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Orthodontist Talk with Dr. Sunny Leong
Dr. Sunny Leong or “Dr. Sunny”, as many know him, is back in the office. Dr. Leong has been practicing orthodontics for over 12 years. He has a conservative treatment approach, similar to the late Dr. Dietz. He welcomes patients from all over the South Edmonton area including Terwillegar South, Magrath Heights, Twin Brooks, Haddow, Windermere and Riverbend just to name a few. Many of his patients travel in from Leduc, Beaumont, Devon, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and even as far as Edson, Whitecourt, and Camrose!
Dr. Sunny’s education included: University at Buffalo Dental School 2005; University of Florida Orthodontic Fellowship 2006; University of Minnesota Orthodontic Residency 2008; and University of Alberta Nursing 2000-2001.
Fun facts about Dr. Sunny:
Dr. Sunny was raised in North Edmonton and attended Queen Elizabeth High School. He has been a die-hard Oilers fan since he was a child.
He has participated in 6 dental volunteer trips to bring free dental care to people around the globe. He has been to: Columbia, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Belize, Peru, and Guatemala.
He is the lead singer in the rock band GOOD ‘NUFF. He loves music so much that his dream job, if he wasn’t an orthodontist, would be to be a country singer in Nashville!
Dr. Sunny and his wife Misaki love to travel. Their absolute favourite place in the world is Hawaii! In fact, he and his wife got married there 3 years ago.
In his spare time, you can often find him on the golf course, trying to improve his game!
Dentists diagnose, treat, prevent and control disorders of the teeth and mouth. They work in private practice or may be employed in hospitals, clinics, public health facilities or universities.
This group performs some or all of the following duties:
– Examine patients’ teeth, gums and surrounding tissue to diagnose disease, injury and decay and plan appropriate treatment
– Restore, extract and replace diseased and decayed teeth
– Perform oral surgery, periodontal surgery and other treatments
– Clean teeth and instruct patients on oral hygiene
– Design bridgework, fit dentures and provide appliances to correct abnormal positioning of the teeth and jaws, or write fabrication instructions or prescriptions for use by denturists and dental technicians
– Supervise dental hygienists, dental assistants and other staff
Dentists may specialize in such areas as oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, endodontics, prosthodontics, oral pathology, oral radiology or public health dentistry.
Over the 2016-2018 period, employment growth in this occupational group was substantially above the average for all occupations. The unemployment rate fell to reach 0.9% in 2018, a rate slightly below its long-term trend and significantly below the national average of 5.8%. However, the large majority of workers in this occupation are self-employed (87%), which explains the low unemployment rate. On the other hand, the number of usual hours of work has remained very stable over the past years, a characteristic that is different from the downward trend observed for the overall Canadian labour market. Hence, analysis of key labour market indicators suggests that the number of job seekers was sufficient to fill the job openings in this occupational group.
This is what you typically need for the job:
- One to four years of pre-dentistry university studies or, in Quebec, completion of a college program in sciences and A university degree from a recognized dental program are required.
- Licensing by a provincial or territorial regulatory body is required.
- Dentists in general practice can move into a specialized practice through advanced training.
- Licensing for specializations is required.
Check out our Career Crisis Interview Series:
Full Length Episode:
Complete Episode Transcript
My job description, Kim, is I help people smile every day.
Yeah, that is essentially what I do.
And I can’t believe I get paid to do that.
The Job Talk Podcast shares stories from people who are passionate and love what they do in their careers.
Through conversation, we explore their careers, past work experiences and the education that got them to where they are now.
We are putting together a Career Crisis Ultimate Interview series.
We are asking experts to give their best advice and guidance around work anxiety career pressures, career goal setting, and ultimately career transformation.
To learn more about this special interview series and get notified when it’s available, please visit our web page at thejobtalk.com/help Today’s guest is Dr.
Here’s our job talk with an orthodontist.
I think if you look at all of the careers, being an orthodontist is probably pretty high on a parent’s list for their their kid.
What was your dream career when you were a kid? Oh, man.
Well, I mean, like like any Edmonton boy.
I always hoped that I would make the Edmonton Oilers and play in the NHL, and I think that’s what I tell my mom.
And she has rolled her eyes.
But I’ll be honest with you, I actually had braces when I was younger.
I’ll be able to share a picture with you of of what I look like when I was younger.
My my teeth were high up, so the canine teeth were high up.
And the kids in the playground, whenever I was smile, they would call me the vampire kid.
And, you know, being an immigrant to Canada and even know what the heck a vampire was.
So I looked it up in the encyclopedia because that’s what we had to do back then there was no Google and it was not great.
And so I was super embarrassed.
You know, I didn’t like my smile at all and not very confident.
So Mom, realize that as moms do, because they have a sixth sense for everything.
And then she loved me enough that she brought me to an orthodontist and they started to fix my smile.
And then I would say in about maybe a month or two.
Those canines, those fangs, they came down.
And then after that, the kids no longer teased me on the playground, and I felt like, Wow, you know what? And I love that confidence.
And I have now and I feel real good about myself and smiling big in the whole thing.
So I went up to Mom and I told her, you know, I was 14 at the time, had my braces on.
I presented the year the Oiler career option and she didn’t like that.
So I told, you know.
As an alternative.
As an alternative mom, I think I might want to be an orthodontist one day.
And she said, Son, I’ll support you on that one.
And you know what I’ve been in the field now for? Oh, gosh, 16 years.
I still feel like the new kid on the block.
But but anyway, that’s how it went for me.
It is very personal.
I share that story with a lot of my patients because I don’t know.
I think as doctors sometimes we feel like we can’t open up, you know, that story and get too personal.
But I’m not that type of doctor.
So you were an immigrant to Canada.
Where were you born? Well, you know, I tell everybody that I came from Malaysia because everybody knows where Malaysia is actually came from a small country near Malaysia called Brunei.
So yeah, we born there in 1980 and then mom and dad, we’re thinking more.
You know what? I think we got to go somewhere for a better life.
And Dad had that, had a brother already in Canada and dad was an oil guy, right.
So where in Canada do you go where there’s oil.
Well, you go to Edmonton.
So we touched down.
Oh, gosh, in February of all months, February to check in 1981.
And I remember my parents telling me, well, you know what, we’ll give it a try for about a week.
If we don’t like it, we’ll go home and we haven’t looked back.
What was your first post-secondary experience after leaving grade 12? Oh, gosh.
Well, you know, I knew obviously at age 14 that I wanted to go into dental or ortho…
but I didn’t know if I was ever going to get there.
So I very much like in life with everything they throw obstacles your way and they require you to take all these science courses that you may or may not care about.
So physics, chemistry, biology, statistics.
Oh, my gosh.
And so I did that for the first couple of years.
I whenever my friends told me what I was taking at the university, I would always sexy it up and say, Yeah, I’m taking pre dentistry.
Cool, but it’s just.
It’s just science courses, right? But anyway, I did that for two years and I don’t know, I felt I felt a little lost.
I just felt like I was learning stuff.
But it wasn’t applicable to life.
So I pivoted actually, and did something a little bit more near and dear in my heart.
I love people and I love helping people.
So I actually applied to both pharmacy and to nursing and I actually I got into both and then I decided the better fit for me actually was nursing.
So I was in nursing at the U of A.
prior to that and did about a year and loved it.
I got to see patients, you know, not just as a as a set of teeth as, you know some some people think that just look at but as an individual and as a whole so did that for a year and then I got a.
I got a call from a dental school in New York, in Buffalo, New York.
And they said, Sun, I we like you.
Why don’t you come on down and interview and then we’ll see where it goes.
So my dad and I, we went all the way down to Buffalo, New York, in the middle of February.
And then I did my interview.
And then about maybe a week or two later, I got an envelope in the mail.
And it wasn’t a small envelope because the ones that are small, you know, that you didn’t get in.
It was one of the bigger ones.
So I opened it and it said, Welcome to the University of Buffalo Dental School.
And I ran outside in the middle of February and I, I just screamed as long as I could because I was one of the happiest days of my life.
So Buffalo isn’t exactly a hot spot city either for climate What’s it like being a Canadian and going to university in the United States? All you know, it was pretty cool.
You know, Buffalo, it’s close to Toronto.
It’s close to the border.
So in a way, it’s a little bit like Canada.
You know, they got a lot of snow there, but they actually like their hockey, which which is great with me.
So I spent four years at Buffalo, really, really enjoyed it.
Met people from all parts of the world, you know, from the states, from Canada, because it was a border town.
There were a lot of Canadians there, too.
But from abroad, I mean, there is one from Egypt, one from China, one from India.
Just just great.
So I did that for four years and finished the degree there, and then I knew that I wanted to do ortho.
But they don’t teach you that much about orthodontics.
It’s like a hidden secret.
I don’t know why.
So, anyway, I.
I applied to the University of Florida, so I actually was a gator for.
For a year.
It was awesome because I got to learn about orthodontics by.
I also got to golf in January and February and they feel it’s too cold when it’s 15 degrees Celsius down there.
So it was great.
So it went down there, lived my Florida life for a year and then and decided, Hey, you know what, I really like this ortho stuff so applied everywhere.
And then eventually got into the University of Minnesota and that’s in the Twin Cities in Minneapolis.
So that that one is very, very much like Edmonton, like a E-town, because they love their hockey.
Every high school has a hockey team.
They got their big mall, Mall of America, and they got the change courses.
And so I felt like I felt like I was back home.
But but even there, you know, even though I was in the States, it still sort of felt like Canada ish.
But it really, really opens up your eyes to to the world.
And, you know, I was very, very fortunate not only to study but to see and experience life as well.
So not only did I grow up as a person, but I was able to do that while, you know, putting dental knowledge into my brain.
It is it common? Like, do you have to study dentistry first? And I think the designation, it’s D.D.S., is that correct? When you graduate.
From Yeah, yeah, the doctor of Dental Surgery, they also have deemed doctor dental, medical, dental or something like that.
But but yeah, so you have to be a dentist first.
So it takes about four years.
Graduate from a dental school in North America and then afterwards.
So then you can specialize.
So, you know, I did four years.
You do the math did the four years of my dental school.
I did the one year of my fellowship, orthodontic fellowship, and then did two years in Minnesota for my actual residency.
So that’s what is it, seven right there.
And then I did three years of undergrad at the university, so two years at the pre dentistry and then one year of nursing.
So all in all it was ten years in.
But, you know, that pales in comparison to my wife.
She’s a Ph.D.
in animal sciences and she was in school for about 13 years.
When you’re studying it, what kind of what’s the work load like? First of all, do people have part time jobs when they’re studying to become an orthodontist, or are you just inundated with studying and it’s how stressful is it? Well, you know, it was a two year program, so.
And you had not only did you have patients to take care of, you had research that you got to do.
And just so many, so many articles that you got to read to to up your game.
So I person didn’t have time to do that.
And I don’t think my and my student visa I think it was illegal for me to.
Was it you just have to concentrate on being a student.
Or in the States because I just have student visa.
I can’t really do anything.
So I did get a little bit of money for teaching.
I enjoy teaching, you know, and I did teach at the U of A, but in Minnesota I did teach a little bit.
So they pay you a little bit for that as well? It was yeah.
It was a full time, full time job and then some.
So I was not able to work.
I don’t think most residents are able to and if they can, then they’re made to something special.
And what are the courses like when you’re going through studying to be an orthodontist? What what courses are you literally taking? Yeah, well.
You know, in dental you get you’re learning a lot about the anatomy, not only just the head and neck, which is where you are, but the entire body.
Like we actually had to do dissections on cadavers because we were like medical students.
So your first two years in dental school, you’re learning a lot of medical stuff, pharmacology, physiology and all that.
Just to give you the basis.
And then and then you get more into the dental and you’re in your third and fourth year where you’re actually treating patients and and doing all that stuff.
So it’s a slow build.
Some people get frustrated the first couple of years because it’s a lot of med stuff.
But, you know, I guess it’s it’s good to know that stuff.
Not that I know, not that I can remember all that stuff right now.
But, you know, I sure did at the time.
And then in orthodontics, it’s it’s all about, you know, how to straighten teeth and how to get there.
There’s so many ways to get there.
Just like I always joke.
There’s so many ways to get to West Edmonton Mall Okay, want to do you want to take the White Mud? You only take the Henday that you want to go down 170.
There’s so many ways to get there and you’ll find that it’s such a gray zone in dental and in orthodontics.
So if somebody tells you that there’s one way to do it, there isn’t.
Are you in Saint Paul or Minneapolis when you’re.
You know, I was living in Saint Paul, but I the the Twin Cities campus was in it was in Minneapolis.
So, you know, a huge city.
I love it like that.
Just reminded me of of Edmonton all over.
And I think I think that being the last stop for me in Minneapolis was good because you could you imagine if my last stop was in Florida, you’re thinking.
You think I’d be.
Motivated, come back home? I don’t know.
Do they know that there is a large mall in Edmonton? The people of Minnesota.
They they do.
And they they know the Ghermezians.
The ones that built West Edmonton Mall also built the Mall of America.
So they do they know what size the town that Wayne Gretzky played in and and the fact that we got a big old mall, they think their mall is a lot sexier than ours.
But, you know, I don’t know.
Okay, so you returned to Edmonton.
Let’s start let’s catch up to you.
Could you talk a little bit about your practice now and the work that you’re doing now? Yeah, well, if.
You ever go back in chronological order.
I came back to Edmonton and and I’ll be honest, I’ve got nothing here to hide and I think part of the part of the journey is, is not only success, but also failures.
I think through failure, you find out what you’re made of and you become an even stronger individual later.
So I came back to Edmonton and you know, there was an orthodontist at the time, no names that I was talking to.
And, you know, we were thinking of that area, which was which was great.
And then before or just before we were I was about to start he called me up on the Sunday and told me I was starting the Monday.
And he said, you know, I had a change of heart.
I had a change of heart.
And, you know, I, I don’t think that we’re going to do this practice thing together anymore.
So I flabbergasted.
I came back home and it was supposed to be a great homecoming.
But as soon as I came back home, I got guess I got let go.
And I probably was the North America’s first ever unemployed orthodontist.
I’ll be honest.
It wasn’t not not.
Not a dubious label to have.
But there I was, ten years of education, ready to rock and roll.
I straightened teeth.
And then didn’t have a job.
So I was like, oh, my gosh, I was a gut punch.
But anyway, what happened was word had it on the street that there was a practice, dental practice in Fort Saskatchewan and unfortunately that that dentist suffered a stroke three years prior to and was in nursing care.
24 seven nursing care could not practice anymore.
So I went and visited the practice, smaller practice, but I saw right and liked it.
I never went to Fort Saskatchewan before I even know where the heck it was, I thought was in Saskatchewan.
But my bad.
And then yeah, I bought that practice and flipped it in a month.
It became a general practice to an orthodontist practice and then I remember my first day I was happy as hell because I had one patient in the morning, one in the afternoon, and I was just beyond myself.
I couldn’t believe that there were people that actually wanted to see me.
And so I remember pulling the open sign that day when we opened, and I still have pictures of that day, so that that was how the journey started.
And then you learn your systems, you figure out about business, which is another story.
They don’t teach you much about business in orthodontic school.
And then two years later, I’m from North Edmonton, so I decide to open up a practice near where I was raised in North Edmonton, so I did that.
So in two years I had one office in Fort Saskatchewan and then another in North Edmonton.
So it’s like baptism by fire.
And sometimes when you do those things when you’re young, it’s probably better that way because I think when you’re a little bit older, you just overthink it, you know, too much risk.
Oh, I don’t know about this.
I don’t know about that.
But at that time I didn’t care.
And what I what happened was in Fort Saskatchewan, one, I started believing in myself.
You know, you have doubts.
Are you ready to have your own business or are you ready to treat patients you don’t know? But it went so well in Fort Saskatchewan when that, you know, I got my my mojo on and then just went from there.
So I did that for about, oh, I don’t know, about a decade, decade plus.
And then I get a call one day and it’s from the brother of an orthodontist in South Edmonton and Dr.
And his brother calls me because I knew Darcy and he said, You know what, my brother just passed away and we think that you’re a good fit for the office is the right personality and everything.
So could you help us? And there was like four or 500 patients in treatment and I was like, you know what, I, I can’t I can’t let them down.
It’s just, it’s just in me to help.
And so I did help out.
And then it went really, really well.
They embraced us in South Edmonton and decided, hey, you know what, let’s take the let’s help them out.
So in in the last 15 years now we’ve got three offices, believe it or not, and and that’s just how the story went.
But you know from from unemployed down on his luck to where where I am right now.
You know, very, very fortunate.
It definitely should have happened to somebody a lot smarter and probably a better looking No.
How how are you succeeding with the business side of things because you’re an orthodontist? That’s that’s what you do.
But you also have to run a business and.
Do you have somebody helping you out with with that side of things? How does that for sure? Yeah, for sure.
You know, I have a lovely a lovely friend.
I can call her friend now and colleague by the name of Daphne.
Souch so believe it or not, she is here in Edmonton, but she’s an orthodontic consultant, so she knows about the business.
So she’s been in orthodontics for about 30 plus years now and I was briefly working with her at the office I was supposed to join.
I remember I got let go.
So I met her and said, Hey, you know what? I really liked her.
So we just started talking about it and that’s how the dream grew.
So, you know, yeah, I know the teeth stuff.
I mean, you, you think you know the teeth stuff, of course.
But you really don’t know much about the business side.
But me and Daphne, we just put our heads together and just grew that thing organically.
I think it also helps if you have some business sense and you know, obviously people skill as well, to be honest with you.
You know, a lot of my friends ask you, how do you run three practices or three successful businesses? Like where did you get that learning from I it’s a dumb, dumb answer, but I think part of it was just my upbringing and the fact that I was involved in students union in high school.
I was a student union president, right? And so you have to run that thing like a business.
You have people that you have to organize, events that you have to pull out and you have a budget.
So little did I know that when I was in high school it was slowly but surely training me to to do the business side of things and marketing as well, which is I enjoy it.
I really do.
There’s not a lot of dentists out there that do enjoy it, but I do so a little bit different.
But I had help from Daphne and myself and I have a lovely associate by the name of Dr.
He just became partner.
He just made partner with me a month ago.
So there’s no way that one guy could run three offices like that.
So he takes care of a couple.
I mostly in the Southside one right now.
But it does take a team effort.
And, you know, I acknowledge that and love them both.
Let’s talk about you hinted at it, but let’s talk about some of the mentors that you’ve worked with over the years.
And maybe you can talk about what what they taught you.
What were some of the best lessons that a mentor taught you or.
Well, I’m thinking back at it right now.
There’s there’s there’s one there’s many mentors along the way.
So my apologies if I don’t give a shout out to all of them.
But there were, there was one in particular non dental she actually Barb Girolami she was my junior high gym teacher and Rosalind up north and you’re like, where is this? Where’s it going? So when I was, I was at this, I was a really good student, okay? And I studied maybe a little bit more than I should have, but I got I got really good grades because that’s just what you do.
I don’t know, maybe as an Asian immigrant kid, I’m not sure.
But that’s what I did.
So I graduated top my class and was about to leave for high school and I bump into Barb in the hallway and she says, Sunny, come over here.
I have something to tell you.
I’m like, okay, yeah, yeah.
Barb, what what do you what do you want to say to me? So she’s like, I know you’re going to be successful.
One day I was like, okay, well, thanks, but I just want you to know there’s more to life than just books.
I, I really think that where you’re going to grow is if you have more of a balanced life place in sports, get involved, volunteer.
And if you do that, you’re going to be stronger than you ever know and you’re going to be even more successful.
So it took me back because she essentially told me, you can be you can be better.
What kind of grade, what kind of high school or junior high teacher takes their pupil aside and says, you can be better? But she challenged me and I accepted that challenge.
So in high school, yeah, I was still good in the books, but man, I played sports like I never played before.
Volleyball, floor, hockey, handball, badminton, you name it.
I got involved in the awards committee.
I was the emcee.
My gosh, like I never really talked in front of people before, but I was the emcee in the awards ceremony and eventually had the kahuna was enough to run for student body president and had it not been for that moment with Barb back in the day, I don’t think you’d be I don’t think I would be half the man that I am right now.
So she definitely was just so instrumental and a shout out to all those teachers out there.
What you say matters and sometimes what you say is not not easy and it’s difficult, but you do it out of love.
And Barb, I love you.
And I think of you a lot.
Yeah, I have three kids, and I often tell them that the priorities should be school playing minor sports and then work.
Because my oldest has a part time job at a fast food restaurant and she gets stressed out with with her job.
And I keep telling her that you need to have the experiences of playing minor sports and then worry about working when you graduate from grade 12 because the rest of your life it’s all about work.
So 100% agree with you.
Yeah, it’s me doing, you know, and good for her for for dipping her toes into into working life that young.
You know, I would do my, my, my first job believe it or not, Kim, I was what the hell was? I was in grade ten.
I was 15 at the time.
And I just applied to some random job I students students job for the summer time.
And it was I was door to door sales.
I was selling greeting cards before there were greeting cards in the dollar store.
So I didn’t know what I was doing.
I had no idea.
But I am selling these greeting cards for like $16 and you get three greeting cards, which is a rip off now, right.
When you think about it, because you would be getting one one for a dollar or two for a dollar.
But anyway, it it.
It made me realize the not the importance of money, but how hard it can be to make that dollar.
But, you know, when you’re when you’re doing door to door, you know, like you got to make sure that you’re able to present your product very clearly and in 30 seconds or you get that door shut in your face.
So I think that’s again, it helped me with business as a business individual right now, business owner, because you’re having to make those connections out in the world with with general dentists who are your referrals or or, you know, people like yourself.
But, you know, those lessons that I learned when I was 15, 16, like they were so instrumental, so key into building me where I am right now.
What are some obvious misconceptions about orthodontists out there? Um.
That, that they’re boring.
I mean, orthodontist are smart people, but I think they’re sometimes too smart.
I think we forget sometimes that we’re dealing with people.
So I think sometimes they come across, as, you know, maybe a little bit cold, maybe they maybe too smart.
The other perception, I think, is like, oh, man, you’re working in somebody’s mouth.
Isn’t that gross? I mean, when you say it like that, yeah, maybe.
But I’ll be honest with you, my job description, Kim, is I help people smile every day.
Yeah, that is essentially what I do.
And I can’t believe I get paid to do that right.
And not only are you giving them a smile, you’re giving them self-confidence.
Maybe you’re helping them maybe uncover the individual, the person that they want to be.
And they can’t do that because they were afraid of their smile that I share with my picture afterwards what I look like before.
But it makes a difference.
It really does.
So to be honest with you, it’s not about teeth.
It’s not about teeth, it’s about people and watching them grow.
Actually, that’s a good segue way into could you describe your most successful orthodontic case? Oh, man.
You know, I don’t I don’t know if I have a more successful one, but I.
So there was one kid, um, she also went to Rosling Junior High.
I actually reached out to Barb, my teacher, my mentor, and I said, Hey, Barb, you know, I want to I want to do some a free orthodontic case to somebody at the school that that we both went to.
And I want to do it because it’s the right thing to do.
So and I want to choose somebody who maybe does not have the economic means to pay for this.
So just giving it back, right.
So we did choose one patient and her teeth was a mess.
She was very, very shy.
I hate to smile.
Had a good heart, of course.
So anyway, we present it to her and she was super, super excited.
Just beyond thrilled that she was getting orthodontic treatment for free.
I and I.
We fixed her teeth and made her smile to a point where she was able to blossom.
And she was a lot more confident, a lot more stronger.
And the work that the work that we did for that one patient, it just helped her.
But, you know, honestly, like it helped me.
It helped me.
And it it made me decide that, you know what? You know, it’s not about the money we’re all going to do well, okay? It’s going to be okay.
But if you can help those that are less fortunate.
So, for example, right now I am the the the or the Western chair for this organization called Smiles for Canada.
So essentially we’re treating all Canadian kids all across country.
They submit online their photos and their economic situation.
And then my committee looks at it and determines, well, who rightfully so deserves this, so that I’ve been with your organization now for about, I think, five or six years, and we have treated successfully over 400 deserving young kids in Canada and giving them it gave them the smile.
So for all those out there listening, you know, if if you want the best smile for your kid but you can’t necessarily afford it smiles4canada.ca and you never know you never know.
Yeah giving back I love it.
You’ve also traveled the world providing volunteer dental work as well.
Could you talk about some of your experiences with that? Yeah, you know, it was in dental school and I got selected to go to a dental volunteer trip in Belize, believe it or not.
So we went there and I didn’t tell my mom at the time, but we were working out of a prison.
I don’t think she still.
No, so I hope she’s not listening.
But we were working.
Of a prison and we’re given, you know, and look, I don’t know what they did to be in there, but they’re still people and they still deserve dental care.
So we did volunteer dental work in there and it was great.
It filled my heart and it made me decide that, hey, you know what? Regardless of what I do in the future, private practice, whatever, there has to be that component of it to make it for me just to keep it real and to remind us that, you know, this is why we do what we do.
So from that one, then either is an organized organization here in Canada called Kindness in Action.
And so Doctor Dave Maskell, a really good friend of mine, a dentist, a previous dentist in Red Water huge Oiler fan, by the way, too.
We connected and he and I, my wife as well, and some my other friends.
We’ve been on about eight dental volunteer trips over the last decade, plus, you know, to Guatemala, Peru, been to Cambodia, Nicaragua, Belize, again, Colombia, you name it.
We’re thinking about heading to Ecuador at some point.
So you go down there and it really changes your perception on things, you know.
And you know, the people down there, they don’t got much.
In fact, they they walk to your clinic bare feet, sometimes for three days because we’re out in the sticks, okay? We’re out in the jungles and all that.
And they if you don’t provide the dental care for them, then they don’t see a dentist.
And, you know, some of the strongest patients I’ve ever seen were from out there.
I mean, there was a kid, I think I was removing maybe four or five decayed teeth on.
So if you don’t remove them, it’s going to be huge infection.
Yes, health is going to decline.
And also we had to get those things out.
So we weren’t we were not able to numb him up just because he had so much infection.
So I actually did remove the teeth.
I don’t know if he was anesthetized fully.
We tried our best, but we did remove all the teeth and he took it like a champ.
Yeah, there was a tear rolling down his eye, but we did all five and he gave me a hug afterwards and I was like, Oh my gosh, this five year old can do that.
You know, I tweak a tooth on a patient here and they start crying.
That’s like, wow, their pain threshold is something else, right? So, you know, as stories like that, things like that that remind you, you know, this is what we do, what we do.
And those those volunteer trips out there are fun.
You know, if there any dentist listening to this, too I would invite you to kindness and action.
It’s a great way to meet lifelong friends.
You have to close your clinic down for about a week or two, which means that you’re not making any money.
But you know what? What? My best friend Jeff Stewart from Reagan Distillery in LA.
Do you know what he told me one day was, you know, it’s just money.
I laughed at him and at the time.
But it’s so true.
But what we get out of those volunteer trips is more than any any money that you can make ever, because it does fill up your cup with with, you know, with love and and gratitude.
When you look over your entire career, has there been any surprises to you? Um, just like personal surprises or just think about the career or just like about my journey or what do you think? Anything unexpected that you experienced that you never thought you would have if when you decided to become an orthodontist? Yeah.
I think, you know, I always like helping people, but, you know, going into orthodontics, a lot of orthodontists are private practice, meaning that they got to run a business, they have to hire employees and answer the phone like I did when I didn’t have any employees.
When I first started.
I think the business side of it was something that it’s in the back of your mind, but you don’t know too much about it.
And you know, luckily enough, I had that training in high school with the students and whatnot.
It really did prep me for some of those journeys and some of the things that we had to face and challenge.
But I think the business aspect of it is something that a lot of not just orthodontist but general dentists in particular really don’t think much about.
It takes time.
And if you don’t have the skill, you know, I would recommend getting a consultant like I did so that they can sort of show you the ropes.
Look, you’re going to make mistakes either way, but at least you can make some of those mistakes while trying your hardest to be a really, really good business owner.
So I think that that was one aspect.
And the other aspect too is just like, look, I’m not the same orthodontist I was 15 years ago, you know, back in the day.
You’re put in brace one by one on teeth.
And you were you had mold molds or models of your teeth and you’re trying to look at them.
So it’s so different now.
Everything has gone digital.
So instead of having molds that I’m holding my hand if I have a digital mold, so we, we 3D scan your teeth.
We don’t use that goofy trap and putting your mouth that everybody hates, right? We 3D scan your teeth.
It goes on my iPad and literally I play a video game.
I tell my patients all the time, the kids love it.
I play a video game like roadblocks with your teeth and design your smile.
And then once we do that, if we’re using the Invisalign, the robot’s actually 3D print, you know, these Invisalign trays for you and get your teeth straighter.
And then when you say that and they’re like, what? Even the parents who had braced, they were braced face back in the day.
They’re like, Holy cow, things have changed.
And even now too, we’re not even using the same metal braces for me again.
You have to be.
You have to embrace technology.
And I’m more of an early adopter.
So we’re actually doing 3D printed braces that are custom printed to the anatomy of every single tooth that you have.
And so to me, it’s like a video game every day.
And and you’re using technology to deliver dental care and orthodontic care that was, you know, way faster, way more efficient than it was before.
So the other part is just being a lifelong learner, you know, like you don’t want to be the same dentist, you don’t want to be the same orthodontist that you were five years ago.
You have to keep on pushing the needle and getting better and better.
So I think just just having continuing education and, you know, going to meetings, learning new techniques, having the having the courage to actually do those and implement them.
I think that’s another thing that has a kept my mind really, really sharp and it just keeps the the the job, the career more interesting because it’s forever changing.
Can you summarize what you love about being an orthodontist? Oh, man.
I mean, that’s a loaded question, but honestly, it’s the people.
And like I said, my job description is to give them the best mile possible and and to help them smile every day.
But you you see these young kids, they they they grow up.
They have their personalities.
They end up getting married and they send you their wedding photos.
And you’re like, man, that smile I made for them, that’s with them forever.
And I was with them on one of the most important days of their life.
So just being able to see that and connect with them even many, many years later, some still come back to the office and give me a hug.
And, you know, they were so short before, but they’re they’re way taller than than than me at this point.
It doesn’t take much, by the way, but just to see them grow and become the people that they are, that they that they want and become and express their full potential.
And to know that I was just a small part of that, you know, that that that is very, very satisfying as a health care professional.
There’s no other better feeling than to know that you did good.
Well, through all your volunteer work and the practice that you’re doing now, thank you for making this world a better place.
And thank you so much for coming on the podcast for us today.
Really appreciated it.
Why I appreciate Kim and you know if there any any anybody has any questions out there and you know we’re talking about mentors before in closing if there’s anybody out there that thinks hey you know what, maybe maybe orthodontics might be for me, maybe maybe that dream come true.
My my dentist at the time, Dr.
Bruce Newman, out of Saint Albert, he took me under his wing and let me volunteer at his clinic.
I actually did approach another dentist who was my dentist when I was young.
And he he I asked if I could just volunteer because I think it’s when you’re young, you just need to expose yourself to a lot of things.
But he actually did not let me volunteer at his office, which is surprising.
Now, he told me that my my grades for work weren’t high enough.
So, you know, when you’re a 17 year old and your dentist tells you that you’re thinking, oh, my gosh, well, maybe I can’t be a dentist one day, right? So I was nursing at the time I met Bruce while I was doing First Aid and I just, you know, I just desperate because I wanted to be a dentist, an orthodontist so bad.
But I just didn’t have anybody there to mentor me.
So I just asked, Hey, Bruce, you know, I could pay you if you want, whatever you want.
Could I just come to your office and just see what dentistry is all about? It’s like, sure.
What? You’re going to let me come to your office? Yeah.
Why don’t you come? Come next Friday? So I did.
And you know, we ended up being really, really good friends, but he he took me under his wing.
And I think that’s what we need more of, is just to say, hey, you shouldn’t judge these kids.
You don’t know what potential that they have.
So to Bruce out there, again, much love I haven’t seen in a while.
Hope you’re doing well, but just having those mentors out there.
So if there’s anybody out there that might think that they might want to consider orthodontics as a career or nursing or something, you’re more than welcome to reach out to me.
Let them know that you heard me on on this lovely podcast here.
And you never know.
Maybe it’s not.
Maybe it is for you.
And that’s great.
And maybe it’s not for you, but it gets you thinking about your future.
I think that that would be one of my lasting legacy that I’d like to to to leave to everybody is just, you know, just let’s just all try to help one another and and just try to to to build those kids up, you know, when they’re when they’re very young like that because they sometimes don’t know what they can achieve, but you just have to believe in them, right? Just take that step.
It’s not that much.
Doesn’t cost you much, but just I don’t know if you can just just do it right and.
Kim, like yourself, have you had a lot of have you been a mentor or have you had a lot of mentors along the way to bring you to this position? Because, you know, who who leaves their their job of 20, 30 years at NAIT to do a podcast right yeah.
A crazy person.
What your son.
Well, thank you so much.
I really appreciate it.
And hopefully maybe in 2023 will be celebrating a Stanley Cup win by the Edmonton Oilers.
Oh, here we go.
Drop that puck Let’s get started.
Let’s go, Oilers.
Sunny Yeah, thanks a lot.
Thank you for tuning in to The Job Talk Podcast.
For more information, please visit us at thejobtalk.com Our podcast music was created.
Our friend Mike Malone in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.