One-hundred-thousand foreign dental tourists, nearly US$150 million of revenue per year – and rising. There’s no denying it: dental tourism is what you would have to call a trend in Vietnam. However, considering the 10 million international visitors the country welcomed in 2016, and the much more impressive numbers of its world-leading neighbour Thailand earning a staggering US$5 billion from medical tourism each year, one thing is for sure: there’s room to grow.
Especially knowing that Vietnam has strong arguments for travellers to choose the country over its competitors: skilled doctors, the latest technology and, most importantly, as Dr. Quynh Nhu Do from Elite Dental Group states, “the cost for dental treatments is about 20 to 30 percent cheaper than in Thailand.”
Image source: Elite Dental
Not to mention Western countries... Hence the massive influx from nearby nations such as Australia and New Zealand, Dr. Nhu explains. You catch a direct flight, get your teeth done, save more than half of the typical cost, “and with the rest of the money you travel around Vietnam.”
One might wonder how dentistry manages to be so cheap here. For once, lagging behind is actually an asset. Thailand got dental tourism going decades ago. Its main attraction back then? The low cost. Soon the customers came, whole clinics decided to cater to foreigners and the prices saw a strong rise. In Vietnam this hasn’t happened yet. “That helps us to be competitive,” Dr. Nhu adds.
However, not everybody embraces this development. Notably, foreign dentists warn their patients against going to “low-cost countries” for their dental treatment. It goes without saying: this judgment is biased.
Dr Adrian Sinanan from Starlight Dental has worked in the UK and Australia. He knows those prejudices all too well. “When it comes to healthcare, negative feelings go around like a wildfire. If a country gets a bad reputation, it’s all over.”
Image source: Starlight Dental
Hence what a dental tourism destination needs is an impeccable reputation as a centre of excellence. “That’s what Thailand made its name on. Malaysia has it for medical procedures. And that’s what Vietnam needs to consolidate,” Dr Sinanan says. Collaboration is the way to go, not competition: making sure clinics in Vietnam reach the highest standards across the board and work together with dentists abroad to ensure efficient aftercare. Credibility is key.
Getting Vietnam Google-Ready
In this spirit, more and more clinics are pushing to create an association in a joint effort to set common standards and promote Vietnam as a dental tourism destination. In Dr Sinanan’s eyes, one major goal is: “When people search for ‘Dental Tourism Asia’ online, Vietnam should come first in the Google listing.” Simply put, when people think dental tourism, Vietnam should be the first country to come to mind.
Image source: Elite Dental
But regardless of all efforts to spread the word, he points out what it really comes down to: “At the end of the day, all you want is provide the best possible service to domestic and international patients and if people happen to come to your clinic from far, that is great news. Whether it’s called dental tourism – or just good dentistry.”