Dental Holiday in Chiang Mai. Wait what? SERIOUSLY?!?!

Yes, Yes I am. I knew there was such a thing as medical tourism but I never thought it applied to dentistry too. Well it does. Before we get into it, I’m not a dentist nor expert on these things so my vocabulary/explanations won’t be “official sounding.” I’m just recounting what I’ve experienced in hopes that it will be useful to someone and so it’s only accurate for me because everyone will have different size fillings or difficulty level of extractions etc., which will affect pricing apparently (you’ll see later on). Here’s a little back story, if you’re interested. If not scroll until you see CHIANG MAI.

I haven’t been to the dentist in about 20 years. The last time I went I had 4 wisdom teeth pulled out, even with insurance I remember it was very expensive but can’t recall the exact amount, just that it was so, in my opinion, exorbitant that I never wanted to see another dentist again plus the guy was, well condescending and brutish. So as the years go by, my molars start breaking little by little until only little pointy shards were left, I can feel them when I run my tongue over those areas. I can still eat, so I’m good or so I thought. Now up until the beginning of the year there wasn’t any pain, then my jaw started hurting on the top and bottom just above where my tooth started turning black. Took some Tylenol whenever it really hurt and I’d be ok, everything was near the back, can’t really see so out of sight out of mind. Until the top corners of some of my front teeth started turning black and the previous pain areas were more frequent. Please for your sake, don’t be like me! Here’s the before and after shots of my teeth.

BEFORE AFTER

Last month (April 2019), my brother from a different mother, came to visit me (I was in Singapore and he was on vacation from Seattle in Thailand) and advised that I should go see the dentist for some x-rays and check up, then send him the info and x-rays and he’ll advise (he’s a dentist with his own practice in Seattle). I was somewhat reluctant but the discomfort was getting to be daily so off I went. The dentist I saw at a general clinic looked inside my mouth, poked here, tapped there and did a panoramic x-ray. I was in and out of there in about 20 minutes (not including the waiting). His diagnosis was that I needed 2 root canals, 3 fillings and 5 extractions (all those leftover bits of teeth I mentioned). The two teeth that needed root canals also needed crowns. The price tag on that was, on the low side, a tentative $5,000 SGD because further evaluation and quote from the root canal specialist was needed. Well then! I’m not happy, especially since my bro came back and confirmed I needed at least all that was quoted and that it’s way cheaper than what a dentist in the U.S. would charge. He also doesn’t do root canals and told me the US has high crown prices so it probably won’t be cost effective to fly over to have him fix me up. An example of the cost difference between Singapore and the US, the quote for my 5 extractions would be what ONE extraction would cost in Washington. In addition to the cost, the Singapore treatment plan would span over 6 months!!! Don’t ask me why but apparently the rule is I can only do one procedure per appointment and it takes about a month to make an appointment (this is for partial gov’t subsidized treatments). Had I chose to do my dental work in Singapore under a partial subsidy, my first appointment would be in July. The two other estimated quotes I got in Singapore had slightly higher price tags, avg about $1000 SGD, but treatment duration was an estimated 2 months. This is a nightmare! Ya, my fault, I know.

My bro suggested I look into Dentists in Thailand and he can check them out via his in-laws/friends etc. Since he’s familiar with the standards there, I remember him looking into dentist stuff both in Thailand and Singapore previously. Although he told me to look in the Bangkok area because that’s where his network is, I looked into Chiang Mai as well since it’s the second largest city in Thailand. After much emails and estimates to various places I picked the one that I could afford and that the facilities/building/office looked good to me also taking into account any reviews that I could find. Since my bro couldn’t assist, I had to wing it from here on in. Within a week I was on a flight to….

CHIANG MAI, Thailand has a dental clinic named Dental4U. Why did I chose this clinic amongst the many, many dental clinics in this city? Well, I hadn’t come across any negative reviews (up until that point) other than it was more expensive than some of the “local” dentists and even my bro confirmed that the clinic looked like it catered to foreigners, meaning more expensive. Ok, fine, but it’s still cheaper than Singapore and Bangkok. The good reviews were pretty darn convincing. I even found 2 YouTube videos, one was a lady getting something done and the next was her bringing her friend to get something done, you get to see them doing stuff to him too. I think that says it all. You just don’t recommend your friend to something crappy, right? For me, seeing the venue in a video blog post validates the marketing/advertisement imagery I’ve been seeing. The quote they gave me for the Singaporean treatment plan, with notations that they will perform their own diagnosis as well, was less than $3,000 SGD on the highest quotation values! That’s about 1/2 price of what I would have to pay in Singapore! The best part is they said they can do it all in 2 weeks, INCLUDING the time to make the crowns! So I booked my flight (about $100 SGD) and hotel for 16 days (about $800 SGD) it still comes out cheaper by $1000 SGD AND I get to “work” (I’m a photographer, remember). So with my “vacation” all booked I arrived on a Saturday and had my first appointment the next day. Dental4U opens 7 days a week 9am to 8pm. You might want to consider cost of living expenses but I didn’t much care because the cost of living in Thailand is way lower than Singapore, so I’m getting a discount even eating only in restaurants and only those whose food menu I’m familiar with ie Chinese food, Italian food, franchise fast food etc. and those establishments are way more expensive than the local mom and pop shops or street food (there’s A LOT of those all over the place, it’s pretty cool)! I have too many food allergies to be an adventurous eater, especially since one of my allergies is to peanuts and Thai food is known to use peanut products regularly.

Dental4u in the afternoon

Dental4u at night

Back to Dental4U. After their initial exam including more precise x-rays of the teeth requiring the root canals, the treatment plan now includes: a teeth cleaning session, 3 more fillings AND this one shocked me, 2 crown lengthenings. What the **** is that?! I had to Google it and wait patiently for my bro’s response to this new development (I had asked them to email me the treatment plan and x-rays so I can research and decide). So basically crown lengthening is cutting away some gum to expose more bone so there’s more teeth to glue the crown on (there was too little of my tooth left to secure the new crown). If not the new crown + tooth structure will likely not be able to handle the rigors of chewing. They had booked me a slot on Monday and I figured if they were yanking my chain, I just won’t go then I’d go find a new dentist. So I had to pay $400 THB for the 2 x-rays which comes out to less than $18 SGD, the x-ray I had done in Singapore cost me around $45 SGD. Dental4U emailed me the x-rays even before I finished paying and I sent them over to my bro who confirmed later that I should get it done. Anyways, if I have to get it done then I have to regardless of where I go to get it done and if the prices at one place is higher then everything else will be too, right? Well, that’s my reasoning. So it all comes down to this. With all the new treatments added, the quote on the high side comes out to $79,3000 TBH which is roughly $3400 SGD which is STILL CHEAPER than the original Singaporean quote! So all my treatments were completed May 8, 2019 and my last session wass follow up to check the healing progress of the gum surgery which is on the 10th exactly 14 days! I budgeted a couple days extra, cuz you never right?

Dental4U side view

Dental4u early in the morning

With the costs out of the way, I’ll describe my experience. According to my bro, this was quite a lot of work to fit into 2 weeks coming from a patient comfortability standpoint. With all honesty, I didn’t find it all that bad (despite how I look in the photo below, haha), I do have a pretty high tolerance to pain though. There was only once where it hurt so bad I squirmed and grunted, that was during the follow up root canal procedure on my molar. The only other painful times were the injections into the back cheek area behind the molars and the more painful ones are the injections to the roof of your mouth. I don’t know if it was just me or they were using less numbing gel but it seemed to hurt more each session. By the last session it was more than just a “**** I stubbed my toe!” kinda pain to a more “***!!!*@&#^$% that HURTS” kinda pain. I honestly think it’s me because they’re pretty liberal with the painkillers. I have a whole bunch left over. If you read the reviews there are A LOT of other people who go to Thailand for their dental work and I’ve read many who have had more stuff done or harder stuff done than what I had done, so whatever your case may be, it’s worth the research I think.

My turn next Lotsa Meds

Dental4U has a website that you can checkout at www.chiangmaidental4you.com it looks a bit dated and some links don’t work but it has a comprehensive price list. You can see the head honcho there got one of his degrees from UCLA. On the walls of the clinic are plaques and conference photos of him being a speaker. To me, that looks legit. During my 2 weeks of going in and out for treatments, I’ve seen 4 receptionists, around 6 dental assistants and I’ve had 4 dentists work on me. Dr. Muttaruk (the head honcho) did the crown lengthening, Dr. Kwan did the root canals, Dr. Ice and Dr. Yumi did all the rest (Dr. Yumi did the crown stuff). Anyways, I bring this up because there are photos on the website of all the dentists. The only one I saw/recognized is Dr. Muttaruk. Everyone else I don’t recall seeing, again their website seems dated and most of the time everyone is wearing a surgical style masks making it hard to recognize faces. I have found their pictures in a dental registry/consolidation websites (listed near end of post) though so they are legit dentists. Note: there are a lot of certificates hanging on the walls but I didn’t go and read them to see which is who’s. All I know is my mouth and teeth feel great, better than I can remember! I never once felt mistreated/manhandled. They were all very, very courteous constantly asking if I was ok, do I need a break etc. I bit an assistant pretty hard during one of the x-rays, I heard bite when in actuality she said don’t bite. I felt so bad because I didn’t know until I opened my eyes (had to close them for the x-ray) and saw pain in her eyes and she was shaking her hand. I apologized profusely and she was okay about it and didn’t exact revenge, lol. Then I bit Dr. Yumi when she was fitting the crown. This time I was told to bite but I reacted so fast she didn’t get her finger out of the way in time, I guess. She laughed and apologized for telling me to bite! Everyone is so nice, courteous, friendly and speaks English fluently. The clientele there, I’ve noticed, is predominately non Thai (I’m basing this on skin color and my experience in differentiating Asian races) but I have seen Thai people in the waiting area. Since my hotel was literally a 3 minute walk away I pass the clinic a lot on my photo walkabouts, food runs etc. and I have to say I almost always see someone waiting in the reception area so they are relatively busy which makes me appreciate more the effort they made to accommodate my last minute booking.

The equipment looked new and well maintained as did the interior of the clinic. From what I saw, there was the main dental area which had 3 dental chairs separated by dividers so not much privacy but nobody is gonna be looking around cuz they’re having work done too and nobody can really see your face when they’re walking by as there’s too many hands and faces around your face. Anyways, there is a small x-ray room with an lcd panel in the hallway to facilitate the viewing of the x-ray that was just taken. Across the hallway is a separate room with a 4th dental chair but that one looked different, more stuff around it and to me looked more fancy. I suppose I could have taken some selfies in there but really wasn’t in the mood to but I do regret not taking selfies with any of the Dr.’s though. I’ll be sure to get ’em next time.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend anyone who needs dental work to check out Dental4U in Chiang Mai. As for me, well, I will be going back since there’s more work to be done. Since it’s not urgent and I was told my estimated recovery time is 2 months, I have time to decide what treatment plan I should take…implants or dentures. Something to note, they have a minimum credit card transaction amount which was $500 TBH so if you’re getting some less costly stuff done, bring cash.

Aside from a google search of dentists in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Here are some resources I used when doing my research, two dental consolidation sites: Dentaldepartures.com and medigo.com. If I had chosen to get treatment in Bangkok, it was a toss up between Bangkok Smile Malo Clinic and Truth Dental, but I was leaning more to Truth Dental. Something to note, if you get any x-rays, be sure to ask them to email you a copy of the x-ray as opposed to a printout so you can forward to other clinics for quotes and if you chose another clinic it may save you some costs as they can use that x-ray, if its current.

*** UPDATE: It’s been a week and my teeth feel great, no more tenderness in the gums. I have switched to an electic toothbrush too, I think it helps me a lot.

I will be posting more info on Chiang Mai including the hotel I chose as well as travel guides to the places I’ve managed to check out. Consider following me for updates on this Chiang Mai trip or to find not only my toys and collectibles posts but also my travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans posts, photography related news/reviews posts and the occasional contest entry.

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