Kerala has long considered ayurveda, backwaters and culture (ABC) as its USP.Dental specialists in the state now want to add letter D to it in an attempt to tap the potential of dental tourism. A group of dental surgeons have set up a `Dental Holiday Knowledge Centre’ in Fort Kochi, to promote the concept among tourists.
India, Singapore and Thailand account for 90% of the medical tourism in Asia. “India ranks far below Thailand in dental tourism even though cities like Kochi have the necessary infrastructure to provide exceptional dental care at much cheaper rates,” said Dr Seby Varghese, founder of Dentela Foundation and secretary of Indian Dental Association, Nedumbassery. According to the research undertaken by Sindhu Joseph, an assistant professor with Kannur University , who has specialised in tourism management, 24.5% of the total medical tourists visiting Kerala can be credited to dental tourism. “Around 40% of all medical tourists visiting Kerala also look for leisure. As of now, the leading source of information regarding dental service in the international market is word of mouth. If you exclude NRIs the figure is 24.5%,” said Sindhu.
“I came to India specifically to see my daughter, who was staying in Fort Kochi.She has had previous experience with Dr Seby Varghese. I need some work done on my front teeth so I took her word for it and visited his office”, said Deborah Moe, a tourist who visited Kochi from the US this year.
Dr Seby says dental tourism has not been given an adequate platform to promote itself. “Most promotional opportunities like travel mart are dominated by large medical corporations who only promote themselves,” said Dr Seby .
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He said dental tourism should be promoted like ayurveda. “In Thailand, dental tourism is uniquely promoted by the government. It has high online visibility and significant promotional presence in road shows and conventions. In Kochi, we have one of Asia’s leading dental lab facilities, which is catering not just to the market demands in Kochi but to foreign nations as well. We have the infrastructure, all we need is the promotion,” said Dr Seby .
Doctors say dental implants, tooth alignment and smile makeovers are the most frequently requested procedures. Getting dental implants done in Thailand can cost up to Rs 1 lakh, while the same can be done in Kochi for just Rs 55,000.
“The work I had done on my teeth was exceptional,” said Deborah.
The knowledge centre in Fort Kochi, which is set to open in October, will only admit clinics and centres that are approved by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH). “Ayurveda marred its reputation due to malpractices by a few institutions, we don’t want the same to happen to the dental health industry ,” said Dr Seby.