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Smile Story Reflections: Discovering the “Why” that Binds
Written by Dr. Kelvin Mah   

collage of photosIf you’re a regular reader of my Smile Stories in Fresh Vancouver magazine, you know how much I love discussing the transformative possibilities of modern artisan dentistry – especially when I get to compare it to the cold, clinical and rather scary “dental office experience” that most people are familiar with!

And of course, you also know how much I enjoy introducing you to some of my patients, and inviting you to journey with them on the path of discovering – or sometimes, rediscovering – their attractive and authentic smile.

For example, you may recall meeting Sherry, who shared that no dentist had ever cared enough or knew enough to tell her that she had options for dramatically improving her smile – options that were simple, safe, quick, painless and surprisingly affordable.

Or perhaps you remember meeting Jessica, who felt that there was something “missing” from her smile – but wasn’t sure what that was, and needed both information and insight to build a vision of a beautiful, healthy smile that fit her perfectly.

And of course, there was Aidan, a former flight attendant who wanted a smile that would make her feel (in her words) “sexy, vital and youthful,” and Candy, a new mom who longed for a way to fix a gap between her teeth that had bothered her for years, and Jocelyn, a Miss Universe® Canada contestant who sought the “pop, sparkle and something special” that her smile lacked, and Nicole, a bride-to-be who was excited about her big day, yet anxious about the state of her smile.

And what about John, who after years of living with a chipped tooth finally decided that it was time to reclaim his smile and confidence? And let’s not forget Gary, who identified his “smile obstacle” when he flipped through photos and saw that his smile was hesitant and muted, instead of radiant and inspired. And who could forget Alex, who was worried that his imperfect smile was holding him back, undermining his confidence, making him self-conscious, and threatening to limit his career potential when it was poised to soar?

Indeed, these are just a few of the many wonderful patients who’ve been at the heart of my Smile Stories. And while I could enjoyably spend the rest of this article (and the next few!) proudly reflecting upon all of them, instead, I’d like to focus on something else, something that I hope you’ll find just as interesting and insightful as I do.

As I thought about all of the patients who’ve appeared in my Smile Stories, I was struck by how different they are. That is, there’s no single “type” of patient who I’ve had the honour of introducing to you. From stay-at-home moms to busy executives, from aspiring young entrepreneurs to those preparing to reap the rewards of retirement, from active and athletic folks to those who prefer to cheer from their couch or the stands, there’s no obvious common denominator that ties them all together.

And while I was quite pleased to discover this (one trip to my Smile City Square Dental practice and you’ll instantly know that I’m a huge fan of diversity!), I felt compelled to dig a little deeper to see if there was, below the surface, a thread, a theme, or a tendency that tied them together. And there it was, staring at me the whole time: WHY.

What connects all of my patients is that they’re open to exploring WHY they want to make positive change in their life. By using that as an entry point into my patients’ rich and textured inner worlds, and through ongoing dialogue that is a true two-way conversation and not a one-way lecture, I’m able to:

  • establish that our relationship is collaborative, supportive and synergistic – they are part of the solution!
  • grasp their unique personalities, needs and aspirations – so that I can show them options and possibilities that are just right for them.
  • empower them to co-create a personalized treatment plan that improves their smile – and transforms their lives in ways that they might not even imagine.

Frankly, I understand that most people don’t expect this level of openness and support from their dentist. But, would you like to know a little secret? The rarity of my philosophy and approach is a source of energy that never fades, because, it means that every patient who walks into my practice – no matter what their important differences and unique histories – is on their way to experiencing what I now call the “why” that binds.

That tie is the essence of artisan dentistry, and, indeed, at the heart of every inspiring Smile Story: past and future!

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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