A Brighter Smile in Saigon
We sat down with Dr. Philippe and Chau Guettier, two well-known dentists who have run the Starlight Dental Clinic for over 20 years, in order to find out more about dental care in HCMC and Vietnam.
In your opinion, is the Vietnam dental industry currently developed in HCMC?
Philippe: During the last 15 years it has developed a lot. Especially in terms of quality, it has improved much in the past three to four years. At the university level, the education of the dentists is getting better and better. There is much more training done by foreign universities - namely French universities. Now young dentists who graduate receive much better education for their practice.
Is developing the dental industry and pushing dental care a concern for the Ministry of Health?
Philippe: The Ministry has a good control over the quality of the clinic. In France, once you graduate and open your clinic, you will never get any check-ins from the government on a yearly basis to see if everything is taken care of. In Vietnam, each clinic gets a check-in from the Ministry of Health every year. This is good for maintaining the quality of clinics here.
In terms of equipment, are there concerns or issues based on the different levels of clinics? Or is there a general standard?
Philippe: Basically, what the government will control are x-rays, sterilisation, and product lifespan. After, they will not check if the tools or the products you are using to treat the patient are good quality or not. Unfortunately in Vietnam you have many products made in China - machines, or products you put into the patient's mouth. The instruments used to treat and restore a patient’s teeth will not be of the same quality. There is quite a big discrepancy from one clinic to another.
Do the majority of locals value the importance of having healthy teeth?
Philippe: You have a growing middle class. Once you go outside Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, there’s still a big gap. You have to look at the ratio of how many dentists there are for the population. In France, it’s 1 dentist for 1,500 people. In Vietnam, it’s 1 dentist for nearly 10,000 people.
We’ve seen more obesity in children in Vietnam in the past 10 years. Is this also affecting dental care?
Chau: I think the main reason for cavities is how you brush and take care of your teeth. Even if they eat a lot, if they brush their teeth afterwards they will not have problems. Now, people have more education on how to keep their teeth clean.
Philippe: We go to a lot of schools and have a program for this. We teach the children what are cavities, how to brush your teeth, and we give them a toothbrush. But to answer your question, I think we have more cavities than before for the kids. The quality of food (with fast food and soft drinks) has decreased. Even if you have kids in international schools with wealthy families, you’d still be surprised by the number of cavities that can be found.
Will there be an expanding future market for orthodontics?
Philippe: By definition, everybody knows Vietnam is a young country [laughs] with a lot of kids, so sure there is a market for orthodontics. Now, you have parents who want their children to have great teeth for the future, so they bring them in for orthodontics. But you also have a lot of young Vietnamese adults who get orthodontics, because as kids they didn’t have this. As opposed to France, where mostly children get orthodontics, in Vietnam we have many more adults patients.
If you had to give a price difference between the majority of treatments, how much less expensive would it be here than Australia, including the cost of travel and board?
Philippe: Australia would be three to four times as expensive, at least.
Chau: But it depends on the treatment. To give an example, I had a quotation from a patient in Australia for one impacted wisdom tooth removal for $1,200. At our clinic in HCMC the cost is $120.