Why Dentistry?

I decided to make an artwork to answer the question

To me, dentistry is like painting an artwork or composing a guzheng 古筝 song: both require sensitivity of touch, creative visualization, and the ability to sculpt not just the intricate details but also the larger symphony of what our mouth’s blank canvas can become: the smile. 😁

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Dental art is also a science. It requires a thorough understanding of how dentistry’s “paints” react, solidify, and set according to different temperatures, moisture levels, time frames and mixtures, whether it is the chemical reaction of alginate (drawn as d-mannuronic acid and l-guluronic acid), or the blue-light stimulated 3d polymerization of composite resin in restorative fillings. That's when my organic and inorganic chemistry knowledge 🧪 merges with my love for biology🧬, from the aromatic ring in lidocaine improving lipid solubility, to fluoride-assisted remineralization of enamel (depicted as Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2 +2F− → Ca10(PO4)6(F)2 + 2OH−).

One of my favorite “biologies” is microbiology. 🦠 The oral cavity is an entryway, living environment, and source of replication for millions of microbes (I’ve drawn a few: SARS COV-2, HIV, E. Coli, Pneumococcus, Diphtheria, Tetanus, etc), some of which have sparked major epidemics and pandemics. This oral-systemic link is where my interest in science “flows” into the heart and lungs of my passion for public health. 🏥 I’ve seen how the mouth is often the first place to detect disease, cancers, and immune system dysfunction; how poor oral health is linked with heart disease, diabetes, COVID-19, Alzheimer's, and other synergistic diseases rooted in socioeconomic circumstances. 😷

Given that dental decay is the most common disease in the world, and that cumulative national costs 💵 for dental treatment in many countries are higher than those for cancers and heart disease, I hope to be advocating for policies that not only increase upstream prevention and integration (depicted by superior vena cava flowing up to globe) but also prioritize resource conservation and our fragile relationship with Planet Earth. 🌎

Public health cannot be improved without improving oral health, but the “heart” 💗 (aortic artery flowing upwards in "Why Dentistry" artwork) of our health is also connected to our brain, which is where my love for psychology comes into the picture.

 

🧠 Our mental health influences oral health through biological channels (systemic inflammation and hormonal imbalance) and psychosocial channels (motivation, social habits, dental fear and anxiety). Meanwhile, our oral health reciprocally affects our mental health by impacting our ability to eat, talk, work, sleep, and smile: a key to confidence, identity, and social mobility. As a dentist, I hope to use tools of psychology to restructure phobias and integrate art and music therapy into dental settings--returning full circle to my favorite multi-colored “hues'' and “melodies.” 🎨🎵

The dental field is growing at such a fast rate. With a passion for teaching 📚, I hope shape the dental curriculum so that cultural competency is not just a strength but a fundamental core principle. So that mental-health informed dental care is always built from acknowledging social determinants of health. So that we can work collaboratively with all disciplines to tackle the global burden of oral disease.

So when people ask me “why do you want to be a dentist?” I say that “not just a dentist but an oral health physician 🩺, an oral health advocate 💪, and an oral health educator 📖." And who knows--maybe I’ll be adding more pieces to my “why dentistry” painting in four years.

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Learn about my work in prevention and education

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Learn how I conceptualize patient-centered care

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