Ai Yamazaki And The Cambodian Dental Industry

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Ai Yamazaki, Dental Clinic by Denriche Asia

We have a chat with Ai Yamazaki, Assistant to CEO at Dental Clinic by Denriche Asia, and discuss some of the most pressing issues within the medical industry, such as medical tourism and the newest developments in dentistry. 

Yamazaki has held different management positions with luxury brands in a stellar professional career that includes brands such as Montblanc and Swarovski. She has also worked as Administrator for External Relations for Procter & Gamble. Before making the move to Cambodia over a year ago, Yamazaki worked in Hawaii for her current employer, Denriche Asia.

B2B: What developments are currently underway in the Cambodian dental industry in terms of technologies and treatments?

Ai Yamazaki: We have only been operating in Cambodia for about a year. Many of our patients come to us because they are very interested in new and better orthodontic and esthetic treatments. We are at the forefront of the industry and can offer these treatments.

There are a considerable number of Japanese dentists in Phnom Penh, and that number keeps on growing. Off the top of my head, I can think of about six. The reason they are setting up here is because they can ply their trade with a Japanese license. Cambodia and Japan have signed an agreement allowing Japanese doctors to work in Cambodia with a Japanese license.

In Japan, the big thing now is treatment by microscope. The problem is that this treatment is too expensive for the Cambodian market —about $20,000 per session—, and there are few dentists in the Kingdom, if any, that possess the know-how to perform it.

In the future, Denriche Asia wants to offer consulting services to its customers. Customers will get advice on best treatment on a case-per-case basis, supported by 3D renditions and some other advanced technology.

B2B: Can you give me an assessment of the medical tourism sector in Cambodia? How has it grown in the time since you’ve been operating?

Ai Yamazaki: There are many people coming from Japan to Cambodia to undergo treatment. If the government wants to up the game, they should make a bigger investment to enhance the tourist offer in Phnom Penh. Right now, Japanese are not that interested in coming to Phnom Penh for touristic purposes.

Generally, 40% of our clients are Japanese, 40% Khmers and 10% Singaporeans. This month [August 2015], however, Cambodians represented 60% of the total number of customers. There are not many Koreans, Americans or English customers.

B2B: In your opinion, what percentage of the medical tourism industry can be attributed to the dental industry here in Phnom Penh?

Ai Yamazaki: I would say roughly 30%.

B2B: How has the level and availability of dental assistance evolved in Cambodia in the time since you’ve been operating here?

Ai Yamazaki: Before our grand opening last year, we spend 2 months training dental assistants to teach them technical skills, dental knowledge and Japanese-style customer service. Some of them felt insecure but were interested in learning new things. I think Cambodians are very good at handiwork.

B2B: How qualified and capable are Khmer doctors and foreign practitioners working in Cambodia compared to Europe and North America?

Ai Yamazaki: I think Cambodian dentists are very ambitious and eager to learn. They want to go outside to learn as much as they can. At the clinic, our Khmer assistants, still in Year 5 out of 7, speak really good English, and some of them even speak Japanese. In general, the level of English is higher for graduates in Cambodia than in Japan. They are also not afraid to go into the world and learn.

B2B: What are some of the difficulties that you would encounter as a foreign doctor trying to set up your practice in Cambodia? What are the advantages of working as a foreign doctor in the Kingdom?

Ai Yamazaki: At our clinic we use a lot of specialised material and equipment that can be quite hard to secure in Cambodia. There is never a guarantee that you will be able to get your hands on the piece of equipment that you need, and even if you do, the models and brands available will be quite limited. Talking about advantages, I’d mention that is quite easy to set yourself up as a dental practitioner in Cambodia, particularly if you are Japanese. There are now many Japanese dentists in Phnom Penh. The reason they are setting up here is because they can ply their trade with a Japanese license. Cambodia and Japan have signed an agreement allowing Japanese doctors to work in Cambodia with a Japanese license. Another advantage is that doctors here can be exposed to a different and more challenging environment. You’ll be able to see ailments that you are harder to come by in your own country. As a doctor, it is a great opportunity to garner experience and bring your skills set a step forward.

B2B: How will the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) change standards in the industry?

Ai Yamazaki: We will see each country in the region bringing strength and new ideas into the Kingdom, and this will help push the whole industry forward. I am sure we will see also see an increase in the number and quality of dental treatments available.

B2B: What advice would you give to foreign dentists planning to set up a practice in Cambodia?

Make sure to hire —or work in partnership with— companies that can properly advise you. It is hard to set up your own clinic in Cambodia and you need all the help you can get, because it is pretty hard to get information from the government. You need to carry proper due diligence before you begin cooperation with any given company.

Another advice I will give to doctors planning the move to Cambodia is to take advantage of the unique opportunities offered by Cambodia. We organize monthly trips to the suburbs of the city to carry out dental treatment on orphans that live in the slums. Japanese doctors can gain a wealth of experience from this volunteer work. It can help them develop their skill set.