When the word ‘dentist’ is mentioned, most people’s immediate thought is about pain, anxiety and expense. People who have had a traumatic experience from dental procedures would already be sprinting half-way across the room even before someone mentions the scary ‘D’ word.
The rattling noise from the ‘drill’, the high pitched squeak from the ‘saliva vacuum cleaner’, the ‘dentist smell’ and the dentist saying “don’t forget to brush your teeth everyday” while pulling your cheeks like someone trying to pull Excalibur out from the infamous stone and then slapping you in the face with a bill that costs more than having 30 KFC meals. All of this doesn’t sound too pleasant to me, let along to anyone else (no wonder dental phobia is real). But is that what a dentist really is? Have dentists changed over the last 50 years to become more considerate and understanding for the general public rather than their own wallet size? Or is a dentist really just some guy who sits in a library on a Saturday afternoon drinking his large cappuccino while asking himself “what is a dentist”?
Simple search on Google can tell us that the earliest known person identified as dental practitioner was an Egyptian physician called Hesy-Re in the year 2600 BC, but it is not until the year 1210 AD that the Guild of Barbers in France were established and sub-classified barbers into those who can perform dental treatment from those who cannot. Today, the textbook definition of a dentist is simply “a surgeon who diagnose, prevent and treat diseases and conditions of the oral cavity”. With the advancement in the human race, the technology in dentistry continues to improve and thus the treatment modalities increases. From simple fillings to crowns and bridges, from Ivory dentures to titanium implants and from surgical blades to lasers, the development of dentistry strives to provide optimal care for the general public.
To me, a dentist is a gate keeper for people’s oral health. We identify what we think is right or wrong in a person’s mouth and provide multiple treatment options for them to achieve a healthy smile. Although the dentist may think they know what is best for their patients, it is still up to the patient themselves to choose what they want. Expense, fear, anxiety, and pain are just a few factors that drive patient’s treatment selection, but it is essential for the dentist to ensure each patient understands the pros and cons, the risk and complications, the prognosis and the cost for each treatment options. Simply stating “that tooth needs to be extracted and have an implant” without giving any reasons or providing other treatment options is simply not good enough.
“First do no harm” is the most important phrase conveyed from the Hippocratic oath for all dental and medical practitioner’s, and such motive has been with me since I was a young. My grandfather was a herbalist and my father is a pharmacist, and their work philosophy is simple – “no matter who the patient is, how rich they are or how different they are, you must always make sure they become better at the end. Because the happiness you seek can only come from the happiness within others.” Wise words to a 6 year-old Asian boy living near rice patties in rural Taiwan, but a true story. The most challenging aspects of dentistry for me is therefore providing painless and enjoyable dental visit for each and every patient who walks through the door. Every response the patient has, whether it is facial expression, body language, what they are saying or just sounds they make, does affect me emotionally sometimes. Because at the end of the day, we are all human.
So after finishing my cappuccino, you still asked me what a dentist is? The truth is, I really don’t know. There is no simple one sentence answer to it. Every dentist is different in terms of personality and preference of treatment modalities. There were historical cases as stated by the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency where the dental practitioners appear to be the most evil human being on earth. While there are dental practices which the community endorse and love because they looked after their patients well. The thing is, one cannot simply judge a dentist as an individual. A dentist is always aided by supportive individuals including assistants, hygienists, therapists, technicians and most importantly the patients themselves. A dynamic teamwork must exist through excellent communication, education, consideration, moral and ethics in order to brighten the future of people’s oral health. At the end of the day, I am only happy if people around me are happy.
So make an appointment today through our easy online booking!
Dr Terry Pu.
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