CITY IS THE SMILE DESTINATION
Bengaluru emerging as a hub for a procedure that does away with conventional braces
You are wrong if you think medical tourism in Bengaluru survives only specialists mending hearts, brains, kidneys and eyes. The city is fast emerging as the hub for dental procedures as well.
One of the most common procedures attracting foreign patients – including those from the Middle East, Europe and Singapore – is “clear aligners” (also referred to as Invisalign after the pioneering company of the same name). It is a cosmetic procedure for those who do not want to have those conventional steel braces to correct buck or crooked teeth.
Prabhakar Rao, 35, a software engineer from Singapore, did not mind travelling all the way just to get these aligners to set right his misaligned teeth. In another case, Mansoor Ahmed, 45, from Abu Dhabi, came here two weeks ago and cannot wait to get these aligners working on him. He has submitted his initial records and is now waiting for the aligners.
Dr Venkatesh Garla, an orthodontist at Braces and Beyond in Cambridge Layout, gets about two-three such cases a month from abroad for this specific procedure. “After taking the initial records, the photographs are sent to the particular company which makes these aligners. These are custom-made aligners and developed out of 3D imaging after scanning the impressions of the patient’s teeth. It takes three weeks to fabricate them before they are shipped anywhere in the world.”
Generally, about 15-20 trays are fabricated and they have to be changed every two weeks. “One key factor encouraging patients to opt for this procedure is that they have to visit the orthodontist only once. No follow-ups. They can change the trays themselves without any assistance, which again is a benefit.”
The total timespan is about 40 weeks. Dr Venkatesh said as far as local patients are concerned most of them hail from the upper-middle class, or airhostesses and those aspiring to be models. “They are more convinced as we can even show them what their teeth are exactly going to look like in advance,” he explained.
The clear aligner treatment abroad is not just expensive but patients are also wait-listed for long periods. Dr Joe Mathew, orthodontist at Oracare, Marathalli, who gets at least three overseas patient per month, says, “We get a lot of patients from the UK who say that its publicly-funded National Health Service has a long waiting period for procedures like this, which is why patients from there prefer coming here.”
Also, the conventional braces tend to break after certain period of use; but the aligners do not, he explained. “We advise the patients to wear it at least 16 hours a day, including while eating and sleeping. If they are uncomfortable wearing it while eating/sleeping, we ask them to use aligner chewers. It can be washed easily with water.” While most of the patients are adults, there are also many foreign senior citizens who are getting it done. Dr Girish PV, orthodontist at Smile Architects Invisible Braces, who has seen about 85 patients for this procedure, said, “There was 60-year-old woman from Argentina who came all the way here because she ‘wanted to have a good smile’. Over the past six months, because of the increase in awareness of this procedure, there has been a 30-40 per cent increase in patients taking to this.”
SAVING BIG BUCKS
Dr Venkatesh said although it can be termed as one of the most expensive dental procedures in India, for many foreigners it actually works out to be more cost effective. The cost could range between Rs 1.5-2 lakh here. The same is more than double in other parts of the world. Everywhere else it ranges from Rs 4.5 lakh to Rs 7 lakh. In the United States, the cost of this could approximately be $8,000 (about Rs 4.8 lakh), he said. The cost of conventional braces may range from Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 in India.