The drill on visiting dentists in Bali

Crunccccch! I momentarily freeze to process what has just happened. My tongue reluctantly explores the craggy crater where my lower rear molar was a few seconds ago. 

I have bitten on something hard, and my tooth has disintegrated. Foolishly, I think the damage might be minimal, until I hurriedly assemble the fragments in my mouth and spit them into my cupped hand. Bloody hell! Bits of tooth mixed with peanut muesli bar. Now I am in shock and thoughts flash across my mind – this repair is going to cost a bomb!

The Bali dental surgery

I am lying on the dentist’s chair at Prime Plus Medical in Canggu, Bali, wondering whether my story will be yet another to add to the tales of woe about overseas dental work. 

I feel better when my mind switches to the positive feedback and reviews from previous patients. Dr Sharon is a petite woman originally from Java and trained in California. She explains the dental procedures I am about to undergo. 

Today, she will take an impression, which will be used to create my zirconia crown. My love of coffee and red wine over the years has taken its toll, so I am getting my teeth whitened as well. 

I look around the room. It is clean and has the equipment one would expect in a modern dental surgery – apart from the large TV showing a National Geographic animal chase. Is this an attempt at patient relaxation or a diversion technique? 

Dr Sharon takes photos of my teeth with a ‘wand’ and projects the images onto a screen for me to view. She shows me a disc with incremental yellow to white coloured tags, then checks my teeth. Sadly, I’m down the wrong end of the scale. I can’t wait to see the results after the treatment. 

Obviously, teeth will stain over time, given the type of food and drink my wife Jenny and I consume. But for now, we are all smiles and very happy.

Attractive costs

Why would anyone contemplate overseas dental work when there are so many things that could go wrong? The attraction is the significantly lower costs. The crown will cost $450 and the whitening $250. In Australia, a health fund will cap (pardon the pun) the rebate at about $600, so your out-of-pocket cost may be as high as $1400. There is no rebate for cosmetic whitening. An alternative for whitening is a DIY take-home kit, which will set you back up to $600, and you will require extended treatment times because of the much lower concentration of active hydrogen peroxide. Note that these are 2019 costs.

Advice from my dentist

The advice from my dentist in Melbourne, a couple of days after the incident, was that I needed a crown, but it was not urgent. 

“I’m going to Bali soon,” I said. I might look at getting it done there. 

Her answer was a non-committal “hmmm”. 

When I mentioned the prospect of getting veneers – “No, definitely not recommended,” she said. 

“That process initially removes the enamel from your teeth. They would be forever compromised. But you could consider teeth whitening,” she said. Yes! A reluctant overall tacit approval. 

Some research – pros and cons

So now it’s time for a bit of research. 

There is a plethora of dentists in Bali. The main online hit seemed to be an agency called Dental Departures, under which there was a long list, rated according to recommended dental surgeries. 

You can look at reviews, procedures, prices, staff, qualifications and so on to compare whatever procedure/s you require. 

I selected a surgery called Prime Plus because it was within walking distance from our villa, the prices were competitive, and the reviews were positive. 

So, what crown would I get – a full porcelain, a porcelain/metal fusion, or a zirconia? Porcelain crowns are usually for front teeth and are softer. 

After some discussion, Dr Sharon suggested the harder zirconia type. 

Now what about teeth whitening? Laser is very popular, as is UV light-induced whitening. But there are also Opalescence and over-the-counter DIY band kits without the use of laser or light. 

My science background ensures a thorough review of the options, before coming to Bali. 

I settled on the Opalescence Boost process – no UV or laser and much cheaper. This is a ‘dentist only’ in-house kit and uses 40 per cent hydrogen peroxide gel (the maximum concentration for any of these processes). The gel is also pH neutral – not acidic like other gel types. It takes up to three by 20-minute applications depending on how stained your teeth are.

It’s five days after the impression was made and I’m back in the chair for the crown fitting. 

There is no drilling. The doc uses a two-pack non-toxic resin to attach the crown onto the base. I’m all done and am very pleased that all has gone to plan. 

Would I do it again?

So, the question remains – would I recommend overseas dental work, specifically in Bali? Yes, I would. 

Why pay exorbitant prices in Australia when you can get equally professional work done overseas for significantly less? I guess the proof of the pudding will be if I get the seal of approval from my dentist.

Fall of the crown

Fast forward a couple of months. The bad news is that my crown fell out. The good news is that I didn’t swallow it. 

Now I must head off to my dentist with my tail between my legs. She never did say I told you so, but I detected a faint smile, and I knew that’s what she was thinking. 

She did say that it was a good crown, which was a positive. She stuck it back in and I’ve had no issues since. 

Would I still recommend overseas dental work? The answer is yes, particularly if cost is a major consideration.

Would you consider overseas dentistry? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?

Also read: Five things for over-50s to do on Hamilton Island


  1. Definitely recommended! I’ve been having all my dental work done in Asia for the last 15 years without any problems. Fillings, bridges and three implants done with excellent service and minimal pain. Dental Departures is THE website to get an overview of prices and reviews of the different clinics in different countries. My favourite is Vietnam.

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