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Changing Smiles
Written by Dr. Kelvin Mah   

A Smile Story about Overcoming Obstacles

While I don’t see myself as much of a philosopher – I leave that kind of hard work to more qualified folks – I can share a kernel of wisdom that I’ve discovered after helping many patients, from all walks of life, benefit from the transformative potential of modern dentistry: when you change your smile, you change your life!

You see, a healthy, beautiful smile is so much more than strong teeth and gums. It’s a powerful force that creates opportunities, inspires joy and enables one to achieve her or his personal and professional best.

In this light, you can understand why I view modern dentistry as a craft that must be approached with the discipline, creativity, sensitivity and vision of an artist. This is a major paradigm shift from the old-fashioned view of dentistry, which focused almost entirely on devices, instruments and procedures. In modern dentistry, we go far beyond these concepts, and embrace the art of designing solutions, creating dreams and changing the lives of patients!

While we’re on the topic of changing lives, there’s someone very special I’d like you to meet: Gary. Gary is one of the most illuminating people I’ve ever met, and that’s a view shared by many! You see, after years of being stuck in a suffocating job and a frustrating life that simply wasn’t meant for him, Gary took what he called a 5-year “introspective sabbatical,” cleared out the clutter in his life – both literally and figuratively–and emerged with a dynamic vision: he would serve as a life coach, and help people conquer the obstacles that prevented them from achieving their personal and professional goals. That’s quite a profound undertaking. But then again, Gary is quite a profound person!

Another of Gary’s admirable qualities is that he’s relentlessly honest with himself, and that honesty compelled him to admit that he wasn’t completely happy with his smile. He felt that the flaws in his smile had to be overcome in order for him to live the new, better life of his dreams, and help others do the same. And that’s what brought him to Smile City Square Dental.

During our initial consultation, Gary shared that, while he was happy in life, he couldn’t help but notice that he wasn’t smiling much in pictures. And even when he did smile, it wasn’t radiant or inspired; rather, it was hesitant and muted. That was one aspect of what we can call Gary’s smile obstacle.

group photoThe other aspect was a bit more practical – but no less important. Gary was concerned that his smile obstacle could be, and probably was, diminishing how confident and open he was around clients. And since building rapport and developing trust was essential to his work, it was something he needed to address. As Gary shared with me at the time:

How we feel about ourselves directly relates to our experience. If we are kind, gentle and compassionate with ourselves, we have the ability to be like this in the world. If we love our smile, feel good about the whiteness and contour of it, we are more eager to share it with the world, and more willing to let it shine. Similarly, with regards to coaching, I feel that when we love ourselves fully, and when we accept ourselves completely, we let our true light shine out to the world. I want to love my smile again, so that I can shine as brightly as possible and inspire others to do the same.

Moved by Gary’s inspirational words, and like an artist studying a landscape before even thinking of what colours or brushes to use, I conducted a thorough evaluation of his smile – because, just as no two paintings are alike, no two smiles are alike. I also took some high-resolution digital pictures, which we reviewed to see where, how and why improvements could be made.

We decided that the first step on Gary’s journey towards the smile he truly wanted was to whiten his teeth. To that end, we designed a custom whitening program – one that specifically matched his shading, along with the overall palette of his complexion. We did this to ensure that his whiter smile would align naturally with his overall look and personality, and not come across as artificial.

photo of GaryAfter the whitening process was complete, I performed some asthetic contouring of Gary’s teeth. This involved smoothing over sharp angles, and creating greater symmetry and balance in his overall smile. After this, I polished Gary’s existing restorations to make them look brand new. This is yet another bit of magic made possible by modern dentistry! And lastly, I corrected the discrepancies in Gary’s bite, so that it would be comfortable and efficient. Indeed, as I have witnessed many times throughout the years, Gary wasn’t even aware of the discrepancies in his bite before it was corrected. But the moment it was, he could instantly feel the positive difference. He felt less constricted, and told me that his bite felt more centred and natural. Overall, my work with Gary was designed to overcome his smile obstacle so that he could take his life and his career to the next level.

And did we succeed? Of course I have my opinion, but it’s Gary’s reflection that matters the most. Here’s what he had to say about his experience and results:

Dr. Mah, working with your team was wonderful! I felt welcomed, seen and heard. I was more than a patient. I was a whole person, with dreams and hopes that you allowed me to express. You then took what you heard, and made it manifest in my smile. This in turn allowed me to feel better about myself, and to see myself in a new way. Thank you Dr. Mah for changing both my smile, and my life!

Helping Gary overcome his smile obstacle, so that he could fulfil his mission as an inspired and inspiring life coach, was an experience that I’ll always treasure. It was an honour to introduce him to the potential and power of modern dentistry – one that is built upon the promise that when you change your smile, you change your life!

Dr. Kelvin Mah -

Dr Kelvin P Mah is driven to "enrich lives, one smile at a time." He believes in helping people – not merely treating problems – and takes a dedicated, personal interest in the health, wellness and happiness of each individual patient. His award-winning Smile City Square Dental practice reflects an organic and zen-like atmosphere of warmth and relaxation. He is also a graduate of UBC's prestigious Dental School and is an instructor with the Frontier Institute, which offers postgraduate programs in advanced cosmetic dentistry. Learn more about Dr Mah and discover the transformative possibilities of modern artisan dentistry at, and visit Smile City Square Dental on Facebook at


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