21 Oct What To Expect At A Good Dental Clinic For Expats
Traveling to a new country for a prolonged period of time for work or study can be stressful. It can be more difficult when you are unfamiliar with the right medical and dental options available.
In Singapore, there are more than 1000 public and private dental clinics across the island. As someone fresh off the boat, this can become frustrating and overwhelming.
Even when narrowing down the choices by location, you might be making a decision for a suitable dental clinic for yourself and your family based on a large number of dental clinics.
For patients who have corporate or personal insurance, the choice might be limited to the number of clinics on the panelled list. At Elite Dental Group, we see both international and local patients who are on Cigna and Henner insurances, among other popular insurances.
With consultation costs ranging from $50 – $200 per visit, it might not be financially sound to take a trial and error approach. This article aims to help you make the right dental choice for your oral health needs by covering the full patient journey of what to expect at a good dental clinic for expats.
Finding a Dental Clinic For Expats
Now you must be wondering: Is there a reason why I would require an expat-focused dentist? The reason is simple: A dentist who works frequently with expats will be able to understand your needs and requirements better.
Imagine two auto mechanics. Auto mechanic A has worked on antique Porsches for more than 20 years and runs a family-owned mechanic shop that has worked on antique Porches for the last 3 generations. He is familiar with what it takes to restore antique Porsches back to their original functional and aesthetic form. Then you have Mechanic B who runs a mechanic shop that serves all kinds of vehicles.
Right off the bat, if you had an antique Porsche, whom would you visit?
What Is A Good Expat Dental Clinic?
For the purposes of this article, we define a good expat dental clinic based on the following factors:
- Experience in working with expats
- Education focused treatment
- Adaptability to the needs of the patient
- Flexibility in pricing based on materials offered
- Experience in working with selected treatment(s) e.g. Has more than 10 years of practice in placing dental implants
- Adaptable to the needs of the patient e.g. Able to adjust treatment plan based on the budget and final expectations of the patient
- Range in services e.g. Offers multiple aligner brands to meet different price points
- Ethical approach towards treatment e.g. Does not intentionally extract healthy teeth to place dental implants
Making a Preliminary Decision For The Correct Dental Clinic
Choosing the right dental clinic for your needs starts from before you enter the clinic. Many patients make an initial list of dental clinic choices based on the following:
- Quality of patient reviews on Google
- The location of the dental clinic
- The overall appearance of the dental clinic
- Educational articles created by the clinic that can be found on Google
- Referrals from friends and family
- Listing on insurance panel
- Medical concierge
- Google ads information
We have further supplemented your search for a good dental clinic with some of our personal insights from other patients:
Contacting Your Preferred Dental Clinic
When contacting a dental clinic, you might have questions on the following:
- The cost of treatment
- Treatment availability
- Appointment availability
- Insurances that are covered by the clinic
- Financing options
It is safe to assume that you would not be interested to visit a clinic that has a rude and invasive receptionist even if the online reviews are stellar.
- Were you able to contact the front office during the clinic office hours?
- Did the front office pick up the phone swiftly?
- Was the front office well-mannered and professional?
- Was the front office able to answer your questions in a knowledgeable manner?
- Was the front office able to provide cost related and financing information in a clear and transparent manner?
- Was the front office able to respond in a timely manner to your questions?
- Were you able to get an appointment spot on a time and date that was convenient for you?
- Did the front office send you follow up materials even when you have not made a decision on your appointment?
- Is it possible to arrange for medical concierge services if you are still overseas?
Many clinics in Singapore are unwilling to give an accurate cost of treatment. Some dental clinics might be willing to provide a cost range. It can be infuriating to work with the lack of transparency. These dental clinics have legitimate reasons for refusing to provide a precise treatment cost. Some of these reasons are:
- There is no one-size fit all treatment solution
- Your oral health condition might differ from that of other patients
- You might not require certain treatments
- You might require additional treatments based on the state of your oral health
Should you insist on knowing the cost of treatment, make it clear that you would prefer to have an average or ballpark cost before arranging for an appointment. This also helps to prevent potential bill shocks when heading in for a consultation. Having a baseline of the average costs for treatment can also help you plan and budget for treatment.
Before Your Consultation
- Did the front office send you educational materials to read before the consultation?
- Did the front office send you an email or SMS confirmation before the appointment?
- Was care taken to explain the treatment to you before your consultation?
- Were you made to wait for a prolonged time span?
- Was the clinic easy to locate and accessible?
- Was the clinic clean and hygienic?
- Did the clinic have ample space for patients to sit and rest while waiting?
If you are simply looking to clean your teeth, you might be introduced to a dental hygienist or an oral health therapist. These are dedicated teeth cleaning professionals who manage the hygiene of teeth on a daily basis.
Some clinics in Singapore offer a short free virtual consultation before your actual consultation. This helps patients ask difficult questions that the front office might not have the technical expertise to respond to. It also gives patients the opportunity to get to know their dentists better.
While most patients who are simply looking for a scaling or polishing (SAP) or shorter treatments like teeth whitening and Guided Biofilm Therapy (GBT) might find this inconsequential, patients who have to undergo longer treatments like dental implants or dental veneers with their dentists might find it a safer choice before heading for an in-person consultation.
During The Examination and Consultation
- Was the dental consultation done in a professional and efficient manner?
- Was the dentist friendly with a good bedside manner?
- Was the dental consultation seamless and as discomfort-free as possible?
- Was the dentist willing to listen to your concerns?
- Did the dentist explain your oral health in a clear and simple way?
- Did the dentist mark out key steps that you can take to maintain a healthy smile?
- Did the dentist detail the relevant treatment alternatives?
- Was your dental nurse friendly and willing to help?
- Was the dental nurse experienced and capable?
- Did the dental nurse take additional care in taking X-ray photos
Patient Experience Specialist
- Did the patient experience specialist help you with the onboarding process?
- Was the patient experience specialist friendly and ready-to-help?
- Did the patient experience specialist brief you on the next steps after your consultation?
- Was the front office expeditious in settling payment and assisting with insurance claims?
- Was the final bill what you expected?
Ask about your treatment plan and whether there are alternatives for the treatments selected for you.
It might not be necessary to go ahead with all treatments at once.
Telling your dentist about what you have in mind is a win-win situation. If you are simply looking for filings and do not need other dental services, being straightforward with your dentist can help them be made aware of that immediately.
Mismatched expectations is the top reason for dissatisfaction. Patients who reschedule or cancel appointments often do so because they do not feel that they need certain treatments at this particular point of time.
Did you know that kids are usually able to receive lower cost treatment at most dental clinics?
This cost can be reduced further if the treatment is done by a hygienist or Oral Health Therapist (OHT). Oral Health Therapists are the industry dental professionals for dental hygiene and teeth cleaning. In Singapore, OHTs are allowed to provide treatment plans for children below the age of 18 and can do basic teeth cleaning services for both adults and children.
- Was the dentist attentive to your needs during the procedure?
- Did the dentist guide you through each step of the procedure?
- Did the dentist provide you with the relevant support to go through the procedure?
- Did you feel that the dentist was able to understand your possible fears or apprehensions during the treatment?
- Were there sedative options offered during your procedure?
- Was the dental nurse able to render professional support to you during the procedure?
There are instances where certain treatments are able to receive substantial cost discounts when done in bulk. These procedures are usually for All-on-4, ProArch and full smile makeovers.
Discuss your budget with your dentist but understand that most dental clinics are not trying to rip you off. In fact, the cost of some dental treatments are higher because of lab fees and the number of hours needed to plan and do the treatment.
When comparing costs of each clinic, take into account the procedure that you are doing.
A common rule of thumb that I tell my patients is: Would you hire a cheap renovator to refurbish a $1 million apartment and expect it to last permanently? Dental treatments are the same. Getting a $950 dental implant vs. getting a $3,000 implant can mean sacrificing the longevity of your implants.
Should you wish to seek a second opinion from an alternative clinic, it is advisable to bring along X-rays from the previous clinic. Bringing your recent X-rays along can help you reduce further costs of taking similar X-rays at the clinic.
However, it is essential to take note that for certain procedures like dental implants, additional CT scans are needed to provide better insights into the condition of your oral health.
- Has your dentist achieved the level of support and expertise that you require?
- Has the proposed solution met your needs and expectations?
- Was there a follow-up care call to check in on you, post-treatment?
Leaving a review for your dentists on Google can help your preferred clinic or dentist get well-deserved attention from other potential patients. It can also help patients who require certain forms of care and treatment find the right dentist for their needs.
Due to the high costs of marketing in Singapore, many associate dentists do not or are not able to spend money on marketing. Leaving them reviews about your positive or negative experience can help them raise awareness for their expertise or improve their service standards.
Heading to a new dentist can be an intimidating experience. This is definitely so when you are in a new country. We hope that this article has helped you identify the right dental clinic for your needs and eased your transition in Singapore.
This article was written by Dr Gerald Tan and Dr Jaclyn Toh. Dr Gerald Tan is a dental implant surgeon who has had more than two decades of experience working with expats. His approach towards dentistry revolves around old-school values of human care. Dr Jaclyn Toh is a cosmetic dentist who focuses on restorative and biomimetic dentistry. Her high standard of care and impeccable attention to detail has made her a cult favorite for couples looking for a smile makeover before their wedding.