Dental Health

Opinion | Hong Kong’s pattern to journey for dentistry is right here to remain

The mainland has long been a destination for bargains for Hongkongers. The trek north to Shenzhen just across the border is a pathway to affordable dining, shopping and fun on weekends. Interestingly, more and more are heading north for a seat at an unlikely destination: the dentist’s chair.

Unlikely and perhaps unthinkable just a decade or two ago, more and more Hong Kong residents today are attracted to Shenzhen by sharply lower prices, short waiting times and improved quality of dental services across the border.

It is a natural sign of the times. With limited availability of employer-provided dental insurance, the cost of a trip to the dentist for a routine check up in Hong Kong can be worrying and, for any serious procedure, it can be downright alarming.

The price differential can be stark. According to a recent Post report, removing a decayed wisdom tooth for one woman would have cost HK$8,000 to HK$10,000 (US$1,000 to US$1,300) and a two- to three-week wait in Hong Kong.

The equivalent in Shenzhen, at a dental hospital recommended by a friend, was around HK$1,100, including extraction, check up, X-rays and anti-inflammatories.

Where years ago, the mainland facilities would leave much to be desired, today the dental clinics are modern affairs using the most updated equipment.

The dentists are increasingly well-trained, and more likely to boast similar credentials to their Hong Kong counterparts.

Combined with the reasonable prices, and helped by a strong dollar, many are finding the lengthy trip to the clinic to be well worth the trouble.

One Shenzhen owner reported 10,000 Hong Kong residents per month visit their hospital and 12 other dental clinics. That is half their monthly patients.

To be sure, Hong Kong dentists still offer high quality services, are close by, and use the highest quality dental materials. What is more, in the event of any dispute over quality of care, one can seek recourse in the Hong Kong courts, in the unlikely event it comes to that.

Still, for older Hongkongers on a limited budget or pension, the attraction is understandable. With recent high inflation, the travelling for dentistry trend will continue for the foreseeable future.

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