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The Essence of Artisan Dentistry
Written by Dr. Kelvin Mah   

before and after photos of GregAs I’ve both personally experienced and heard from countless patients over the years, the classic dental experience—you know, the one with the starchy white lab coat-wearing dentist who peers at you from behind a folder—can be characterized by the word “what.” That’s because the typical pre-treatment dialogue between dentist and patient is conspicuously short, strikingly one-sided, and amounts to little more than a lecture on what the dentist says is best. And so, even when patients seemingly make a choice, they can’t help but feel that it was never really their decision at all. It was pretty much pre-determined by their all-knowing dentist, and they merely went through the motions.

The essence of artisan dentistry as I practice and promote it is fundamentally different because I don’t start by determining what my patients need or don’t need. I begin by exploring why they’re motivated to make a positive change in their life. This process involves a laid-back dialogue (which can take place over several visits) that unfolds in a private, peaceful and specially-designated meeting room here at Smile City Square Dental. Together, we discover unique aspects of their personality, perspectives and preferences. From there we co-create a custom smile solution that will satisfy them on every level: body, mind and spirit.

To help illustrate my emphasis on why instead of what—which is quite different from most other dentists and, frankly, most other healthcare professionals in general—I wanted to introduce you to Greg.

Greg first came to Smile City Square Dental more than a year ago to have some general dental work completed. (I have to thank his wonderful wife Anne, who was already a patient of mine, for introducing us!) At the time, Greg had indicated some initial interest in correcting an uneven smile that resulted from a couple of discoloured and inward-turned front teeth. However, he wasn’t looking to make a change. What’s more, in speaking with him, I noted that he was a very cerebral individual who preferred to take time and think things through before making a decision. It’s a personality trait that I share, so I was happy to respect his preferences, provide him with some preliminary information, and invite him to reach out to me if and when he wished to learn more or move ahead.

before and after close up of Greg's teethSeveral months later, you can imagine how delighted I was when Greg came in to chat! It turns out that his wife Anne had gently encouraged him to improve his smile—not because it would make her happier, but because she knew that it would make him happier. True-to-form, Greg carefully considered the possibility, and after reflecting on where he was in his life personally and professionally, he agreed that it was the right time to make a positive change. As we chatted, I also learned that while Greg wanted an upgraded smile, he absolutely didn’t want it to look artificial or “flashy”. Rather, he wanted it to be natural-looking, make him feel healthier, enable him to smile more often and more confidently, and align harmoniously with his engaging, unpretentious and down-to-earth personality.

After exploring various options and possibilities, and taking into consideration all of Greg’s motivations—explicit and implicit, overt and subtle—we agreed that his ideal, customized smile solution would be comprised of two parts. First, we would whiten Greg’s entire smile with our Zoom in-office whitening to achieve a more even appearance in colour. Second, I would straighten his two misshapen front teeth by preparing them to accommodate two porcelain crowns that would address not only colour, but also position and shape discrepancies. I also made minor adjustments to Greg’s gums to build a more symmetrical and harmonious appearance.

When we finished the comfortable, non-invasive and rapid treatment and Greg looked at his upgraded smile for the first time, it was exactly what we collectively envisioned long before we scheduled the treatment—back when all that mattered was why, instead of what. It was the authentic smile Greg was meant to have, at last brought to life in a celebration of artisan dentistry.

“I must admit that having such a trusting relationship with a dentist is something I’ve never experienced and did not even think was possible. But Dr Mah is different,” Greg says. “He was never pushy. Actually, he never even asked me to consider fixing my teeth. It was something I brought up on my own. Dr Mah took a great deal of time to understand what I wanted, and explained all of my options. I never felt hurried, or that he had more important things to do. And his staff was just as phenomenal and respectful of my needs and my time. They made me feel great. I’m extremely happy with my new smile. It’s natural, it’s healthy, and it’s exactly what Dr Mah said it would be. I’m smiling more today than I have for years.”

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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