When and why did you decide dentistry was right for you?
There are so many exciting things to do in life – I’m still not sure dentistry is the ultimate for me.
What do you MOST love about your job?
The close professional relationships I have built up with patients over many years. Many feel like friends now instead of clients.
You have worked on improving and helping many, many smiles. Is there one case that stands out? That not only changed the patient’s life, but yours also?
I arranged a pain relief mission to a remote village in the outlying Yasawa islands in Fiji with my family a few years ago and saw a four-year-old boy with very obvious rampant caries.
He was clearly not healthy with fairly obvious signs of congenital heart problems. Upon very careful questioning, it transpired that he had had open-heart surgery in the capital of Suva, but no records or details of the type of surgery or heart problems were available.
I was in a real quandary, as I desperately wanted to help this poor fellow and could not give him prophylactic antibiotics either, as I had no indication of possible allergies. I certainly did not want to take such risks in the outer islands, where urgent medical help was potentially days away.
I had to refuse treatment, which broke my heart.
To my surprise, a bunch of crumpled up photocopied notes arrived where we were staying two days later, via a messenger in a small village boat. They were his medical records and I still have no idea how they got them from so far away so fast.
From those, I could determine that we were free to treat him and all his infected primary teeth were removed under LA. The poor young fellow was such a brave patient and did not shed a single tear during the procedures done over two days.
When we visited the village a year later, he came bounding across the rugby field (all villages have a rugby field) with a warm “BULA” and looked a total picture of health. His mother came over with tears in her eyes and thanked us over and over, as his overall health improved significantly immediately after his dental problems were dealt with. We all cried!
What do you think are the main obstacles to optimal oral health?
Inadequate oral hygiene. Education and personal responsibility!
You’ve been practicing dentistry for over many years – what do you think have been the biggest changes in the field over this time?
Without any doubt – bonding to tooth structure.
The news media often reports the state of oral health in our country. Do you think as a country, we should be doing better? Do you worry about the current state of oral health in New Zealand?
Oh yes, I do worry. It all comes down to personal responsibility though and governments and health providers can only lead the proverbial horse to the water. It comes down to the horses to drink the good stuff.
Where would you find you, when not in the practice?
Either under or on the sea. Diving, fishing, boating…
Finally, what makes you smile?
Just about everything, I think, but nothing beats a good fish at the end of a line.