To kick-off Oral Health Month this April, we sat down with Drs. Anik Saintonge, Doug Liu & Trevor Shew to discuss their respective journeys to dentistry, what makes their practice so successful, and their top tips for maintaining optimal oral health.
With over 60 years of combined experience, the dentist trio proudly serves the Vancouver community at Broadway Station Dental Centre.
Tell us a little bit about your respective journeys into dentistry, and how you came into practice at Broadway Station Dental Centre (BSDC).
Doug: I knew I wanted to be a dentist early on in high school as I had a great pediatric dentist growing up, Dr. David Kennedy, one of the founders of Pediatric Dental Group, and a fascination with fine tools and work. Model building was one of my favourite childhood hobbies and I continue to be fascinated by fine watches, cars and motorcycles. I came to BSDC by referral to Dr. Larry Cheevers (now retired) as a patient once I outgrew my pediatric dentist at the age of 16.
I attended UBC for the honours pharmacology program after being awarded multiple scholarships out of high school and gained early acceptance into UBC’s dentistry program after my third year. I was offered a job by one of my clinical instructors before graduation in 1995, but after one of my dental hygiene appointments at BSDC, I asked if they were looking for an associate dentist. They were looking for someone with at least five years’ experience, but they interviewed me anyhow and offered me the position, which I ultimately accepted as I felt the practice was a better fit for me.
Trevor: I was born in Vancouver and raised in East Vancouver and Richmond. In 1988, during the first year of my science undergraduate program at UBC, I met Doug Liu (now known as Dr. Doug). Later, we would both major in pharmacology and therapeutics. Doug entered dental school and I went on to graduate studies with a focus in neuropharmacology. Four years into my graduate program, I decided to change direction, and with the encouragement of friends and family, including Doug who had just joined BSDC, I applied to dental school. In my third year of dental school, I applied to do my practicum placement at BSDC. I developed great relationships and realized it would be a wonderful opportunity to work with the fantastic mentorship and team there. As a result, I returned after graduation to start my career at BSDC. Within six months, Dr. Anik Saintonge joined the practice and Ria (now our office manager) came on board. Anik and Ria have become like sisters to Doug and me. It has been a fun-filled two decades and counting.
Anik: Since I was in high school, I knew I wanted to pursue my studies in health, but I wasn’t sure exactly which way to go. As a teenager, I was fortunate enough to have braces to straighten my teeth and, unlike my friends who hated it, I always looked forward to trips to my orthodontist. It was fascinating to me! I drilled my orthodontist with questions every time I saw him, and he always patiently took the time to answer my questions. My passion for dentistry was further ignited by my family physician, who took one hour out of her busy day to tell me what is means to be a family doctor. She listened to my input about the lifestyle I was aspiring to live, and she pushed me in the right direction.
I then pursued my Bachelor of Science degree in Moncton, NB, and was accepted into dental school at Université de Montréal in 1995. I graduated in 1999 with a DMD degree and moved back to my hometown to practice for three years before moving to beautiful Vancouver – where I started a family. This amazing journey led me to an introduction to Dr. Cheevers, Doug and Trevor, and the rest is history.
What’s the best part about coming to work every day?
Trevor: The best part about coming to work every day is hands down our patients and team members. After a while, everyone becomes like friends and family. I love hearing about their lives, their interests, their development over time and watching their families grow. Being a general practitioner is both interesting and fun – every day has plenty of variety and there is rarely a dull moment. It brings out your artistic side and stimulates your inner academic side. It has motivated me to complete advanced training in implantology and IV moderate sedation, which is in line with my graduate training in pharmacology and therapeutics. Dentistry is really about life-long learning and caring for and keeping the people around you happy.
Doug: The best part of coming to work is getting to work with the fabulous team at BSDC and our wonderful patient base. I have only taken specific referrals from existing patients for many years now, and as a result, I have a good connection with every patient in my practice. Taking the time to chat and banter with my patients and team members is a really nice part of my day in addition to the precision work that dentistry demands. Many of my patients have my personal contact information and are free to contact me directly – they really appreciate this personal touch.
Anik: I agree with Trevor and Doug. The absolute best part about coming to work every day is being able to do what I love doing and feeling like my extended family—my patients and team members—is always beside me. Dr. Cheevers was an amazing mentor for me when I started fresh out of dental school in 2002 and he became like a second dad to me. Doug was and still is the life of the party. He is so giving and always there to support me in any way; he taught me many skills, including how to stay calm and collected. Trevor and I have grown and matured together as dentists over the years. I could not have wished for a better practice and team. We’ve had many long-term team members over the years, and we hope to have them working with us for many more years to come. When I wake up in the morning, I always feel excited and ready to face the day with my team (we’re close to 40 team members now). I know they all have my back as we strive to create beautiful smiles every day as a team.
Tell us about some of the ways BSDC supports its community.
Doug: BSDC continually strives to support our community in a number of ways. We’ve donated toothbrushes and clothing to the local elementary schools and the homeless in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). For the past three years, we’ve had a scholarship at the local community college for the CDA program. I formerly supervised UBC dental students at the student run-clinic at REACH Dental. Our dentists have also volunteered at the free clinic in the DTES.
Anik: In addition to what Doug and Trevor have already mentioned, I am so proud to announce that I want to start giving back to the community as a female dentist and mom. It took me a long time to decide who I would want to help out. Throughout my 22 years of practice, I came across many single mothers and their children who were not able to receive basic dental care because of their financial situation – and it absolutely broke my heart. It was crushing to see a young woman with multiple large infections, needing extractions but didn’t have enough money to replace her missing teeth or even care for the infection. I’ve seen many single moms who weren’t able to apply for a job because they didn’t have enough money to fix their decayed teeth and no one would hire them because of it or had to cancel shifts because of pain caused by tooth infection.
This inspired me to give back to single moms (and their children) to help them with dental hygiene and treatment to revive their smile and help these women get back in the workforce. I am in the process of making this happen. It’s my goal this year to implement a more formal program into my practice at BSDC and hopefully in other practices in the dentalcorp network for many years to come.
BSDC has been a thriving practice for over 60 years. What do you think has been the secret to your sustained success?
Anik: The main secret to our sustained success is our commitment to providing an exceptional patient experience. Every patient is unique and has different needs and interpretations of excellent care. We aim to get know each patient and make them feel like family, not just a number. We also have workplace culture that we like to share with our patients, including our values, our systems, our behaviours, our expectations, and the way our team communicates with each other and our patients. We always want this to be consistent and we spend a lot of time reflecting on our culture. We have team gatherings once a month to discuss our culture and how to strengthen it and encourage team members to participate and openly share their opinions. We strive to work towards the same objective in order to have happier and more caring team members, and in return, a thriving practice.
Doug: I’d like to add that BSDC has always maintained a small, intimate practice feel despite our growth over the years. We’ve had multiple generations of patients that continue to come back to our office even after moving out of the neighbourhood – this is something we are very proud of.
Trevor: In addition to what Anik and Doug have already mentioned, as a team, we are all committed to learning and staying on top of the latest procedures and technology to provide our patients with the best possible dental care. At our monthly gatherings, not only do we work on team culture, we share and discuss what we have learned at study clubs and courses so all of us can have a broader knowledge base and skill set. Often, our dentists will collaborate during the treatment of patients; one doing the orthodontics, another doing endodontics and someone else doing the surgery component. We believe this also adds to the exceptional patient experience.
April is Oral Health month! What are your top tips for maintaining optimal oral health?
- Maintain regular visits with your dentist – ideally twice a year
- Floss daily, when you don’t floss you are at risk for two major dental issues: gingivitis and cavities. Use a mouthwash with your brushing and flossing – it’s the cherry on top!
- Stay away from tobacco – your mouth becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, gives you bad breath, your teeth become yellow and your chances of getting oral cancer are increased
- Eat lots of vitamin-rich foods such as dark leafy greens, dairy products and more fibrous vegetables
- Don’t forget to brush your tongue! Bacteria buildup can spread to your teeth, causing gingivitis
- Change your toothbrush regularly (i.e. when your toothbrush looks worn or the bristles are splayed)
- Use a fluoridated toothpaste; don’t rinse it out of your mouth after you finish brushing, just spit out the excess
- Limit your intake of sugary and acidic foods; rinse with water after you ingest them to dilute the acidity in your mouth
- If you have other medical issues and concerns, keep your dentist updated – there are often links between your mouth and the rest of your body and we may be able to help