Tourism of Another Kind

Be­yond trekking, paraglid­ing and bungee jump­ing, Nepal now of­fers another tourist at­trac­tion – den­tal surgery.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Fa­tima Si­raj The writer is cur­rently pur­su­ing a BBA de­gree. She fo­cuses on mar­ket­ing and so­cial is­sues.

Clin­ics that spe­cial­ize in min­i­mally in­va­sive den­tal pro­ce­dures have gained pop­u­lar­ity in Kathmandu.

One may think that in a world where al­most ev­ery­thing has a price tag at­tached to it, a smile is one of the few things that are free. It doesn’t cost a penny to curve one’s lips into the uni­ver­sal, heart-warm­ing lan­guage of smiles that doesn’t need to fol­low a par­tic­u­lar se­man­tic. A smile is lovely whether it is crooked or straight, shy or open, bro­ken or joy­ful.

At least that is what you would think un­til you came across a poster list­ing the ‘cost of a smile’ in terms of a tooth crown cost­ing this and this much and teeth whiten­ing cost­ing this and this much, etc.

The term ‘a mil­lion-dol­lar smile’ seems to have been taken quite lit­er­ally as cos­metic den­tal surgery gains pop­u­lar­ity across the world. One such place where it has be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar is Nepal and more specif­i­cally the cap­i­tal, Kathmandu.

While for some peo­ple, fix­ing their teeth might be enough, for a large num­ber, cos­metic den­tal surgery is a must for achiev­ing per­fec­tion in the looks depart­ment.

As Sushil Koirala, an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed den­tal sur­geon from Nepal, points out, cos­metic den­tistry goes stars and brides-to-be – as­pires to achieve the con­fi­dence that comes with hav­ing that ‘per­fect’ smile.

Clin­ics that spe­cial­ize in min­i­mally in­va­sive den­tal pro­ce­dures have gained a lot of pop­u­lar­ity in Kathmandu. Such pro­ce­dures do away with the dis­com­fort and in­con­ve­nience of hav­ing to wear braces and are said to be suit­able for both the young and the old alike.

With pro­ce­dures such as full- be­yond just en­hanc­ing beauty and ac­tu­ally has a pos­i­tive psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact. A smile re­flects more than just well-be­ing and in­ner hap­pi­ness.

A ‘daz­zling’ smile can prove a pow­er­ful ac­ces­sory that adds to one’s self-con­fi­dence and, in Nepal, ev­ery­one – from politi­cians to beauty pageant par­tic­i­pants to tele­vi­sion mouth re­con­struc­tion and smile en­hance­ment, cos­metic den­tal surgery has changed en­tire per­son­al­i­ties and given peo­ple the much-needed con­fi­dence boost. One such per­son whose life was changed by cos­metic surgery is Nepalese Maoist politi­cian Narayan Shrestha.

He had a gap in his front teeth

and would smile in­fre­quently. Af­ter get­ting the gap re­moved through den­tal surgery he is now seen smil­ing more of­ten. In a state­ment given to a Nepalese pub­li­ca­tion, he said about cos­metic den­tal surgery, “It has changed my per­son­al­ity. Peo­ple say my smile looks much bet­ter.’

The pop­u­lar­ity of cos­metic surgery in Nepal is not lim­ited to the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion only. For­eign­ers are also vis­it­ing the coun­try in large num­bers to take ad­van­tage of the low-cost pro­ce­dures and re­turn to their home­lands with a brand-new smile and a brand-new at­ti­tude to com­ple­ment it.

It is, there­fore, no sur­prise that med­i­cal schools in Nepal face a high de­mand for de­grees in den­tal medicine. It is a grow­ing in­dus­try that has the po­ten­tial of gen­er­at­ing huge amounts of for­eign cur­rency as den­tal tourism takes off in the coun­try.

Kathmandu has some of the finest, state-of-the-art den­tal clin­ics that of­fer qual­ity den­tal care un­der trained pro­fes­sion­als who get the job done for less than half of what one would pay in a western coun­try.

Ev­ery year many tourists visit Nepal to trek, paraglide, bungee jump and to ab­sorb its rich cul­ture. Cost-ef­fec­tive den­tal surgery is adding to Nepal’s reper­toire of tourism at­trac­tion as tourists can get an ar­ray of high-qual­ity den­tal ser­vices at af­ford­able rates.

Some of th­ese ser­vices in­clude white fill­ings which cost around $7-9, porce­lain in­lays which cost $50 due to their long-last­ing re­sults, crowns which cost $80 and root canal ther­apy which costs a mere $40. All of th­ese ser­vices would cause a drain on the av­er­age per­son’s pocket any­where else in the world. This gives Nepal a great com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in den­tal tourism.

The ex­tent to which den­tal tourism is be­com­ing pop­u­lar in the coun­try can be gauged from the nu­mer­ous den­tal spas and clin­ics that have sprung up in Kathmandu. Their mar­ket­ing ef­forts are geared mainly to­wards at­tract­ing tourists. Many of them have cus­tom­ized web­sites high­light­ing their mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties and pro­fes­sion­al­ism.

The in­tro­duc­tion on the home­page of the web­site of one such provider of den­tal ser­vices shows just how de­vel­oped, wide­spread and mar­ketable the in­dus­try has be­come: ‘…has been serv­ing the for­eign mis­sions, tourists, diplo­mats, UN staff and ex­pa­tri­ate com­mu­ni­ties along with lo­cal Nepalese pa­tients with a com­mit­ment to pro­vide the care, that is of an In­ter­na­tional Gold Stan­dard.’

Th­ese con­vinc­ing words are fol­lowed by a de­tailed list of prices for var­i­ous ser­vices along with the names and qual­i­fi­ca­tions of all the den­tists who work for the clinic.

Tes­ti­mo­ni­als given by sat­is­fied pa­tients, a lot of whom are celebri­ties in var­i­ous fields and tourists from far and wide, are also posted.

This shows that Nepal’s den­tal clin­ics are thriv­ing. They are likely to gain more pop­u­lar­ity and clien­tele should they con­tinue to pro­vide den­tal treat­ment in a safe and hy­gienic en­vi­ron­ment that matches up to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards but with­out the ex­or­bi­tant charges that char­ac­ter­ize much of the global den­tistry to­day.

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