Immediate Past President
Dr Seow Yian San
I used to work as a dental assistant during my holidays when I was studying for my Bachelor of Science (NUS) in 1998. It was through this job that I gained insight into what dentistry is all about. The dentist whom I worked with back then inspired me to become a dental professional. After graduating from my Bachelor of Science, I worked for almost a year as an Editor-in-Chief for an online pharmaceutical company in the bustling Central Business District.
“We have the opportunity to drastically change a patient’s life—to boost his / her self-esteem—by altering his / her smile.“
– Immediate Past President
Driven by my own desire to gain more knowledge, I decided to apply for an undergraduate program in Dentistry at NUS. I remembered that the Acting Dean of the School of Admissions, Professor Shang, back then called me into his office and had a good chat with me on why I was determined to go through another 4 years of tertiary education. I guess my passion and perseverance impressed him that day.
Indeed, I have been blessed in many ways and I’m grateful to have many friends and colleagues who have supported me and helped me during my arduous pursuit of becoming a dentist and orthodontist.
An interview with Dr Seow Yian San
1. What has been your motivation to specialise in orthodontics?
My clinical postings in various polyclinics and at the National University Hospital have provided me with the experience I need in general dentistry. My interest in the field of orthodontics developed further when I had the privilege of observing my Clinical Chief then, Dr Ong Hoe Boon; as well as orthodontics seniors and colleagues, Dr Kaan Sheung Kin, Dr Chng Chai Kiat and many others in action.
I was always impressed and amazed by the fact that they could seemingly look into an imaginary crystal ball and determine what problems patients would face 2 years down the road. They would then inform the patients of these issues and of the outcome they predicted with the treatment program they would prescribe. The ability to craft that ideal smile for a patient, a smile that is in harmony with his or her facial aesthetics, and the self confidence that grows in these patients as their teeth get straighter was what fuelled my passion for orthodontics.
I also started attending orthodontic conferences and participation in these events helped me further understand the true science behind practising orthodontics. In other words, they reinforced my interest in orthodontics.
2. With regard to economic considerations, how would you describe patients’ behaviour to seeking treatment?
Patients typically seek orthodontic treatment because of cosmetic and health reasons. It is now considered ‘cool’ amongst the younger generation to have braces as more adolescents are driven by peer influence. A lot of patients also want to boost their self-confidence with a perfect smile!
More adults are also seeking orthodontic treatment for problems that were not treated when they were young. Most thought that it might be too embarrassing to wear traditional metal braces. As a result, the demand for aesthetics braces such as ceramic, lingual or ‘invisible’ braces has increased.
3. How do you keep yourself informed in terms of material and practice updates?
I regularly organize and attend continuing dental education programmes and courses to keep abreast of the latest procedures and products. As a medical professional, I believe we need to constantly evolve in order for us to continually be in a position where we have the most up to-date knowledge at hand to provide our patients with the most appropriate treatment.
4. You represent the younger generation of dental professionals. Any words of wisdom for aspiring practitioners who’d want to fill your shoes someday?
Dentistry is a fun and engaging profession. In the field of orthodontics, we have the opportunity to drastically change a patient’s life—to boost his / her self-esteem—by altering his / her smile.
More often than not, patients tell me at the end of their treatment how ugly they thought they used to look prior to their treatment. It is always heartening to hear from some of my patients that they would want to be a dentist like me!
I hope I can also inspire the young dentists to join me this ever-learning path; be it with the AWDS or simply as a dental practitioner and creating your very own unique pair of shoes in this career instead of filling someone else’s!