Ahhhh… The life of a long-term traveller. Explore, eat, relax, sleep, repeat. Until you need to do something routine (have you read how hard it was for me to travel by bus in Panama City?!)
I’m on a six month trip and one of the things you should do every six months is visit the dentist. Luckily I had no problems that needed investigating; I was just due for a teeth cleaning. But sometimes taking care of practicalities whilst travelling can be difficult.
Not so with visiting the dentist in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I had heard dental practice in Thailand was at a very high level, and with very good prices. Upon arrival in Chiang Mai, I checked with the expat community (through the very helpful “I (heart) Chiang Mai” Facebook group) for dentist recommendations.
There were a number, with almost everyone being very satisfied with whatever treatment they had needed. The majority of stellar recommendations were for one dentist in particular:
Dr Suttipong Soontaracharn
Mukmai Dental Clinic
11/3-4 Jaban Rd (behind Three Kings Monument)
T. Sripoon, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200
Open Mon-Sat 9am – 8pm
Phone: 053 416 328
GPS: 18° 47′ 23.15″ N, 98° 59′ 8.77″ E (18.78977, 98.98577)
People said he spoke excellent English, had a modern office, did great work, and encouraged less — rather than more — dental work. Several westerners had gone to him for a second opinion after another dentist had told them they needed something, and he had disagreed, saying it was unnecessary or recommended a more minor (and less expensive) intervention. Returning home, travellers’ home dentists agreed with his approach.
So, I made an appointment. I had to wait two weeks because of Christmas, but I got the impression that if it had been urgent or if I had been leaving Chiang Mai they would have fit me in.
So, how did it compare to a checkup and cleaning in Canada?
The office had, to my untrained eye, the same equipment as my dentist’s at home (add a few beautiful Thai decorations and subtract the television; the Muzak was the same). The whole procedure was done by the dentist, rather than the majority by the dental hygienist. It took about 30 minutes, and at home it takes about 45.
I felt like the in-between teeth scraping was much more thorough than I have had in Canada. The dentist did not floss my teeth afterwards, like my hygienist does. The polishing part of the procedure was the type phased out several years ago in Canada – rather than the spraying the abrasive on to my teeth (which I hate, as I feel like I’m going to choke and that I breathe it in through my nose), it was the rotary polisher directly on each tooth. And rather than wearing the plastic glasses to protect my eyes from any flying bits, the dental assistant just put a Kleenex over my eyes.
Missing was the fluoride treatment – which I would have liked to have, since the bottled water I’ve been drinking for months is rarely fluoridated. But that also meant I didn’t have to wait a half hour to eat or drink anything and could go directly to a café and order my afternoon iced latte.
And the biggest difference? The price was 800 Baht, $25.81 Canadian ($24.24 US) at today’s rates.
So, if in Southeast Asia, I would strongly recommend coming to Chiang Mai and to Dr. Suttipong Soontaracharn for your dental needs. It is one of the few practicalities on the road that is not only cheaper than at home, but just as easy.