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Dental Tourism! Thailand for Affordable Root Canals

“Yaaaay!” I typed to Paul, “You’re gonna have the best root canal ever!!!!”

Several weeks ago, my friend Paul was informed by his Manhattan dentist that he needs three root canals, seven crowns, and “various other stuff”. Total projected cost: over TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.

A Thai dentist pamphlet.
A Thai dentist pamphlet.

Although Paul is a semi-famous politician, like most of us he does not have ten thousand dollars to fling towards one square inch of artificial tooth polymers. Thus, our brave hero got to thinking… how would someone endorsed by the New York Times get out of this pickle?

And then it hit him: Dental Tourism.

My dentist visit in Thailand.
My dentist visit in Thailand.

People travel for for oh so many reasons: from cultural exploration, to soul searching, to career expansion, to more racy tourism. Many of these reasons are enhanced by favorable exchange rates. In the case of “romantic” tourism, a middle class, ogre-ishly ugly man from Munich can become a wildly rich man whose looks can be overlooked once in Phnom Penh.

But we are not talking of that now — we are talking of dentistry.

A dentist office in Thailand.
A dentist office in Thailand.

Paul began to dig around online, and found hundreds upon hundreds of well-reviewed Thai dentists who could do his tooth work for a fraction of the price quoted at home.

Meanwhile, on this side of the world, I began asking around and realized that about half of the expats living in my neighborhood of Chiang Mai are here to see Thai dentists!

Thai massage and more on offer.
Thai massage and more on offer.

Many of these dental tourists have been here for months, getting procedure after procedure completed. All of them seem very content with the services they have received, and all of their smiles look straight and bright. Most of these folks also take advantage of classes, hikes, sightseeing, or beach fun while here in Thailand. Might as well get the most out of that expensive flight, right?

Taking a cue from all these smiley champs, today I went in to one of the many dentists on the tourist strip. For fifteen dollars, I got an enjoyable and effective cleaning, along with some very kind compliments about my oral hygiene.

I also snapped some dental price list photos for your perusal (pictured to the right, layered over a massage menu, as apparently every type of business in Thailand has a massage parlor attached!).

A dental tourism pamphlet in Thailand.
A dental tourism pamphlet in Thailand.

As a reference, one U.S. dollar is roughly 33 Thai Baht, meaning that the 1,500-6,000 Baht root canal converts to just $45 to $180. A bargain!

“Wanna know the difference between Thai Massages and root canals?” asked Paul as he came online to book his flight to Bangkok.

“Oh no,” I typed, “This is going to be bad.”

I imagine Paul was giggling heartily as he entered: “Unlike Thai massages, ALL root canals have happy endings… ’cause you’re really happy when they end!”

Har, har, har. Or rather: BOO! HISS!

But corny jokes aside, an economical, professional dental bargain is a happy thing indeed. Hooray for Dental Tourism!


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Sean Harris

Tuesday 21st of August 2012

like your blog,but then i love SE Asia so it kinda makes sense... At this stage I am planning a 10 weeks holiday in Hue,VN (visiting family & enlarging my belly!),in Feb-May 2013 & am attempting to find a good dentist in Hue. If you've heard of any or know of any good websites that may help it'd be hugely appreciated. Searching myself i'm struggling as i dont speak Tieng Viet & most dentists there don't seem to advertise in the net.


Tuesday 21st of August 2012

Sean, Exciting plans! I don't know any specific dentists to recommend in SE Asia but I'd suggest a combination of Googling, and then (once you pick a few possible places), asking the dentist to connect you with several people who had work done there for honest references. That tactic is very effective. Best of luck and keep us posted!


Saturday 4th of December 2010

I've been looking back over your posts from SE Asia in planning my trip for next year--this one is a surprise as yesterday I had a root canal (and still have a sore mouth today). I was in Costa Rica a month ago and in the hotel where we spent the last night before flying home, there were a number of people there doing just that, getting dental work done ($18000 worth of US dental--if I needed that much dental work, I'd shot myself!--for only $2,000 in Costa Rica).


Saturday 4th of December 2010

Sage, So honored you're using my blog as a resource for your trip planning. That was my intention! Here's hoping neither of us ever needs $18,000 of dental work... Keep your comments coming, and let me know if you have specific questions that aren't answered in the 400 posts!

Imported Blogger Comments

Thursday 27th of May 2010

Louisa said... I didn't know Thailand was such a dental hotspot in particular. But yeah, people do that with all kinds of medical procedures in Asia, India, probably all over. I'd be a little nervous to do it but I sure can't afford anything here so I totally understand why people go. In any case, glad to hear you're keeping your teeth tartar-free even on the road!

December 4, 2009 1:00 AM

Kmo said... I'm a dental hygiene freak; I love going to the dentist WAY more than going to the doctor. When I start my travels, I'll make sure I hit up Thailand so I can get my teeth cleaned. And ya know, check out the country. That'd be pretty cool, too, right? ;)

Also? That "prostitution/dentistry" line= Best Line Ever Written in a Blog!

December 4, 2009 4:40 AM

Stop Having a Boring Life Rob said... Awesome, I started in Bangkok and worked south, currently in Singapore then Bali, been meaning to hit up Chang Mai and now I have a reason. I'm curious how much teeth whitening would be. If it's $45-$180 for a root canal, can only imagine what kind of a deal whitening would be. Also heard that it's much cheaper then Bangkok.

Cool blog, good luck, doing something similar :D

December 6, 2009 5:03 AM

Lillie M. said... Thanks for all your comments! Keep 'em coming! :)

SHBL: Click on the photo of the "menu", above to zoom in and see the prices for all the procedures you could want (including whitening). You can also Google it all, but the bottom line is: it's cheap!

- Lillie

December 6, 2009 5:19 AM

Paul Newell said... Thanks, Lillie. Just got my ticket. Root Canals, here I come!

December 6, 2009 6:46 AM

Anonymous said... Check out for dental tourism in Peru, more closer from North America, I had a full mouth reconstruction done and I am very pleased with the results. I was impressed with the personal service and excellent value I received.

December 7, 2009 11:55 PM

Dave said... Wow, I had no idea! I wonder if this applies for other types of medicine too...

December 13, 2009 7:11 AM

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