, the backs slap me in the face when I see the stains.
So firstly a clean. At $20 it’s worth a go and the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos speak for themselves. Something else strikes me as we continue. The dentist seems to care. We take a walk around my mouth via the photos on screen. I’ve really just come to discuss replacing the crown that is chipped. Now however I see another two are chipped.
I’ve been complaining about food stuck between a gap for some time. Just floss it out and use these wire brushes to clean was the response. Mind the gap! Now I know why. I can’t imagine how this hasn’t been picked up and how I didn’t choke as a piece, like a huge iceberg crashing free from it’s glacial host into the sea, has broken off and disappeared.
No doubt I passed that through my system months ago. Anyway there are also two fillings to replace that look dodgy. So let’s do them now? OK. There’s a cavity underneath one that takes some time to clean out. The dentist puts a material in the tooth that will nurture and protect the tooth and will replace it with a composite on another visit for no extra charge. Did I hear that right?
I’m apprehensive as the dentist suggests no needle as it ‘isn’t good for your health’ but don’t worry ‘I’ll be gentle!’. Didn’t feel a thing and afterwards I can eat and drink without drooling like I’ve had a stroke.
I’ve booked to have my crowns replaced. Three for the price of one in Australia and less than half the price of one in London. I am heading to Ho Chi Minh city shortly on my way to London and we decide to do two there as my dentist will be there when I am and they can scan in the morning and have them fitted later that day. The third I’ll get sorted when I return to Nha Trang. In Nha Trang it may take two days. Really?!
I arrive at the clinic in Saigon (as locals still call it) and as I have a couple of days to pass decide to have the scans and impressions done and return the next day for fitting leaving plenty of time for a final check if need be. On my return one fits perfectly whilst the other needs a little adjustment. The technician pops in to have a look, takes it away and returns fifteen minutes later. My dentist is not available this morning so another does the fitting and she can’t quite get this one to fit perfectly. I’m getting pushed for time now so we arrange for me to return the next morning to see a crown specialist, early as I fly out at 2pm. He drills, just a little and pops it on.
My first experience here will not be my last. Caring professionals provide treatment with gentle hands and attention to the finest details. I have however taken away a couple of lessons. My original dentist in Nha Trang is excellent and her communication and knowledge is exceptional. I will insist on seeing her at all times. In Nha Trang she is the resident doctor so all’s good. Secondly while all done in a day sounds great in theory, and in some cases in may be, with major work allow a couple of days for unexpected hiccups. While you may feel like the only person they are treating, there are other appointments you may need to work around.
Medical tourism is a booming industry and for good reason. You can fly over, book a hotel, bring the kids, have some work done and a holiday and still have cash to spare compared to the prices in Australia and London and I can only imagine inmost other western countries. Who can afford dental work in the States? Time will tell if the choice I have made has been worthwhile. I live in Nha Trang and split my time between there and London so I am privileged to have choice. For the time being, I have made mine.