By John Stapleton

Australia’s major dental associations have all issued dire warnings about the dangers of travelling to Asia in an attempt to save money on dental work.

The Australian Dental Association has produced a number of fact sheets about dental tourism, warning of potential complications, poor training and lack of recourse if things go wrong.

There are horror stories which pop up on traveller websites or in the media. On TripAdvisor one Sydney woman tells of going to a dentist in Bali to replace veneers, only to discover when she got out of the chair that 80% of the teeth in question had been drilled away for no reason. “Please really really really think is it worth it,” she implores. “For me it was a mistake and it has cost me thousands.”

But whatever the horror stories, some of us, driven by pain, desperation or financial necessity, make the trip anyway.

It is here, at the top of the story, this reporter has to declare a bias.

I travelled to Vietnam specifically for dental work. To be frank, like many of my fellow Australians I was largely driven by cost.

L-R, Ian Purdie, Dr Bay Phan, Kevin Ovy and John Stapleton.

Like all too many people, I put off fixing my teeth until the situation had become so bad it was impacting on my health, I was too embarrassed to smile and my self-esteem was going down the gurgler. For a long time I had young children to care for and couldn’t afford the expense. Then, stupidly, I just didn’t want to front up to the problem. Finally I was forced into action.

I couldn’t be happier with the results. And I saved tens of thousands of dollars.

Australians spend more than $10 billion a year on dental services.

But many more avoid going to the dentist because of cost, with an estimated 10,000 Australians travelling overseas for dental work each year.

One recent study showed almost 40% of Australians earning less than $75,000 per annum cannot afford to see a dentist.

With a high level of professionalism and significantly cheaper costs, this is a massive potential industry for Vietnam.

Dr Bay’s surgery team

The confluence of state of the art technology, internationally trained, highly professional dentists and significantly lower prices are driving the growth.

In a recent piece local magazine Saigoneer reports that nearly 100,000 international tourists visited Vietnam last year for dental procedures, bringing in over US$150 million.

Within five years, the number of customers coming for crowns, veneers, implants and cleaning from Australia, Europe, North America and elsewhere in Asia is expected to reach 250,000 as the government focuses their attention on the industry.

Vietnam Dental Tourism is at the center of this trend, connecting patients with clinics and ensuring top quality treatment.

The price of various dental procedures in Vietnam versus other locations in the world is staggering. A dental implant that would cost US$4,000 in the States and US$1,500 in Thailand for example, costs only US$1,000 in Saigon. Similarly, a crown procedure in Vietnam costs less than 15% of what it does in America and slightly more than half of that in Thailand thanks to cheaper labor costs, facilities and the support of advanced dental technology.

Dr Bay Phan Thi, owner of My Nha Dental Clinic in Ho Chi Minh City is a member of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI) and an International Team of Implantology (ITI), has studied at New York University, Bern University in Switzerland and the Queen Mary Hospital in London amongst others.

She told A Sense of Place Magazine that in the past the main destinations for dental tourism were Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, but Vietnam is now coming into its own.

Vietnam has a number of advantages over other destinations. It does not have the poor safety record for tourists of countries like Thailand, and despite the Vietnam War, the local population is welcoming.

“The price is lower, which for many people is the single biggest factor. The quality of dental work is also higher than in neighbouring countries.”Nha Khoa Mỹ Nha – Tạo Cảm Xúc Cho Nụ Cười
Luôn quan tâm và thấu hiểu những nhu cầu về sức khỏe và thâm mỹ Nha khoa Mỹ Nha hướng tới một trung tâm nha khoa hiện…

Dr Tran Hung Lam, a mentor with the International Team of Implantology, said at his clinic 70% of the foreigners attending came from Australia or New Zealand.

“They come here only for dental treatment, mostly implant surgery,” he said. “The most important factor is the cost. After that, the quality of treatment is of a high international standard.”

He said his Australian customers complained not only about the costs at home, but that it could be difficult to get an appointment and treatment schedules were long. In contrast extensive work could be done in Vietnam in a short time thanks to the profession’s rapid adoption of state of the art technologies.

Dr Vo Van Tu Hien, President of Ho Chi Minh City Society of Dental Implantology, said Vietnam was becoming the centre for implant surgery in Asia. His office sees more Australians than any other nationality.

“The reason is the cost for dental work in Australia is too high and many patients from Australia tell me it takes a long time and many appointments for treatment. That is the reason, the high cost and the time.

President of the Australian Dental Association Dr Rick Olive said very few countries had dentists as highly trained as those in Australia, and the patient needed to have confidence in those doing the work, including knowing where the dentist was trained.

“Many dental procedures are invasive and some procedures performed cannot be undone,” he said. “Although lower fees may be enticing, you need to consider at what cost it is to your teeth and health.”

But when the cost is astronomical and can take years to pay off, the technology sometimes antiquated, wait times long and staff of varying degrees of helpfulness, the Australian price is proving just too high for many people in urgent need of good dental care.

Far from being rivals, Dr Hien envisages a time when clinics in Vietnam and Australia will work together.

“Dentists in Australia could send their patients for the implant surgery, and then do the follow-up,” he said. “That is the best way. And the patient benefits from a far lower price.”


The author John Stapleton is friends with Dr Bay Phan Thi, owner of My Nha Dental Clinic in Ho Chi Minh City.

Here is a list of a number of major clinics in Vietnam:Dentists Vietnam * Compare Prices & Check Reviews
Tourists visit Vietnam for its natural beauty, delicious cuisine, its friendly people and historic monuments that…