Health Tourism in Thailand: Review of Asavanant Dental Clinic and the Digestive Health Clinic
In 2007, I wrote of my first major experience about health checks (plus a heart MRI) in Thailand. This article was picked up by Bloomberg News, some of which was used along with an interview within an article on health services in Japan. In fact, they misquoted me a bit, but that’s OK. This time, I’m writing about my experience in getting dental work done, and also getting a gastrointestinal endoscopy. A “stomach cam.” I did both over the New Year’s break holiday in Bangkok. Here’s the low down.
Decent Dental Work
About 6 years ago, I broke a crown that I have on my front tooth eating some Thai salad on Khao san Road in Bangkok. I had it redone in Bangkok, but they got the color matching wrong. It looked a bit dark. Although I could have had it fixed for free the next visit, I’m basically scared shitless about dentists, and it felt fine, so I just left it.
Then a Thai friend stopped over in Japan for work last year. Not one to mince words, she said, “What’s wrong with your tooth? It looks awful. It looks like a dead tooth.” Ouch. lol So I took her “advice” and decided to get it fixed over the break. I’m glad I did.
Asavanant Dental Clinic
I asked around to my friends in Thailand for the best clinic available. My in-the-know friends suggested Asavanant Clinic on Soi Thong Lo (Sukhumvit, Soi 58, BTS Thong Lo).
For a place located on a busy street corner, it’s actually tough to find. It has entrances on either side of the gold shop right on the corner of the soi.
Doing the crown cost me 24,000 Baht, which was about $800 at the time. Half the price of what the same level of treatment would have cost me in Japan, but with no waiting time, and no need for the multiple needless trips that dentists here seem to insist on. Both dentists I had — the nice male Thai doctor and the young super attractive female doctor — were amazing. They explained every step in English and they did everything by the book to make sure things got done perfectly.
Wow. How little did I know. I just downloaded the photo of the dental staff (see below) and my dentist was none other than Dr. Asavanant himself. No wonder he was so amazing! And since his name is on the side of the clinic, you should have no problem requesting him if you need really delicate, high-end work done.
The total procedure took three visits over two days. On the first day, they cleaned my teeth, took photos, had the dental ceramic specialist come up and look at me for a bit, then they took off the old crown, cleaned up the tooth, took impressions and put on a temporary crown. In fact, the temporary crown was about as perfect as most dentists get with a final crown, so I was feeling encouraged. They told me to come back in a week, and to avoid biting sticky stuff with my front teeth. No problems there, since beer doesn’t require biting or chewing.
On the next visit, they showed me the tooth and fitted it. It was perfect. Or so I thought. But the dentist thought it could be better. He called up the ceramic artist guy. He showed up with a color palate and started messing with stains to make it even more identical to the tooth beside it. I was well impressed. “And build up the left a bit to close up that small gap,” instructed the dentist. The ceramic pro said it would take an hour and left. The dentist turn to me and said, “Take three hours just in case, enjoy your lunch, and I’ll see you at 2PM.” Roger that!
Double thumbs up. One for location and facilities. One for amazing technical skill and expertise at a decent price.
The final product was about as professional as anybody could do. It was a painless procedure. The clinic is world class. I felt confident about the entire procedure. Everybody was as nice and friendly, yet reassuringly professional as could be. It’s convenient to get to. And the tooth just looks good, who’s kidding who. Looking forward to seeing my ex again to wow her with my brilliant smile. No more Mr. Black Tooth! Definitely worth every baht.
Note that the next level places charge about 17,000 baht for the same procedure. And they are probably also excellent, as most are in Thailand. But if you want to be SURE that you’re getting the best service, technology and technical ability available, be sure to visit Asavanant.
I went back for a check up and cleaning in August at Asavanant. Just as professional as before. No fuss, no muss. Got it done fast and for just over 1000Baht. Bonus!
Not-So-Decent Digestive Diagnostics
The other thing I had done in Bangkok was a gastric endoscopy. This is actually a fairly straightforward procedure where they numb your throat to prevent the gag-reflex, snake a tube with a camera at the end down your stomach, snoop around and take photos, pop it just into your small intestine for good measure, take a stomach lining swab to test for H.Pylori bacteria (known to cause ulcers) and that’s it. There is no better test for the health of your stomach vis-à-vis cancer, polyps, ulcers and other nasty stuff than an endoscopy. If you are 45 and you have yet to have one done, get your ass to a doctor. Just maybe not this one.
The Digestive Health Clinic:
The clinic I went to is the new Bangkok Mediplex building. Get off the BTS at Ekkamai and you’ll see it.
It’s a very cool building, especially at night when it’s lit up. It’s still mostly empty, but it’s filling up with clinics for either health or beauty. And, if you need WiFi or to buy a monthly TRUE WiFi hotspot card (150 baht for a month of unlimited usage. Wooohooo), there’s a TRUE coffee shop in the basement level.
I looked in here to see if a) they had a place I could do an endoscopy and b) if it was cheaper than Bumrungrad or the other boutique hospitals that used to be cheap, but now are actually more expensive than Japan (believe it or not). They did. And it was. The Digestive Health Clinic charged only 6000 baht for the procedure. About half the price or less of most other places. Plus, I was living in Ekkamai, so it was convenient, and as a new place, I knew I wouldn’t have to wait. Or so I thought.
Fast forward to my appointment day. As instructed, I didn’t eat anything all day. My appointment was for 3PM. I was supposed to be out the door again within 30 minutes. Almost an hour later, I was still there waiting for the doctor, who was late. The nurse said she was stuck in traffic. As if that is an appropriate excuse for a doctor who lives in BKK, where traffic jams are normal. I was getting worried.
Finally the doctor arrived. Only an hour late. Nice. Dr. Mahachai is a middle-aged woman who arrived without so much as an attempt at an apology for having me sitting there stewing and basically dying of starvation. I just didn’t feel comfortable at all the entire procedure. It just didn’t feel like a doctor performing a medical procedure. It felt a bit ad-hoc.
When I started doing the gag thing (probably because the numbing was not done completely, combined with me being fairly uptight at that time), she just kind of rubbed my nose… a bit like you might do to a horse or something. But it worked. lol Seriously, it calmed me right down. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it got me though an otherwise unpleasant procedure in one piece. In fact, that was the part of the procedure I remember the best. Go figure.
Once I was done, I also got a $30 surprise of some unnecessary medication added to my bill, which I refused. Most doctors in Thailand do this, so watch out. They will set you up with a medication that you can buy on your own at the local Boots Drug Store for $2 and they will charge you $40 for it. So just find out what the medicine is for, get the name if they will give it to you, and you can save a fortune. After all, you’re paying for the procedure, not for drug mark-ups.
One thumbs up for price and nose rubbing.
One thumbs down for lack of professionalism being late and just a bit…I don’t know. Just bad feng shui.
For the record, she wasn’t rough or unkind. In fact, by the end of the procedure I was used to her demeanor. Now that I think of it, I guess I might even say it was too personal. Almost motherly. Maybe that’s what caught me off guard. Anyway, the nurses were great. Super helpful in getting my appointment lined up and getting me ready (to wait for an hour) when I arrived. They also got my H.Pylori results back to me as a scan the next day, which was impressive.
Perhaps this was just one person’s not-ideal experience in a country where boutique medical experience is usually outstanding. But to me, the Digestive Health Clinic is a place where I felt you get what you pay for. If you want to save a bit of money and enjoy having your nose rubbed, I would say it’s OK for the stomach cam. Just expect to wait a spell and gag a lot. I would not, however, recommend it for the camera that goes in from the exit hole, as a colonoscopy is actually a somewhat risky procedure if done wrong. I am not quite ready to trust this clinic with that. It’s not worth the risk.
Oh, and for the record, my stomach was completely clear and no H. Pylori. I live to complain another day!
Have you had any health tourism experiences in Thailand or elsewhere in Asia? If so, please leave a comment with how it went for you and any recommendations you might have. Links to other blogs on this topic are hugely welcome!!!