Billion Healthy Mouths Club

Orthodontist Edward Park from South Korea:
“A dentist must be a doctor and a teacher, not just a repairer.”

Teaching after regular office hours and during weekends does take an extra dose of commitment, but Dr. Park is dedicated to bringing top-quality education to dental professionals in South Korea, and thanks to this dedication – he is now one of many.

A dentist, an orthodontist and a teacher, Edward Park is devoted to building a society full of individuals educated in oral hygiene, by teaching professionals how to teach their own patients. As he says himself, he sees dentistry not only as craftsmanship, but rather a mission to help people take better care of themselves. In this interview, you will also learn how Dr. Park is eager to change the mindset of professionals from that of reactive restoration, towards active prevention. 

How did your professional story start? Why did you decide to become a dentist?

According to very unofficial school records, I wanted to become a dentist already when I was in kindergarten, which is to say – basically, ever since I can remember. My father was a dentist too, which might be the reason why I never thought about any other profession but dentistry. He has always had a great influence on me and so I keep his story alive by passing it on to my students. 

Besides your daily practice, you have a number of other activities connected to oral health. Could you tell us anything more about them?

All the activities I do now are related to oral health and the education around it. I educate my patients directly in my office, but I also teach various kinds of professionals – such as dentists and dental hygienists, professors and students from dental- and dental-hygienist colleges, pharmacists, medical doctors, veterinarians, and even the non-professionals and the general public. I teach in my lecture room after regular working hours or during the weekends.

“If I teach a patient, I can make an impact on one person, but if I teach a dental professional, he or she will have an impact on their whole community.”

Why is educating dental professionals important from your point of view?

If I teach a patient, I can make an impact on one person, but if I teach a dental professional, he or she will have an impact on their whole community. I focus on teaching professionals in a manner that is highly accurate, precise and detailed, as my mission is to help other professionals teach, rather than educating individuals solely. This way the result is multiplied towards building a society of educated individuals, effectively and efficiently. 

What is the level of oral health in your country? Is there anything that needs major improvement? 

The quality of dental treatment, orthodontics and implantology in Korea is of the highest level in the world. The restorative treatment is also highly advanced and the general status of oral health is generally good. However, the professionals’ efforts to motivate patients to better preserve their natural teeth and therefore reduce the restorative works needed, are still insufficient. More accurate delivery of proper knowledge, methods and tools is needed, because there is much inadequate information around, such as hearsay drawn from random websites. 

Curaden’s CEO Ueli Breitschmid says that dentists should be more like teachers and health coaches than repairers. Do you agree with that? And how is it in your country? Are dentists moving towards prevention more?

I agree 100%. A dentist must be a doctor, not just a repairer. Patients can keep their natural teeth and have good oral health only if they regularly meet a dentist. An encounter with a dentist should be a turning point in life, however, although the overall condition of dentistry in Korea is good and people have started gravitating towards prevention, the number of restoration procedures generally still increases over time. 

Secondly, a dentist should also be a teacher in one’s life. A patient will first meet a dentist when they are a child with milk teeth, and will continue to do so throughout their life and into old age. A dentist is in a position to be able to teach what the right way of breathing is, the right posture, the right eating habits, and so forth. 

Welcome to the Billion Healthy Mouths Club

Proper routines in prevention are the future of dentistry – that’s why we at Curaden launched the Billion Healthy Mouths Club – a community of dental professionals committed to the idea of having proper routines in prevention and a holistic approach to dentistry. Dentist and orthodontist Dr. Edward Park is one of those dental professionals who shares these values, and we proudly present his experience and thoughts with other like-minded people from the field. Keep reading our Gently magazine to discover more interviews with forward-thinking professionals from around the world.

Do you think that the importance of prevention has also been adopted by the general public?

I do. People do not want to have gold teeth, implants, or to doze off under anaesthesia. Everybody wants to have a doctor who helps them avoid the need for restoration, but the majority of dentists are still not interested in prevention. They are professionals in repair.

Looking at your everyday practice, what do you consider as the most challenging part of your job?

The lack of time. My office is usually fully booked two months upfront and new patients must wait an equal time for the initial examination. To claim a war on bacteria, which to me means prevention, I need an extra hand to be able to delegate the educational activities and professional cleaning. Finding perfectly skilled hands is not an easy task, though.

What is your ‘golden rule’ or advice that you tell your patients often?

The majority of dental diseases arise out of laziness. Fifteen minutes’ investment before bed can significantly reduce the risk of oral diseases. 

Is there any oral health myth that is quite common among your patients, that you need to ‘fight’ against?

There are a few, for instance: herbs and ingredients in certain kinds of toothpaste, the tapered bristles in toothbrushes, and mouthwash as a sufficient tool to clean the teeth. The most basic tool for oral hygiene is a toothbrush and an interdental brush which destroy the structure of the biofilm with fine and dense bristles. I do understand that we always tend to seek shortcuts, but mouthwash and oral irrigators are only additional supports, and cannot replace the main tools. 

“Everybody wants to have a doctor who helps them avoid the need for restoration, but the majority of dentists are still not interested in prevention. They are professionals in repair.”

What’s the most important thing in terms of an oral care routine, from your point of view?

Motivation and maintenance, which I call habituation, are the most important factors. A patient must be motivated to enact the brushing ritual daily. To encourage a patient in their self-motivation, regular check-ups and encouragement from the professionals’ side are essential. 

I would recommend checking up every three weeks at the initial stage, every three months in the middle stage and once every six months in the final stage of the habituation. And on top of that, the motivation of professionals is even more important as they will become ambassadors to their patients. 

A dentist and orthodontist, Edward Park specialised in dentofacial orthopedics, and is also a lecturer in a wide scope of fields such as orthodontics, preventive dentistry, individual oral hygiene, sterilisation and disinfection, professional ethics, and marketing. 

Dr. Park is a full member of the Korean Association of Orthodontists and a board member of the Korean Academy of preventive dentistry and oral hygiene. Pioneering the education of dentistry in Korea, Dr. Park is a founder of course teaching APEM – Active Prevention through Education and Management, and SOOD Technique, which is an individual oral hygiene education programme. 

Dr. Park’s other interests only complete the picture that he is not just an ordinary dentist. Besides his main profession, he is a dog trainer, dog behaviourist and animal-assisted therapy specialist, whilst also having a history of running a company specialised in architecture, website building and software development. 
For more information about Dr. Park and his activities, follow him on Facebook and Instagram