“Tooth decay is Thailand’s silent epidemic. You won’t believe me if I told you how many tooth extraction surgeries I had to perform this week,” my dentist told me as he picked up an electric toothbrush to clean my teeth.
To be honest, I’m not so surprised by what he said, given how sweet food and drinks can be in Thailand. Dental problems can be extremely expensive, especially because they are often left untreated until far too late.
But do you really need dental insurance in Thailand? In this blog, I’ll answer this question in full, going through the different dental care options in Thailand and whether you can trust them.
Where can you find dental care services in Thailand?
I’ve been going to bi-annual dental checkups in Thailand for the past few years, and I’ve talked to clients with dental problems countless times. Overall, there are four main types of dental care services in Thailand:
1) Dental centers located in private hospitals
2) Brand-name dental clinics
3) Small private-owned dental clinics
4) Dental schools
Dental centers located in private hospitals
Most major hospitals in Thailand will have a dental center. In particular, leading private hospitals in Thailand will offer high-quality dental services that are integrated as part of their holistic healthcare services.
However, as general hospitals are not specialized in dental treatment, they may lack specialist dentists. This means that if you have a complicated dental issue, you may have to wait days or weeks before being able to see a dental specialist at your hospital.
Brand-name dental clinics
Brand-name dental clinics are well-established clinics that have expanded their brand across Bangkok and the rest of Thailand. They are located in the city center and offer specialized dental services that are catered towards expats.
Three of these well-known clinics include: Bangkok Smile Dental Clinic, Truth Dental Clinic and Thantakit International Dental Center.
Small private-owned dental clinics
Small private-owned dental clinics can be found all over Thailand. In the suburbs or smaller cities, they are often found on the road-side as a self-contained operating unit. In bigger cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket, these local clinics are often located in lower-tiered shopping malls.
They offer an affordable alternative to dental centers in private hospitals and branded dental clinics, but the quality of their services can often fall short, especially when it comes to complicated dental procedures.
For this reason, small private-owned dental clinics are not a recommended option for expats.
Dental schools are a great option for anyone who wants high-quality dental services for the fraction of the cost of private clinics. However, there’s a catch. The dental services at leading dental schools in Thailand are often packed with queues of patients. You’ll need to be prepared for excruciatingly long waiting times at these schools.
Two of Thailand’s leading dental schools are: Chulalongkorn University Dental School and Mahidol University Dental School
How much does dental care in Thailand cost?
Getting world-class dental treatment in Thailand isn’t cheap. However, it’s still an affordable option when compared to dental clinics in other Western countries.
This is why dental tourism makes up a significant part of Thailand’s healthcare tourism industry. With many foreign visitors coming to the Kingdom just to get their teeth checked, there’s no doubt that you can find high-quality dental treatment in Thailand.
The bottom line: Do you need dental insurance in Thailand?
So do you really need dental insurance in Thailand? Ultimately, The answer to this question will depend on how much you’re willing to pay out-of-pocket for each costly dental visit, how confident you are in your teeth-brushing skills, and how teeth-friendly your daily diet is.
If you are someone who brushes your teeth flawlessly, avoids carbonated and sugary drinks completely, and you’ve a lot of money to spare for dental checkups and unforeseen dental complications, then perhaps you might think twice about getting dental insurance.
However, if like me, you’d like a bottle of Pepsi every now and again, and wouldn’t mind being financially secured if an unfortunate dental complication occurs, then yes, you should definitely get dental insurance.
How do you find the best dental insurance plan in Thailand?
Insurance companies can often offer dental insurance plans that are simply not worth their value. So here are four things you need to consider when looking for the right dental insurance plan for you: Waiting periods, orthodontics coverage, cosmetic dental treatments coverage and direct billing.
Dental benefits often come with a 6 to 12 months waiting period. This means that until this period passes, you won’t be able to file claims for dental treatments. For this reason, it’s important to compare different dental plans so that you can settle on dental benefits with an acceptable waiting period.
Orthodontic treatment or dental braces are not covered by some insurers. If they are covered, dental insurance policies will impose a co-payment condition, meaning that insurers won’t cover for the entire treatment themselves. In most cases, the lower the co-payment, the higher your premiums will be.
Hence, you should look through the different dental plans to find the right balance between co-payments and premiums in dental insurance plans.
Cosmetic dental treatments coverage
Most dental insurance plans will only cover dental procedures that are considered medically necessary. This means that most dental insurance plans will not cover cosmetic dental treatments like teeth whitening and teeth reshaping. However, every dental insurance plan is different, so make sure you check the details of your plan carefully.
Depending on your insurer and the type of plan you’ve taken out, you may not have access to direct billing when visiting the majority of dental clinics in Thailand. This is because your insurer may not have made prior arrangements with various local clinics, and your dental insurance plan may function on a “pay now and claim later” basis.
This makes the claims process unnecessarily complicated. Hence, check carefully to see whether your dental plan allows direct billing and if so, check which dental hospital or clinic is within your insurer’s network.
Still not sure? If you’re still confused as to whether you should get dental insurance, where to get one, and what you should look for, feel free to ask me any questions. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org