As a full-time dentist at My Midland Dentist, Dr Andrew handles all kinds of general dentistry cases, with a strong leaning towards dental surgery.
“I do like the nitty-gritty, the very manually dexterous types of dentistry,” he says. “So things like surgery, placing implants or delicate crown and bridge work where 1 to 2 millimetres can be the difference between saving a tooth or needing it to be extracted. That sort of intricate dentistry is my interest.”
This attention to precision also informs his practice of aesthetic dentistry. When working on a smile makeover, he strives to achieve “what looks good — not just the teeth, but also how it complements your whole face — as well as figuring out how to achieve a result that every patient will be happy with.”
To create not just great results but a positive patient experience, Dr Andrew starts by actively listening to the patient’s story.
“I've been in dentistry for almost a decade now, and I found that the most important aspect is actually listening,” he says. “Taking the time to hear what the patients are saying. And equally important, what they're not saying.”
Dr Andrew says learning how to actively listen without judgment has helped him provide much better care to patients who may be feeling anxious about going to the dentist.
“It helps to sit back first, just slowly talking to a patient and figuring out what exactly is scaring them. It may be the tools. It may be the sound. It may be just the fear of the unknown,” he explains. “But once they can put a name to the unknown and figure out what exactly is scary about it, that’s when they’ll realize that it’s not as bad as they thought it would be.”
Dr Andrew’s decision to pursue dentistry is rooted in leveraging his innate strengths and interests. It was also inspired by his older brother, who is in the healthcare field.
Growing up, he remembers keeping busy with hobbies that enabled him to create things with his hands: drawing, building Lego sets, solving 500-piece puzzles and putting together his own computer sets.
As such, he wanted to find a career that merges his creativity and his interest in the sciences and healthcare. Dentistry provided the pathway that he was looking for.
Taking a strategic direction, Dr Andrew didn't go straight into dentistry. “I studied oral health first, as a way to dip my toe into the dental field to see if that's something that I truly wanted to do.”
After graduating from the University of Sydney with his Bachelor of Oral Health in 2012, he worked two years in private practice until it became clear to him: “Yeah, this is what I love. This is what I want to do,” making a dental degree the logical next step.
He then obtained his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from The University of Western Australia, and further went on to complete not one but three postgraduate courses in dental surgery, orthodontics and aesthetic dentistry.
Dr Andrew’s early work in oral health before transitioning to dentistry provided him a unique perspective on the critical gap between prevention and treatment.
“When I studied dentistry, I realized that a lot of the focus was on procedural work, mainly how to fix problems by doing procedures. Whereas in oral therapy, the focus is on how to prevent problems through education,” he says, adding that investing in oral health education from early childhood is a good way to bridge that disconnect.
Another shift in mindset that Dr Andrew believes will result in better patient outcomes is changing the prevailing notion that dental health only comes second after general health. “In my circle of dental colleagues, changing this perception is definitely the goal that we're trying to push. While I understand that things take time, I think the more like-minded people that we can connect with to spread this message, the better.”
With Dr Andrew’s penchant for continuous learning, it comes naturally that he is now preparing to learn more about the next level of 3D printing and 3D scanning.
He particularly looks forward to how this game-changing technology can now make it possible for both patient and dentist to see into the future, so to speak. “You usually dive into a complete makeover without exactly knowing how it's going to look. But now we can offer the final outcome before we even start the treatment. We can 3D scan your entire face and have it uploaded onto a piece of software. We can then visualize how your teeth will look, how they will function, and whether or not it’s going to look great.”
Recent developments can also now enable a patient with zero teeth to gain a full set within weeks, a process that usually takes 6 months to a year.
“Going back to the topic of the fear of the unknown, that sort of emerging technology will be so helpful for our patients,” he says. “It's still in its early days. But I'm really excited to see where this goes, and hopefully be able to incorporate that into my skill set.”
Asked about what he considers the highest point of his career, this accomplished dentist readily answered: “Being able to treat my parents and give back to them after so many years that they've supported me.”
Dr Andrew also counts his first full mouth reconstruction as his most rewarding career experience. “I was able to utilise everything I learned and see the tangible results,” he says. “A procedure that really transforms a smile — moving all the teeth to straighten them, then placing veneers over the top — you can’t put into words how much the patient is appreciative of that. Sometimes they cry.”
“Seeing all the work come together, and seeing how happy they are, those are the times where it really makes you say: you know what, this is a job worth doing,” he adds.
To offset the mental and physical rigours of being a dentist, he focuses on hobbies that help him decompress and relax at the end of the week. He practices yoga every Saturday and Sunday to refresh both body and mind. Saturday nights are date nights with his wife, where they enjoy eating out and trying new restaurants.
Dr Andrew believes in the saying, “The greatest achievers are the ones who think hard and work smart." Clearly this philosophy has been a guiding theme, whether it’s choosing his career pathways, managing his work-life balance and most importantly, making sure that each patient will have the best possible outcome and a renewed sense of hope for their oral health.