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Smile


Something Old, Something New, A Perfect Smile From Me to You
Written by Dr. Kelvin Mah   

bride and groom smiling at each otherPicture it—it’s your big day. The day you’ve spent endless days and nights planning. It’s a gathering of everyone important in your life, in celebration of love and harmony. As you lock eyes with your spouse-to-be on your wedding day, they, and all your guests won’t be able to keep their eyes off your dazzling smile.

That’s the moment that I love the most at weddings. That moment when you can see that the bride-to-be or groom-to-be is feeling more content and confident than ever. In that very moment, and throughout your entire wedding day, you deserve to feel proud and free to smile, laugh, most likely cry and smile some more.

As a dentist, I’m so cognizant of patient’s self-perception because I believe a smile radiates from within. With all the various treatments and tools I may have utilized to achieve that beautiful smile, I never forget that my most important criteria for assessing the success of a makeover is how my patient feels when they see their new smile. If patients feel great about themselves and their smile, they will smile freely and confidently.

I often ask my patients; “how do you want to feel when you look at your wedding photos?” and “how do you want to feel on your wedding day?” When you look back on the photos of this special time in your life, you’ll want to see a smile that expresses all of the joy and excitement that you’re feeling! I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to help brides and grooms achieve the smile of their dreams before they walk down the aisle. I’m humbled because I know these moments will last a lifetime in the memory of the happy couple and their friends and family. But I want my patients to feel great about themselves even beyond their wedding day.

One of my patients, Nicole, came to me before her big day. She was both excited about the wedding and anxious about the state of her smile. She didn’t want her uneven and discoloured smile to be a distraction during her most special moment. Nicole arrived expecting to hear that she needs many complicated cosmetic procedures, but was instead surprised and delighted by a different approach. I asked Nicole the single most important question that I ask all of my patients: “what do you want?”

photo of NicoleI wanted to get to know Nicole as a person, not just as a patient, so I could understand her story and why she came to me for help. I listened carefully to Nicole’s response and took every little detail of her desires into consideration. I stayed attentive to catch her subtle cues and continued the conversation until we got to the root of her smile dreams.

More than anything, Nicole wanted to feel confident in her smile. She wanted her smile to complement her personality in a natural-looking way, and to showcase who she is on the inside. We discussed the various possibilities for Mini Smile Makeovers and decided on an in-office whitening treatment and bonding to even out her teeth and leave a long-lasting, brighter appearance.

“Improving my smile was much easier and faster than I thought. I was also surprised by how minor changes could lead to such a huge result. And while I’ve always been a happy person, I feel free to smile now in a whole new way. As for Dr. Mah, what can I say? He was so friendly and caring, and spent a lot of time talking with me about what I wanted, and how I wanted to feel. He made me feel very important and that I was his most important concern. He was the right dentist for me, and I have already recommended him to my colleagues in the fashion world and family members, too. Thank you Dr. Mah for giving me the natural, beautiful smile I always wanted!”

There are endless ways that I can help you achieve your wedding-perfect smile. Many future brides and grooms come to our dental practice for professional teeth whitening, or general cleanings leading up to the big day. In other cases, I have treated patients with dental implants or porcelain veneers to make their smiles picture-perfect. In fact, the wedding season is one of the most popular times for cosmetic dental enhancements! Every bride or groom deserves to look their absolute best for their unforgettable day, and that’s where I can help.

before and after photosIt’s my priority as a dentist to ensure that we go above and beyond to make sure your unique needs are met. Our practice is designed with you in mind. For Nicole, and many other patients, receiving a smile makeover is an incredible transformational experience. Even the smallest procedure can make such a big difference in your confidence and everyday life. I am absolutely grateful that Nicole allowed me to make an impact on her most important day by helping her achieve her wedding-perfect smile.

 
Counting My Blessings This New Year
Written by Dr. Kelvin Mah   

group photoAs 2016 begins, I want to thank all of my patients for another great year! Earlier this month, I took some time to reflect on the wonderful year we had here at Smile City Square Dental. I truly have an amazing team of colleagues who motivate me to work towards my mission every day. Not only do I get to work with some of the most talented individuals, I am also able to fulfill my dreams thanks to all of my patients who put their faith and trust in me to give them the absolute best dental care. There is nothing that satisfies me more than helping others reach their smile goals and revealing their full potential.

Some of you are new patients, and some of you I have known for many years. Nonetheless, each and every one of my patients is unique to me and I enjoy getting to know you and your stories. I hope that with every visit to my dental centre, you are able to feel a strengthened connection with myself and my team. After all, my work philosophy is to always focus on the patient—everything I do revolves around you!

I was reminded of this earlier in the year with one of my patients, Shilan. Her smile transformation began when she was referred to Smile City Square by a close friend, but was hesitant and had some reservations about going to a new dental centre. I ensured her that I would do my best to get her the smile that she wanted. It took some time during our consultation, but I finally got Shilan to open up about her desires and I was able to really understand her story. We all have unique interpretations of “beautiful” and it was crucial that I listen to exactly what she wanted, not to what I assumed she wanted. She had extremely healthy teeth but was insecure about the “gumminess” of her smile.

before photo of teethAfter reshaping her gums, I could instantly see how uplifted Shilan was by this transformation. She came back to tell me that her smile now truly reflected how she felt about herself: confident, proud, and beautiful. I’m so grateful to have met Shilan, as her transformation was yet another reminder to me of why I became so passionate about the dental industry in the first place: to help make people’s dreams into reality.

Many of you are aware of how deep my appreciation is for the art of dentistry. This practice has significantly impacted my life in so many ways. I’ve noticed over the years, with myself and with my patients, that being aware and active about oral health makes a huge difference in the overall health of your body. Often the first thing people will notice when they look at you is your smile!

One of my patients, Lisa, has a great story that demonstrates the importance of staying both physically and emotionally healthy (these go hand in hand). Lisa was the winner of my dental transformation contest this year. I was blown away by her inspiring story, and I am humbled that I have had the chance to get to know her. I brought her in for a consultation so I could identify her needs as a patient, and make sure I could give her my best care. Lisa had been recovering from a negative past, and wanted to continue on a new, rejuvenating path that included having a smile that she could proudly show off. We started her transformation by whitening her teeth, then re-shaping her gums, and finished off by closing the gaps between her front teeth.

Putting in the work to prepare every detail of every treatment was well worth it after seeing how thrilled Lisa was at her amazing new smile. She is now on a brighter, happier path and is never looking back. This example goes to show that having a healthy mouth is an important part of having a healthy life.

after photo of teethNone of Smile City Square Dental’s successes would have been possible without the tremendous work of my dental team. They definitely deserve recognition for the effort they put in every day to create a warm and friendly environment for our patients. I am proud to say that our office environment reflects the services that we provide—we aim to make you feel relaxed, comfortable, and surrounded by natural beauty. We hope you enjoyed your visits with us this past year, and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

Reflecting on these moments has given me even more motivation to strive towards my mission of enriching lives, one smile at a time. So, as the ground gets whiter and the lights get brighter, we hope the same goes for your teeth! In all seriousness, I hope you take a few moments during this special time of year to reflect on your own accomplishments and count your blessings. As well, ensure your family stays healthy all year round!

Best wishes from all of us at Smile City Square Dental! Hope you had a joyous holiday season and good health in the New Year.

 
A Balanced Smile, A Brilliant Story
Written by Dr. Kelvin Mah   

photo of ShilanIf you've read any of my previous articles, you've likely come to realize that my appreciation for dentistry goes far beyond education and expertise. When I see the end results of my patients, it's not the teeth that I admire, it's the vibrancy and excitement exuding from their new smiles. This story, I am proud to say, is one of the same.

Shilan was one of my more recent patients who, like many of my clients, was referred to my practice from a close friend. Shilan, a wonderfully respectful and charismatic woman, had recently moved to Vancouver from Calgary with her young daughter and was in need of a new dentist. She had always visited the same practitioner back in Calgary, and she had her reservations about other practices. I fully understood her concerns; having a dentist who has first-hand experience with your dental past is priceless. So, I was quick to reassure her that I would be happy to care for her smile for as long as she would have me.

before photo of teethDuring our first meeting, she expressed minor concerns regarding tooth sensitivity. As most sensitivity cases go, she had a small cavity that had gone unattended in the past. It was an easy fix. However, when she was talking, smiling and trying to colourfully illustrate her dental history, she appeared to have a few reservations beyond the new office setting. In my experience, I've come to realize that hesitancy is a tell-tale sign of something big. It generally indicates that the sentiment is, in fact, extremely significant and important. With that idea in mind, I abruptly asked her what her true dental aspirations were. She responded with, 'I want healthy and beautiful teeth”.

Now, cavity aside, Shilan's teeth were extremely healthy. They functioned perfectly and were not broken, cracked or particularly stained. Beautiful, no? Well, when I asked her to elaborate, she expressed how the color wasn't quite up to par. Of course, I suggested whitening. Shilan had never been told about all the new, safe and effective whitening options available. She was pleased to hear that a solution was so easily accessible and affordable. However, I still wasn't truly convinced that she was fully satisfied with such a simple procedure. She expressed excitement, but it was muted and, perhaps, even feigned. So, I continued asking her what else she wanted-- what she really wanted for her smile.

after photo of teethAt this point, I questioned if I had asked a few too many times. She had become a bit quieter and I was worried that I may have annoyed her. However, after a short moment of silence, she abruptly said, “it's too gummy”. Her voice was meek yet playful, as if she were trying to avert from the gravity of the situation. But after her initial explanation, her confidence began to grow and she continued into an expressive, honest and genuine declaration of how her teeth were too small, gums were too large and how the combination left her extremely unhappy. “Ever since I was 13, I would stare at my face and teeth for hours in front of the mirror to see how I could fake a smile. I’ve always been hesitant to smile,” she explained.

But recently, Shilan had embarked on a self-improvement exploration which included weight loss, healthier living choices and an all-over life make-over. And yet, she still found her overall improvement was being hindered by her “gummy” smile. “When I’m about to smile or laugh, I make sure to cover my mouth with my hands, scarf or just put my head down. In photos, I often look sad or serious,” she described.

Being limited by a smile is a common issue, and I reassured her that her feelings were shared by many. A smile is like a physical resume. People often believe that they can tell everything about a person based purely on the appearance of their smile. Of course, Shilan was a fun and intriguing woman, but the small stress marks and muscle strain around her face gave off hints of displeasure; a common feature on individuals who are self-conscious of their teeth.

We all have unique interpretations of 'beautiful' and it was crucial that I listened to exactly what she wanted, not to what I assumed she wanted. To me, it is absolutely vital that I actively listen and fully understand what my patient's concerns are. The psychological effects of a physical concern are profound and can create immeasurable stress and it's my duty to alleviate or minimize such stresses to the best of my ability.

During our next consultation, Shilan asked about porcelain veneers. She wondered if they would be a solution for her but was concerned of the cost. However, although veneers are often an ideal solution for addressing smile concerns, I suggested that she consider a different option. Veneers would allow her teeth to look larger but it wouldn't make her gums any smaller. I then explained that her teeth themselves weren’t causing the problem, and that her teeth were, in fact, wonderful. It was actually her gums that were causing the unbalanced proportions. I suggested she consider a minimally-invasive gum reshaping procedure. This plan would be significantly more conservative and less expensive than the veneers while also eliminating the “gummy” appearance that was so clearly bothering her.

As it turned out, an ‘ideal’ result would entail a visit with a specialist and would involve reshaping both the gum and bone around each of her front teeth. However, I suggested a more conservative approach that would give her a nice result that would not involve affecting the bone. After all of our long consultations, I knew she didn't want to spend a fortune, didn't want a myriad of different doctors and wasn't looking for a super-star, 'wow, where did that come from?' smile. She wanted her own personal smile, merely enhanced.

As presented, we completed the reshaping of her gums in under an hour, with no pain, or complications.

When we initially gave Shilan a mirror to review her results after the quick procedure, there was a long silence. I looked over to my assistant and my heart sank thinking that Shilan was unimpressed. My heart sank further when she broke into tears. Seeing a new smile can be devastating if it doesn't look like what you imagined, and I thought that she was unsatisfied. But then, unexpectedly, the tables turned. Shilan jumped out of her chair and gave me a huge hug!

“This has been bothering me since I was a little girl! You’ve given me my smile!” she proclaimed. She then gave my assistant a hug and continued to smile and weep as if a miracle had just taken place. It was then that we realized the gravity of what had just occurred. Not only was she pleased, but her entire life had changed, for the better.

When Shilan returned a few weeks later, it was as if a veil had been lifted. She smiled with the vibrancy and energy of the whole world and there was no longer any strain around her lips. Her smile truly reflected how she felt about herself; confident, proud and beautiful. She commented that she has never smiled as much as she had in the past few weeks, ever. “Now, I simply smile without thinking about it anymore. I am more confident and I get more compliments about my smile. I don't have to think when I smile or laugh. I just smile!”

Shilan’s experience was a powerful reminder of why I started working in dentistry so many years ago. There’s nothing more fulfilling than making a lasting impact on a person’s life. And there’s nothing more gratifying than seeing the difference standing and smiling right in front of you. Thanks to Shilan and my other inspiring clients, I’m driven to continue “enriching lives, one smile at a time”.

Photo credit: Ashley Drody Photography (www.ashleydrody.com)

 
Lisa’s Smile Transformation - Rejuvenation Inside and Out
Written by Dr. Kelvin Mah   

photo of Lisa

Meeting new people is one of the perks of my job, among many others, but when I get to know more about my patients, I’m often blown away by their stories and how interesting their lives are. It’s so amazing to listen to the hardships and triumphs they’ve experienced and realize the strength that radiates from each individual! That was definitely the case with Lisa, one of my latest patients.

Lisa contacted me after coming across a previous article that I’d written for Fresh Vancouver Magazine. We recently held a contest looking for a great candidate for a dental transformation, and she was a clear winner! When she got in touch, her story touched my heart and I knew, then and there, that this was the person I wanted to help. Here’s an excerpt from her letter:

At this point in my life I would love nothing more than to be your next smile transformation story and I'll tell you why! I have had to make do with what little dental work I can afford and my smile is nothing what it used to be like. I find myself avoiding the camera, smiling with closed lips, and my self-esteem is affected due to the look of my teeth. For several years I was involved in a very unhealthy lifestyle of drug addiction, however I am so very grateful and proud to say I have just celebrated two years of being clean and sober! Having my smile fixed would mean the absolute world to me!

After reading Lisa's compelling letter, I knew that I could truly help to make her dreams a reality. I brought her in for a consultation so that I could meet her and have her tell me her story in person. What I heard was a fascinating account of a life fraught with ups and downs.

 

before photo of teeth

When Lisa was young, she had a gap between her two front teeth that bothered her immensely. Her parents and her dentist told her that if she was patient, the gap would eventually close, but she instead chose to have it fixed cosmetically. Because her father had such a great dental plan through his work, everything was covered. However, as she grew up and finished school, she was no longer covered by his benefits and could only afford to cover very small portions of the work needed to maintain her smile. When she came to see me, I could tell right away that she was very embarrassed by her smile and that she wanted to make a change. It’s also important to know that Lisa is recovering from her past lifestyle, a success in her life that she and her family members are extremely proud of. I learned that she had overcome some past difficulties and was ready to continue her renewed life path.

after photo of teeth

By having an in-person consultation, not only could Lisa and I get to know each other on a more personal level, she could get to know the philosophy behind the work that I do. Remember, I don’t believe so much in the, “here’s the problem that I see and this is what I can do” philosophy, I want to know, “what do you want and why”. After delving a little deeper, we started on a plan for her smile transformation right away, knowing that we had a great opportunity to help change her life for the better after all that she has been through.

After collecting Lisa’s clinical records, we looked them over and started discussing our options for her smile. To say that she was excited is an understatement! Planning a patient’s smile truly is a collaborative effort; after all, she’s the one that will be flashing this smile on a daily basis! When we started talking, I discovered that her biggest concerns were the gaps between her upper front teeth and the shortness of her two front teeth. After coming up with a concrete plan, we got to work.

We started by whitening her teeth using Zoom Whitening. This option is ideal because we could brighten Lisa’s smile in a single visit. What a huge difference this alone made and Lisa was ecstatic immediately. We then reshaped the gums around her upper front teeth with a special laser. This often overlooked and underutilized technique is a critical step to really boosting the appearance of a smile. For example, if our teeth are artwork, then the gums are the frame surrounding them. The appearance of the "frame" will either enhance or detract from the "artwork". By carefully modifying the "frame" around Lisa's teeth, we significantly enhanced her smile.

Afterwards, I began closing the gaps between her front teeth by using a tooth-coloured filling material, as it would provide the result we wanted while keeping the procedure very conservative. This completed our treatment and brought Lisa’s smile transformation to a close, making a change for the better.

Upon revealing her new smile, Lisa was so excited with anticipation. As soon as she saw the results we created just for her, her eyes opened wide and she enthusiastically exclaimed that she absolutely loved it! It really went to show that detailed consultations, preparations, and treatment, combined with a patient’s willingness for change, are worth it and make all the difference in the end.

Lisa was so deserving of the treatment that she received. Not only has her smile been rejuvenated, her life has been as well. She’s now on a path of reinvention and discovery, enhanced by the bright new smile I was able to help her with. Once again, I was reminded of my mission to “enrich lives, one smile at a time” and how fulfilling it is to honour it.

 
So Much More Than a Smile: Cedric’s Story
Written by Dr. Kelvin Mah   

photo of CedricI can say with absolute certainty that one of the best perks of my job (and there are many!) is that I get to meet so many people from different walks of life. It brings me so much joy to hear the stories that everyone brings to my dental chair. I think it’s because I’m constantly meeting and interacting with people at my practice, but I truly believe that everyone is exceptionally unique. I love connecting with my patients on not only a work related level, but also on a personal level.

When I first met Cedric a little while ago, I knew we’d have a great connection. Cedric works with Delta Airlines as a customer service representative at the airport, so he’s got a great personality. As we got to talking in our consultation, he started to tell me about his job and his personal life, and then we got down to his smile. As he put it, “I’m meeting new people and talking all day, I have a very interactive job that requires a smile at all times.”

The thing is, Cedric didn’t have any noticeable issues with his teeth; he just had some minor concerns and felt that something was missing from his smile. I remember it so clearly because he was trying to explain to me that he wanted some dental work don;, he just didn’t know what he needed or how to go about getting it. It was more of a feeling that his smile needed to be improved and he wanted it done. He definitely understood the importance of a smile.

As a customer service representative, Cedric obviously has to be on his game at all times, with a smile. I listened to his concerns and was able to pinpoint what needed to be done to his smile to give him more confidence. We both decided that he needed a little tweak to his smile, knowing that it would highlight and greatly improve his confidence level and self-perception. It was a natural life choice that would make sense for his career and everyday life.

We decided to take a closer look in the dental chair and Cedric was amazed at the condition of his teeth when I showed him the images I had captured. It wasn’t anything horrible, not at all, just an eye-opener that demonstrated how neglected his teeth were. “I saw that there were some problems in the back of my mouth and that they needed to be fixed,” he said. We laid out a plan of improvement and scheduled some future appointments so that we could make his smile dreams a reality. The funny thing is, both Cedric and I never thought of his treatment plan as “cosmetic” or “clinical,” but as a “wellbeing improvement.” His job and his personal life were healthy and thriving, so we wanted his smile to match and connect with that. Wellness really is so much more than clinical health, it’s an overall emotional improvement and can greatly affect your life.

We whitened his smile (what a difference that alone made), removed his failing silver mercury fillings and replaced them with natural-coloured fillings. These included advanced ceramic fillings that are extremely durable. I really wanted to focus on long-term solutions for Cedric’s smile, and not provide a “quick-fix” like so many people are now used to. My approach is to make people happy with their results and confident with those results for a very long time.

Looking back, we actually did very little “cosmetic” work. However, after his treatment was finished, you could tell that Cedric looked different. Not because of my dental work (ok, that had a little bit to do with it!), but because we addressed the changes he wanted to make and they affected his confidence level and overall wellness. He told me afterward, “I noticed a huge improvement in my personal and professional life. I felt better interacting with my clients on a daily basis because I was more confident in myself as a reflection of my smile.” He truly was radiating from within, and his renewed smile just added to his new persona.

It’s funny how your oral health can be connected to your personal and mental health. My patients are always surprised by their renewed sense of self after having certain procedures completed that address issues that have been bothering them. Whether it’s that they weren’t confident because of their teeth or they were looking for a new job and were self-conscious of their smiles, the stories have been endless, but the results have always been positive. The biological connection between "oral health" and "overall health" has been established in clinical literature, but it's a bit abstract. In Cedric's case, taking his oral health to the next level not only made him look better, but he felt a very real impact on his overall vitality as well as his sense of how others perceived him.  Our inward appearance truly does reflect our outward personality.

Having Cedric as a patient really helped me re-connect with why I approach dentistry the way that I do. I truly believe that establishing a relationship with my patients is key to providing the best dental services that I can. It’s really not about “what do you want” and “how do you want me to do it,” it’s all about the reasons why. When I can get an honest answer from my patients, I feel connected to them on a whole level, not just on a dental level. I really focus on the solutions they need to improve whatever it is they’re looking for. I believe that the impact of dentistry can be transformative and enrich a patient’s life.

“I had a wonderful experience with Dr Kelvin Mah. He was very professional and knows how to treat his patients with kindness and understanding. He asks about you as a person, not as a patient, and helps you address the solutions you’re looking for. Thanks, Dr Mah!”

 
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