|Enriching Lives, One Smile at a Time|
|Written by Dr. Kelvin Mah|
As sophisticated, elaborate and technologically advanced as modern dentistry has become, there’s one thing that, for me, will never change: my vision of enriching lives, one smile at a time. That’s what inspired me, more than two decades ago, to turn away from a promising career in microbiology and pursue dentistry. With all due respect to the invaluable scientists among us who make our lives safer, smarter and better, I simply had to connect with people, rather than work with things. What’s more, I recognized that a career in dentistry would allow me the perfect opportunity to enhance my future patients’ lives in profound ways and on every level: mind, body and spirit.
“I don’t treat teeth, and never have. I treat people, and always will.”
I appreciate that some readers may be somewhat surprised by my choice of words. Were I a life coach, holistic health professional, therapist or motivational speaker, nobody would bat an eyelid. But a dentist talking about “mind, body and spirit”? Surely something must be out of place! After all, aren’t we the people who walk around in starchy white lab coats (for no apparent reason)? And aren’t we the folks who prefer to look at your file – instead of you – during your appointment? And above all, don’t we limit our interests to your teeth – and nothing else?
I can’t speak for other dentists, but for me, the answers to all of those questions – especially the last one about focusing only on teeth – are an immediate and resounding no. I don’t treat teeth, and never have. I treat people, and always will. I embrace the privilege – and the responsibility – of providing each unique patient with a profoundly personal and potentially life-changing experience that they wouldn’t necessarily associate with dentistry.
Yes, you read that correctly: I said life-changing. Because, just as I don’t treat teeth, I don’t solve dental problems, either. That’s not the paradigm through which I view my work. Instead, I see myself as a guide who introduces my patients to the better life that awaits them on the “other side” of their Smile City Square Dental encounter. That better life is one full of confidence, self-esteem and inner happiness. For so many of my patients, it’s also a life marked by improved career success, a more rewarding social life, and more fulfilling interpersonal relationships. In fact, some of my patients have found their “soulmate” thanks in large part to their new, brilliant smile!
I understand that some readers, particularly those who haven’t read my Smile Story articles here in Fresh Vancouver, may find all of this a bit unusual. It’s not how dentists typically communicate. But as my patients will surely agree, there’s nothing typical about what I do, or even where I work. I painstakingly designed my Smile City Square Dental practice, with its majestic 40-foot ceilings and sublime spa-like esthetics, to express themes that most people would never associate with a typical dentist’s office: warmth, comfort, inspiration, and organic, contemporary design.
Nor is there anything typical about how I spend as much time as is necessary conversing with each new patient who walks into my practice, so that I can learn about who they are, what inspires them, and where they’d like to be in the future. We don’t talk about teeth. We talk about them. There’s certainly nothing typical in my belief that collaboration – not diagnosis – is the only way to serve my patients’ needs across the full spectrum of who they are: mind, body and spirit. That is, I don’t impose treatments. I listen, ask questions, and together with my patients, co-create a solution that is the ideal fit for who they are and where they want to be tomorrow.
Some may call my approach “patient-centric.” While I’d agree with that, there’s another word I prefer to use: authentic. That’s truly who I am at my core. That’s what defines my remarkable Smile City Square Dental team. That’s what my patients can expect, from the moment they walk into my practice. That’s the legacy that I aspire to leave behind when I retire, and watch my 4-year old son spread his wings (he’s already a lot smarter than me in some ways, unlike my wife, who is a lot smarter than me in every way!). It’s the guiding vision that makes it possible for me to fulfill my mission, which is to enrich lives, one smile at a time.