Dental Tourism Making Inroads in Kerala

Kochi: When we discuss Medical Value Tourism in Kerala, the focus is almost always on tertiary and quaternary care hospitals set up in the past five years which offer world-class healthcare. However, at least for a decade now, medical value travellers have been flocking to Kerala especially from the Middle East and Indian Ocean nations for high quality dental care.

In Kochi, one of the pioneering dental care establishments has been Pramod Dental & Oro-Maxillofacial Clinic set up more than 60 years ago by Dr. K S Pillai. Now renamed as The, the clinic is an ISO9001:2008-certified advanced facility offering complete dento-facial solutions and run by his son Dr. Prashant Pillai, an Oro-Maxillofacial Surgeon and Director. Patients from the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the Gulf countries visit the clinic for addressing their dental needs like implants, smile design, sleep dentistry, maxillofacial surgery, root canal surgery, laser dentistry, cosmetic facial surgery, geriatric dentistry and cosmetic dentistry.

Dental tourism in Kerala is witnessing a robust growth of about 25 per cent YoY as per government statistics. Currently, scores of foreign patients visit the State annually for undergoing various dental procedures.

“Travellers undergoing dental treatment in Kerala definitely benefit from lower costs compared to developed nations. And they also enjoy the advantage of having easy access to tourist destinations in between the treatment schedules,’’ says Dr. Pillai who is a Clinical Master of ‘Immediate Loading’ Implantology from the International Implant Foundation, Germany.

Losing teeth during old age is a process that can rarely be avoided. In fact, tooth loss does not occur as a result of ageing, but because of various other conditions such as dental decay and/or gum diseases. If left untreated, these conditions will certainly lead to loss of teeth in addition to impacting the overall health of individuals. Therefore, the most important aspect of dental care is to maintain excellent oral health and hygiene.

Dentures, also known as ‘flippers’, are removable false teeth made for replacing teeth which have been lost. Dentures can be complete or partial, based on the number of teeth they replace. Dentures have helped millions of people suffering from loss of teeth and were the only alternative available for replacing lost teeth for several decades.

However, dentures have several limitations. “Modern technology has helped make dentures more patient-friendly. However, many people with removable dentures are unhappy as wobbly dentures cause pain. They experience difficulty in chewing food (less than half the efficiency with natural teeth). As a result, food intake remains restricted, affecting the health of the person. Reduced taste and temperature sensations, bad breath, speech difficulties and periodic replacement are some of the other problems faced by those who use dentures,” Dr. Pillai informs.

The only significant advantage that dentures have over fixed teeth solutions is that they are less expensive. However, even the best quality removable dentures, fabricated utilising the latest advancements in technology, cannot offer the comfort of fixed teeth. And the good news is that latest implant technology available today has drastically brought down the cost and does not involve too many tedious and painful procedures stretching over months.

No Teeth to Fixed Teeth in 72 hours

Dental implants are a great way to replace missing teeth and they offer a permanent alternative to removable (partial or complete) dentures. Dental implants have artificial roots (usually titanium) that are surgically fixed onto the upper or lower jaw bone by the dental implantologist. Teeth which are attached to these implants can be made very natural looking. Dental implants are strong and durable and will last many years.

Explains Dr. Pillai, “Traditional implants, also known as conventional implants, most often need a minimum wait period of three months to fix the tooth crown after the implant(s) had been placed.’’

The introduction of Strategic Implantology by Prof. Stefan Ihde (Germany) has revolutionised the field of implantology by helping provide fixed teeth to patients within three days of the implant procedure. The advantage of the Strategic Implantology techniques is that they work very well even in situations where there is little or even no bone available for implantation. The techniques are a boon to smokers and diabetic patients, too, as these implants are uniquely designed to resist the unfavorable sequence of events which are likely to occur in such patients.

Efforts by the State Government and modern healthcare communities to promote Kerala as a Medical Value Tourism destination, has begun to yield results. Thousands of overseas patients visit Kerala every year for undergoing various procedures, including dental. 

What documents are required initially to evaluate a patient for implants?

Ortho Pantomogram (OPG) Xray and specialized CT imaging help in assessment of the bone situation of the jaws, before implant surgery.

How painful is the procedure?

Generally, dental implant procedures are carried out on local anesthesia just as in the case of tooth extraction and the procedures are painless. General anesthesia is given to apprehensive patients to ensure the procedure is hassle-free.

How long does it take?

The advanced ‘immediate loading’ implants now available can provide a patient perfect teeth replacement within a matter of hours!

How much rest is required?

Generally, 72 hours after surgery, though mild discomfort might last longer.

Dental Vacations

Dental tourism practitioners like Dr. Pillai also ensure that their patients experience a slice of Kerala and help tailor itineraries based on their preferences. The, under its initiative ‘Dental Vacations’, arranges customized tour programmes for its patients as well as dentists who come from abroad to assist in treatment procedures.

These could include visiting nearby tourist destinations like Kumarakom, Munnar or Thekkady, taking a houseboat ride, sampling the local cuisine, getting an Ayurvedic massage done or even watching a Kathakali performance. Instances of patients coming back for a full- fledged vacation in Kerala with family are very common.

As a Mentor of the International Implant Foundation, Germany, Dr Pillai regularly conducts training programs and workshops in Immediate Loading Implantology for doctors from different parts of India and abroad.