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Bali: A dental paradise for tourists

Jakarta Post - May 6, 2024

Yohana Belinda, Jakarta – Dentists are at the forefront of Indonesia's effort to turn Bali into a global hub for health travel, with a growing number of patients from Australia and elsewhere visiting the island for affordable dental treatment.

Wayan Pradnya Dira Rata, one of six dentists at ARC Dental Clinic in Kuta, said the number of tourists seeking dental treatment in Bali had increased significantly over the past few years.

He attributed the influx of tourist-patients to a variety of factors, most importantly, perhaps, that dental treatment in Bali is significantly cheaper than in many of the arrivals' home countries, especially when it comes to some premium or nonessential procedures, including veneers and dental crowns.

A survey conducted by scientific journal NeuroQuantology revealed that dental tourists in Bali prioritised three factors: availability of information, quality of services and cost of treatment. The quality of the service, in the eyes of many respondents, encompasses exceptional dental care, state-of-the-art equipment, accreditation of dental clinics and the presence of skilled dentists.

"They are starting to visit a lot for dental treatment. Typically, they seek an additional perspective, or second opinion. They first consult [dentists] in their own country," Dira told The Jakarta Post on Thursday, adding that most dental treatments in Indonesia cost 50 percent less than in the tourists' home countries.

"They then approach us to match the care [with the results of the consultation in both countries]. Most of them feel comfortable [getting their treatment here], because the treatment recommendations from the dentist they see here are the same. Trust builds, thus, [recommendations] begin by word of mouth," he said, adding that the clinic's increased visibility on search engines over the past few years had helped the clinic's standing in the market.

Run by Australian-owned PT Indo Arc, ARC Dental Clinic is located on Sunset Road in the same building as ARC Anti-aging Beauty Clinic, according to the website.

While the beauty clinic has been running since 2002, the dental clinic opened only in 2015, Dira said, adding that the influx in patient-tourists only really took off in 2017 and continued to increase until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the reopening of borders and the resumption of travel in 2022, the number of patients visiting the clinic had returned to normal levels, Dira said, with Australians remaining the primary customer base.

In 2022, the Bali administration announced its intention to build a health tourism industry. Meanwhile, the central government is reportedly developing the 41-hectare Sanur Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Bali into a medical tourism destination.

Another dentist, Putu Agung Prabadewi, also told the Post that the majority of her patients were from Australia, while her Indonesian patients tended to seek dental care only in cases of urgent need. Prabadewi claims to have noted a significant rise in patient interest, with an increase of at least 50 percent from 2016 to 2024.

Holiday treatment

Both dentists said many of their patients scheduled their appointments well in advance, allowing them to also plan for leisure time on the island afterward.

"Some return [to Bali] again [for a holiday combined with treatment] because they came here [for an initial visit] just for their teeth. Thus, it seems they're looking to get treatment and a vacation at the same time," Prabadewi said on Thursday.

The NeuroQuantology survey also revealed that a majority of the dental tourists visiting Bali opted to stay for a duration of one to two weeks in order to undergo their dental treatment and to holiday.

Meanwhile, Dira observed from his patients' comments that many foreigners coming to Bali for dental care believed doctors in the Asian region exhibited greater patience than doctors in their home countries.

"Because of our [...] culture, maybe we are more receptive to listening, our treatment is not rushed; conversely, if the [doctor in their] country has a large number of patients, then all treatments would be rushed. If quality is our top priority, then we won't hurry; rather, we will listen attentively," Dira said.

Credentials matter

In Bali, dental implants start at Rp 13 million (US$808) Dira said, depending on the diagnosis of the patient. Meanwhile, a quick glance at websites shows that implants in Australia typically cost about four times as much.

However, amid the appeal of affordable treatment, Dira suggested patients also carefully assess the quality of clinics. For a start, patients should verify the legitimacy of the clinic they are considering by checking whether it is listed as a government-approved facility on the Satu Sehat platform provided by Indonesia's Health Ministry.

"Customers today are smart enough to check if this facility and the doctors have been verified in addition to looking at social media. All [the listed] doctors are therefore now well-verified," Dira mentioned.

The NeuroQuantology report stated that foreign visitors seeking dental care in Bali usually first turned to relatives and friends for recommendations, then online for information concerning dental clinics.

Source: https://asianews.network/bali-a-dental-paradise-for-tourists