Specialist Dental Group’s resident Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon, Dr Ho Kok Sen, was profiled in the December 17 issue of Mind Your Body (Straits Times) today. For those of you who are unable to access the paper, read on below to have an idea of what the story was about.

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I decided to specialise in oral-maxillofacial surgery because…

I get to disassemble and reassemble stuff which is something I’ve enjoyed since I was a small kid. I remember spending hours on my airfix models and WWII toy soldier models. When i did not have the funds to purchase new models, I would take the existing models apart and put them back together again.

Similarly, in the oral cavity, I get to take out broken or decayed teeth and replace them with dental implants. In the facial region, I get to move the jaws around and put them together to give new form and function. I also get to fix the various jaw segments together when patients fracture them during a road traffic accident or traumatic fall.

The jaws are fascinating because…

It is such an integral part of the body. It gives form (and function!) to the face. People in the fashion industry talk about jaw lines. People in the food industry talk about jaw strength! But remember, jaws without teeth on them neither give you any form nor function. So maintaining a good set of teeth sets the stage for a fabulous smile and nice jaw line.

If I were to give an analogy for what I do, I’d be a…

Handyman. I piece together things and fix people’s teeth so that they can function again.  I also make sure things are working as they should be.

I have come across all types of cases…

…ranging from a little child engaged in child’s play getting a thumbtack stuck in his tongue to big jaw cysts requiring removal and reconstruction. I have also had cases where patients have come in straight from the airport to be admitted into the hospital due to airway obstruction caused by the swelling of an infected tooth. In between, I take care of impacted wisdom teeth, place dental implants and perform jaw surgery.

A typical day for me would be…

I wake up at 7am to play with my 2.5 year old daughter before she heads to playschool. I then spend some time with my 5 month old son before I leave and reach Specialist Dental Group at 830am.

The rest of the day is divided between consultations and surgeries. General anaesthesia procedures are done in the hospital operating theatre while sedation procedures are performed in the clinic.

I hold a teaching appointment as an adjunct senior lecturer at NUS and I spend one morning or afternoon a week teaching dental undergraduates and graduate dentists.

My day usually ends around 6pm and I head home to spend time with my 2 kids and wife who is an obstetrician and gynaecologist at KK Hospital. I may be called upon some nights to attend to emergency cases at the A&E of the Parkway Group Hospitals.

I love patients who are…

Appreciative of what I am trying to do for them. Many of them have become friends. The doctor-patient relationship has no hierarchical levels. It is one forged on mutual respect and understanding.

Patients who get my goat are…

Patients who have genuine dental needs but choose to listen to “overly concerned” relatives and friends who convinced them otherwise. In doing so, they are not giving themselves the opportunity to have treatment that would improve their lifestyle and health.

One little known fact about wisdom tooth surgery is…

It can be a painless procedure. With proper management, the procedure and post-surgery recovery can be smooth and pain-free. And yes, you can eat after surgery, in fact, ice cream and other cold desserts are encouraged …..

Things that put a smile on my face are…

When a patient’s smile is restored successfully and you can see the change in their confidence level and attitude to life at subsequent visits. Another thing that makes me smile is the relief on anxious patients’ faces when their surgical experience was more positive than they had initially expected.

It breaks my heart when…

Patients do not know that there are solutions available now for virtually any debilitating dental conditions that they may have. As a result they experience a less-than-optimal quality of life or suffer pain in silence.

We live now in a highly advanced and high tech society and this has allowed scientists and researchers to come up with new techniques and solutions that our forefathers had no access to.

I wouldn’t trade places for the world because…

This career gives me the satisfaction of taking out what is not salvageable and replacing them with state of the art artificial teeth while seeing the tremendous positive impact it can have on a person’s life.

I also enjoy working together with the multi-specialty team at Specialist Dental Group because we are able to take a comprehensive approach based on our different areas of training and experience. This not only enables cutting edge dental treatment to be done, which is fulfilling on a professional level, but also enables the patient to access comprehensive treatment in one place.

My best tip…

Remove your wisdom teeth before they start to give you problems. Prevention is better than cure. Take care of your teeth well and they will be with you longer.

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