Published on 09 Mar 2023
In NTUC Health Denticare, we have more than 50 dentists bringing smiles to clients. Hear from Dr Debbie Ong, Dr Albert Lee and Dr Jeevan Apok on what inspired them to be a dentist and how they thrive in their line of work.
Q: What inspired you to become a dentist?
Dr Ong: Growing up, I had rather unruly teeth. That irked my mother so much that she whisked me off to NTUC Denticare (then at Shenton House) for braces. Unknowingly, this introduced me into the world of Dentistry. I remember being very intrigued by the tools of the trade and about the various things that whirred, buzzed and whined.
That orthodontic experience left such an impression on me that I enrolled in NUS - Faculty of Dentistry a couple of years later and graduated in 2002. After 5 years in NUH Dental Centre and private practice, I joined NTUC Health Denticare (Bedok) in 2007 and here I am still!
Dr Lee: I actually started out wanting to be a doctor because I was always terrified of dentists while growing up. But things did not work out and I found myself in the Faculty of Dentistry. However, looking back now, that was one of the best things to have happened to me.
I realised that while the mouth and our teeth are just a small part of our body, they play a huge role in our daily lives - actions like eating and talking which we take for granted are only possible with good oral health. We, as dentists, have the ability to help our patients improve their lives through improving their oral health and this gives me energy and motivation to turn up for work everyday. It has been almost 15 years since I started dentistry and everyday I still go to work excited to make a difference to someone's life. I find myself loving dentistry more and more with each day.
Dr Apok: I was inspired since the age of 9, by my language tutor who was also a school dental therapist. He tutored me during his break times while I did my homework at his clinic. I used to watch him treat patients while finishing my school work. I graduated in 1998 and have been practising since then!
Q: Do you have any interesting encounters to share?
Dr Ong: Two long-time patients of mine were sisters but as they never came together for their checkups, I never knew they were related till years later. There are many such instances of family relationships which became apparent over time and this is something which I find interesting as I become a familiar face to many within the same family.
Dr Lee: My principal branch of practice at NTUC Health Denticare is actually very near to where I live and I realised that many of my patients live nearby too. I see many of them often at markets or parks on my off days. However, most of them would not recognise me because they are too used to seeing my masked face!
Dr Apok: Back in 2002, we had our clinic at Lot One. A pregnant lady came into the clinic to take a break from walking around. At that moment, her amniotic bag leaked and she was going into labour. We quickly called the ambulance and I told the nurses that if the ambulance is delayed, we would have to help to deliver the baby. So we actually got ready to do it. I joked that it was going to be a different delivery this time… not a tooth but a baby! Fortunately, the ambulance did come on time!
Q: What do you like/dislike about dentistry?
Dr Ong: As a dentist, the job itself is always interesting as I get to meet and chat with people from all walks of life. In some cases, I even become something of a confidante to the patient. I also derive great job satisfaction when I see improvement in my patients' dental health, their smiles and when they eat and function better. I am also thankful that I have many wonderful patients who are always very appreciative of the work my team and I do.
As hygiene is a top concern, it can be challenging to keep everything spotless. Wearing protective gear all day can be tiring but I suppose I can't have the whole cake and eat it too.
Dr Lee: My greatest satisfaction in dentistry is seeing the increase in confidence in my patients as they improve their oral health. They smile more, they talk more and they feel so much better about themselves. Knowing that I have made a difference in their lives keeps me going.
Dr Apok: I love to see the smiles on my patients’ faces, especially if I have completed some aesthetic work like anterior crowns. While I aspire to provide such pleasant experiences to my patients, I am aware that I may not be able to please all of them - so sometimes I’d hear negative comments. My team and I will still give our best nonetheless.
Q: How do you cope with stress in this line of work?
Dr Ong: Stress is unavoidable, the key is how to manage it. I try to snatch precious me-time amidst all the competing priorities life throws my way. To relax, I enjoy going for a jog around my neighbourhood or do gardening in my backyard.
Dr Lee: At the start of every day, I do a quick 10 minutes meditation to get myself in the proper state of mind. It keeps me calm and gets me energised for the day ahead. On my off days, I enjoy nature hikes and walks with my wife and 2 young boys.
Dr Apok: Stress is minimal especially when you love what you are doing. I do have some work life balance though I literally work seven days a week. That old saying - “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. So I make an effort to catch up with old friends for a meal and chat whenever I find the time.
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