Dentistry Worldwide: ‘I can’t wait to see the day when dentistry in the Philippines has truly levelled up’

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World series interview with Dr Thuy Ngyen, Saigon, Vietnam

Dr Fredinida Ygnacio-Nemenzo and Dr Antonio Alfredo E. Nemenzo explain how technology is impacting the treatments they provide at their practice in the Philippines.

Why did you become a dentist?

Dr Antonio Alfredo E. Nemenzo: Dentistry is not really my first choice as a profession, I really wanted to become a Medical Doctor, but since way back then, the medical course is really costly, not to mention, the longer years that are required for its completion.

I am the eldest of seven siblings, so I also have to consider the financial capacity of my parents.

The next choice was dentistry – still on the medical side, with fewer years and I thought with lower costs.

Today, I can say that I made a good decision in choosing dentistry as my profession. At first I looked at it as a profession with benefits, which indeed has improved not just my financial status, but my total being as well.

At first I joined as an associate dentist, then moved from one clinic to another with different partners until I established one on my own. Years later I was joined by my wife, who is also a dentist.

Dentistry in my office has gradually evolved from mechanically driven drills to pneumatic drills; from analog to digital radiographs; from conventional laboratories to CAD CAM systems, and so on.

For me, dentistry is not just a science but an art – a passion I have developed in my 34 years of practice.

What are the biggest marketing challenges that you face and how do you deal with them?

Drs NemenzoWhen we started our dental practice in the late ’80s, the word ‘marketing’ usually referred to those selling products like equipments, appliances or machineries, and rarely, or even, never used in dentistry.

Also, here in our country, we are bounded by the code of ethics and it is still conservative. While there are still grey areas that needs to be addressed by the Professional Regulations Commissions, social media posts have been tolerated and has become a venue to share photos and information of one’s dental practice.

And since we are limited in marketing, so we just rely on the word of mouth referrals. And through the prodding of our friends and office clients who are into IT, we also have joined the social media evolution by opening an account and a website. We try to maintain only general informations and conservative sharing of our actual clinic cases and thus, rely significantly on reviews or testimonies from patients to boost our practice.

Marketing has changed considerably in recent years. What does that mean for dentists? Is it easier now or harder?

Drs Nemenzo: Yes, I agree that marketing has considerably changed in the recent years, especially in our country. Google search engine undeniably, has been the convenient partner of most people and almost everything is on the web.

So, dentists or dental practice can now be easily searched and if you have a website or an account on Facebook or another social media site. It can be your direct or indirect marketing tool.

What does this mean for dentists? Well, this will surely boost one’s dental career or practice. More exposure would mean more opportunities.

However, marketing a dental practice in the Philippines is still not allowed and is considered unethical. It can be legal grounds for revocation of one’s licence.

Not being able to join the market of promotions has also its disadvantage. We cannot compete globally, while our other neighbouring Asian countries can.

Is it easier now or harder? I say it works both ways. It’s easier if you are IT literate or if you assign or hire someone to do the job for you. It’s harder if you are not on social media, your IT literacy is low or if you are limited in resources. It’s even worse when marketing is restricted, like in our country.

What role does cosmetic dentistry play in your practice today? What do you think the future holds?

Drs Nemenzo: Because of social media, people now have more awareness and opportunities to avail dental care. There are so many dental products and services available on the internet that patients suggest or recommend their dentists, especially for cosmetic issues.

More patients come to the clinic wanting to improve their dental conditions. They want whitening or aesthetic improvements. They want a smile makeover or anything that will give an impact on their looks.

This demand inspired me to acquire the CEREC CAD CAM system in my office. Digital 3D scanning and milling don’t just make it quick and easy, but precise as well. With this tool, we can provide Digital Smile Design or proposals. This makes restorations predictable – that’s definitely an added advantage for the patient. With an in-house laboratory technician, we are also able to provide a much improved aesthetic and functional result.

How do you manage the dual roles of being a respected dentist and business owner? What tips do you have for other dentists that are starting out.

Drs Nemenzo: Just like any profession, we have an ‘oath of undertaking’ as a dental professional and we are guided by the dental law and the code of ethics. Even when we do business, if we respect and uphold what is prescribed, then we will be on the right track We cannot discount the possibility of professional rivalry or jealousy among colleagues, but being grounded and staying focussed on being fair, honest and sincere in our actions and decisions, can help overcome these challenges.

 

Respect is earned by the person that you are or have become, regardless of economic standing.

Do you have any tips for other dentists?

Drs Nemenzo: When I received my licence, I applied as dental associate to one of the most established dental office in our region. It was a different experience, considering that we were exposed to more modern equipments and materials compared to what we had in school. I would say that my experience there, greatly influenced the passion I now for dentistry.

So to new dentists, I highly recommend that they first join an established group practice so they can be exposed to new equipment and technology, and learn as much as they can from established dental practitioners. And of course, to always keep in mind the code of ethics, no matter how challenging or tempting the circumstances are.

World series interview with Dr Thuy Ngyen, Saigon, Vietnam

What do you think of the future of dentistry in your country?

Drs Nemenzo: Our country’s geographical location is very challenging with more than 7,000 islands and over 15 languages from different regions. Sadly, in our country there’s poor dental care and education, plus the insufficient support or budget for dental care from the government. 

However, because of increasing dental health awareness and the different organisations and various government health care centres, dental health has improved.

Dental organisations are collaborating with government and non government organisations to constantly educate everyone the importance of good dental health and to provide free dental treatment and dental hygiene kits to the underprivileged.

Although, it may still take years to totally eradicate the poor dental condition of our people, I am positive that we are getting there in time.

Social media and other technical resources can influence the people and will be instrumental in improving dental health care in the Philippines.

I can see a big future for dentistry in our country with more skilled dentists, upgraded equipments and digital machineries.

Cebu Dental Care Center may be pioneers with the chair-side digital impression and CAD CAM system here in our region, but soon there will be more digital systems around. I can’t wait to see the day when dentistry in the Philippines has truly levelled up and we’re as globally competitive as any other country.

Loran Simon

Loran Simon

Loran Simon is the Founder of Somnowell, one of the world’s leading oral appliances to help to cure sleep apnea. Over the past 10 years, Somnowell’s growth has been mainly achieved using the digital marketing services of Somnowell Marketing, an agency that Loran Simon also founded and manages. The agency generates around 4,000 new patient enquiries a month for Somnowell’s network of dentists.

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