Dental Tourism- “My first consultation, which included a check-up and a clean costed me around AUD $35, had I done the same work at home, I would be looking at parting with an average of $125. My dentist told me that I would need quite a few fillings before I should consider any kind of cosmetic work. The average cost of a filling at the clinic is around $20 to $40 per tooth.
The average cost of a filling in Australia is anywhere between $150 to $300. My sense of frugality surrendered to my vanity and I decided to get some bleaching, and also some tooth-reshaping done.”- By Emma Luimes (Being a Dental Tourist in Nepal; published by Spotlight News Magazine, July 3, 2014)
The 21 century is witnessing a boom in the oral disease load due to remarkable changes in individual’s dietary habits. On the other hand, the awareness towards dental health is also increasing at equal pace with an increase in the number of people or aspirants wishing to seek appropriate solutions to their dental problems. But, finding appropriate solutions to their dental problems is challenging from financial perspective and uncompromised working hours due to busy working schedule as people wish to get rid of their oral problems with minimal expenditures and limited time. How can it be possible?
Dental tourism could be one of the most suitable solutions. Dental tourism also called dental vacations is a part of medical tourism. It involves individuals seeking their dental care outside their local oral health care systems which is accompanied by a vacation. The total cost of dental care, meals, accommodations, transportation and side trips to tourist attractions is less than the price of local care. This innovative concept is gaining momentum in the recent times.
“Most people think of dental tourism in the context of crossing an international border —for example, traveling from the United States to Costa Rica, or from the UK to Hungary—in order to consume dental services, but I believe it’s anyone who travels from their area of residence to another location in order to consume dental services. While it is significantly under-reported, it is considered to be the largest segment of the medical tourism sector.” – Irving Stackpole, President, Stackpole & Associates, Inc., a health tourism marketing consultant.
Pull Factors for Dental Tourism
In the recent years dental tourism has become popular particularly among the Europeans and Americans and the most important pulling factor is the savings associated with the lower cost for dental services like root canals, veneers, fillings, crowns, dental bridges, dental implants, orthodontic care etc., in the destination countries.
These patients choose a trip abroad for a quick-fix smile. Even the lucrative marketing strategies like tourism trip during the duration of stay, best accommodation services, flights and pick up–drop services have been frequently used by the destination countries to lure the patients.
- Travellers either contacts tour operators or surgeon directly. The queries are answered and the schedule is fixed.
- Tour operators arrange all the documents and facilitate the trip.
- Traveller visits the tourist country and undergoes the treatment.
- Post treatment, tour operators organize the trip and provide all the facilities.
- Traveller may need to visit the dentist again as per treatment required.
- Traveller leaves the country and remains in contact with the dentist.
Challenges and Issues
The standard of infection control in the destination countries is an issue for the dental tourist. In the United States, optimal infection control and protection for patients is the main priority for the dentists. But in third world countries the protections like Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations are not important and the patient receiving care do not have any assurance of patient safety or proper infection control.
Another consideration is the lack of appropriate training. In the United States and Europe most of the dental schools provide highly skilled and technically advanced training. But in Eastern Countries the standards and quality of dental training is not consistent and there is no uniform standard.
Scope of dental tourism in Nepal
Nepal is becoming the favored destination for dental tourism because of its progressing advanced infrastructure and technology which is in par with the developed countries like USA. Nepal has some of the best treatment centers. Nepal is also emerging as one of the most favored tourist destinations in the world. Nepal is likely to capitalize on its low cost and welltrained dentists to appeal to the tourists.
Even with airfare, the cost of travelling to Nepal in search of dental treatment can be economical, and the quality of services can be assured better than that found in the western world. In fact, many patients are rather pleased at the prospect of seeking dental care in Nepal while holidaying. The key hubs for dental tourism in Nepal include cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Why Nepal can be dental tourism destination?
Travellers choose to go to foreign country for any kind of dental treatment not purely on the basis of cost. Having surgery abroad is without any doubt a big decision and therefore the quality of care at reasonable cost should be the most important factor to consider. The advantages of opting for dental treatment in Nepal include:
Access to quality dental care at reasonable cost
The quality dental services can be available at 1/10th of the cost of services in western world. For example, cost of root canal treatment in Nepal will range anywhere between 100$ to 200$ whereas in US it is as high as $3000. A dental filling costs between $20 to $40 in Nepal whereas in US it costs between $300 and $400. A dental implant in the US costs around $4,000 and $3,500 in the UK. Prices can go as low as $750 in Nepal. This leads to significant savings on dental care.
It can be due to English speaking doctors and paramedics and there by Nepali paramedics are getting an international exposure.
Less waiting time:
It is possible due to availability of more number of qualified professionals. Travel agents or dentists themselves could fix prior appointments for tourists according to their tour resulting in less waiting time.
Improved sterilization techniques:
The sterilization protocol followed in Nepal is in par with the international standards and thus resulting in carrying out all dental treatments in a microbe free environment.
Low labor cost:
The amount spent on procuring the paramedics and other secretarial staff is less due to readily available manpower.
Nepal’s contemporary attraction for tourism and business. The tourists get attracted to its old civilization. The thirst towards country’s traditional art and craft as well as its cultural and religious diversity could be one of the dragging forces for the tourists.
Expected outcome of dental tourism in Nepal
- Quality dental services resulting in bringing special identity to the nation in the global markets or world.
- Overall growth in commerce and insurance industries which adds up to the country’s economy.
- Employment in tourism industry and health care sector.
How to promote dental tourism in Nepal?
Quality dental care rendered at affordable cost is pivotal in promoting dental tourism in our country as it exposes the efficiency of our dental experts to the international community. Hence, extreme caution should be anticipated in satisfying the foreign tourists. There should be an absolute co-ordination between Nepal Medical Council(NMC), its local bodies and tourism promoting organizations in the country. The central ministry for the foreign affairs should monitor
and guide the dentistry regulating bodies which in turn should co-ordinate with the various tourism corporations or renowned private tour companies that should tie-up with only those local dental care providers who gives a written assurance on delivery of quality care. A provision should be made in the law to prosecute or to initiate stringent action against those providers who does not follow the quality norms or protocol or standards established by the regulating bodies.
To conclude, dental tourism is emerging as a new tool for marketing dental health and cultural beauty in real sense so as to promote dentistry as well as our tourism. The concept of getting treated while getting treat holds good for dental tourism. With an expected increase in the costs of oral healthcare, the scope for dental tourism will widen in the near future. Finally, dental tourists will find a true heaven in Nepal if it is promoted and supported by the government.