While Cambodia was infamous in the past for having relatively substandard medical and dental care, forcing locals and expats alike to seek treatment in neighbouring countries, recent years have seen the quality of dentistry in the capital reach international standards.
This is not least because of the efforts of state-of-the-art institutions like the Phnom Penh Tower-based MALIS Dental Clinic, founded by Japanese dentist Dr Motomi Minemura in 2012.
The clinic is designed to meet the highest international standards, with all equipment and specialist supplies imported from Japan, the US and Germany.
Cambodians’ growing appreciation
Since MALIS Dental Clinic opened in the Kingdom, it has seen more and more patients seeking dental care. Most of them come through word of mouth, no pun intended.
In the beginning, the clinics’ patients were almost exclusively expatriates and medical tourists. But Dr Minemura is happy that she has observed a new trend.
“Cambodian patients are increasingly making up our clientele,” she says. “There is an increasing interest in good standards and qualifications.”
In the past year, the clinic’s patients have been 30 per cent Japanese, 60 per cent other foreigners and 10 per cent locals.
With the growth of the medical tourism industry and the Kingdom’s increasing middle class, the whole medical sector as well as MALIS Dental Clinic can look forward to a bright future.
As word of MALIS Dental Clinic’s professionalism has spread among expats and Cambodians, it has grown from a single-person enterprise to what is now a team of international and local experts, employing dentists from Japan, the Netherlands and Cambodia.
A destination for dental tourism
While a growing number of Cambodian residents are coming to the clinic with their toothaches, MALIS remains on the vanguard of dental tourism in the Kingdom.
“The clinic has also benefited from an increase in dental tourism over the past year. Thirty per cent of the clinic’s revenue is currently generated by foreigners who travel to Cambodia to get dental care,” Dr Minemura says. The medical tourism industry, burgeoning both in Cambodia and across the border in Thailand, offers travellers high-class dental care at an affordable price.
“Most dental tourists come for implants and crowns. While having implants done in industrialised countries can cost a small fortune, patients pay only a fraction here, but the quality is the same.” Another incentive for people to travel to the Kingdom for treatment?
“And of course, patients enjoy this beautiful country while they are here.”
Sharing success with the poor
While Cambodia is of course a beautiful country with spectacular landscapes, the majority of the population living outside Phnom Penh cannot afford, or do not have access to, even basic dental health care. Making matters worse, many of these people simply don’t know the importance of dental hygiene or how to properly practise it.
Dr Minemura warns that poor dental hygiene and dental diseases can result in a wide range of serious sicknesses. “Diabetes is made worse by periodontitis and vice-versa – a problem many Cambodians in the countryside have because they don’t know they have to brush their teeth.”
According to the dentist, the likelihood of a variety of health issues, including heart disease, increases when bacteria in the mouth spread throughout the body.
Being aware of these issues the dentist team at MALIS has been actively involved in charity work over the past two years under the auspices of KOICA (the Korean International Cooperation Agency). On several occasions, the clinic has provided free examinations in poor villages and has also taught them about dental hygiene.
“By keeping your teeth clean, you can reduce the risks of many diseases a great deal,” Dr Minemura says. She finds it especially rewarding that simple measures such as dental hygiene education can prevent myriad health problems otherwise faced by those with no access to proper medical or dental care.
Considering her and her colleagues’ charitable involvement, Dr Minemura has chosen a very good name for her clinic. Malis, the Khmer word for “jasmine”, symbolises a sacred gift offered to the Buddha for happiness – and MALIS’ dentists are happy to give back to the country in which their clinic prospers.