Dr Tan Wee Kee, Consultant in Orthodontics & Oral Implantology, received his dental surgery degree from University of Malaya in 1982. He completed his Master of Dental from University of Dundee, Scotland in 1991 and went on to obtain his Master of Science in Orthodontics from University of London, England in 1993. Always keen to learn and to sharpen his skills besides being abreast with the latest techniques, Dr Tan also enjoys a game of golf or two and would have loved to be a lawyer if he weren’t a dentist. Read all about it in the interview below.
Dr. Tan, share with is how did your interest in dental health start?
During my time, there weren’t many private universities as compared to now where there are over 30 medical universities and 15 dental universities both private and government-owned in our country. Plus now, as long as you qualify in terms of grade and financial support, you’ll be able to enter the course that you want. So after I finished my HSC (currently known as STPM), there were only two choices: University Kebangsaan and University Malaya. I was a Science student so it was either I did Dentistry or Medicine. I wrote both choices in my application and got accepted: Dentistry in UM or Medicine in UKM. However, I found that Medicine was a 5 years program and 1 year pre-med, so it was 6 years altogether, and besides that they have to serve for a period of 3 years, 1 year of housemanship and 2 years of compulsory service. Dentistry in UM on the other than was only 4 years and upon completion, we can immediately start work. I then decided to do dentistry and after a while, in my second year of my undergraduate course, I developed interest in doing Orthodontics. After I completed my degree course, I worked a few years as a general dentist then applied to Eastman Dental Hospital, UK, where they only take in dentists and not dental students. Back then they only took 8 dentists per year, 4 were reserved for UK residence, and 1 each from Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Africa. Fortunately they accepted me to do my specialist there. I learnt the Orthodontics basic there but in order to be more specialize, I had to learn from a specialize Orthodontist. I followed Dr. Kyoto Takemoto, who is a world renown lingual Orthodontist. Being the first dentist who is able to perform lingual braces here in Malaysia in 1994, I did it for patients who had professions where they weren’t able to expose braces.
After the braces phase, patients will be asked wear retainers. How long do they have to wear it for?
The maintenance phase after braces is very important. My Masters Degree thesis was about post treatment growth where there will be remodeling of chin because your gum is a live tissue and it will still move throughout the rest of your life. So when the chin remodels, the lower teeth may move, and if you don not wear retainers, your lower teeth will be slightly crooked. I suggest wearing retainers for at least 5 years so that it is more stable. After that, just wear it a few nights a week to maintain it. However by theory, retainers are to be worn for life.
Does the retainer have to be washed?
Brush it in the morning and leave it to dry. Once a week, you can soak it in Polident tablet because at night your saliva accumulates at the back of the retainer and there are minerals in our saliva, so you’d find a white layer on your retainers. It is actually calcium particle, so just brush and soak it in Polident. That was informative, now on to more relaxed questions. How do you unwind or take your mind off work?
I go to the gym and enjoy a game of golf or two. I enjoy listening to music too.
What’s your type of music?
Yes, I guess it’s cause we are trained, so the first thing that we look at is their set of teeth, it has became a habit.
What would be the one advice you’d give to people who are looking to further into Dentistry?
To do Dentistry, you must have the interest. Many people pursue Medicine or Dentistry because they think it’s a profession that brings you a lot of income. It’s true, you are financially well rewarded, especially my Western colleagues in Australia and the US. But that should not be the main purpose you choose this is a carrier because once you do, it’s for life and every day you are dealing with patients’ mouth and after a while if you find that it’s not of your interest then you’d realize you’ve wasted all the effort invested into getting to where you are today. However skill wise, I think we have the manual dexterity, all you need is just to build on it. As you practice, you will have better proficiency and efficiency. Skill wise isn’t a big problem because on average most of us can handle quite well, all the carving and the aesthetic part. But when you have both interest and talent, like when I was in university, I have some friends that are very talented in terms of hand work, it allows them to have that edge when working. In fact in Singapore, before they accept you as a Dental student, they’d assess you hand work and only accept you if you are good.
If you weren’t a dentist, you’d be…
I’d be a lawyer. I’m interest in law.
Favourite food? Cuisine?
When I was younger, I enjoyed eating all kinds of food. But as I am older now, I have to be more selective due to health reasons, so I eat a lot of vegetable and fish. I favor Japanese food.
Any life mantras you live by?
Believing in God and being sincere in whatever you do.
Three words that describes yourself.
Honesty, discipline and integrity.
Looking to achieve straight teeth and bright smile? Head over to Beverly Wilshire Dental to book an appointment with Dr. Tan, or if you’re facing other dental complexity, do not hesitate to meet our other specialized dentists that are more than happy to help.