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Stress-free dentistry in Hong Kong

An interview with practice founder Dr. Hulac. Hong Kong is well known as one of the most exciting and fastest-growing urban centers in the world. The city is expanding every day – mostly upwards – and people talk about the "vertical city." D’life conducted an interview on the particularities of dental treatment in the Chinese city with Dr. Sandra Hulac. The German dentist has been living in Hong Kong since 2001 and, together with a colleague, founded the practice Tam, Hulac and Partners Dental Ltd.

D’life: Anyone entering your consultation rooms will immediately sense they are in an oasis of well-being, without any sign of the typical dental practice. What were your intentions in doing this? Is there a holistic strategy to your practice?

My partner Dr. Tam and I always wanted to found a » practice which does not suggest "dentist" the second you look at it, and then feels like one. For many patients, to say, a visit to the dentist is unpleasant enough, and you don't want to feel stressed in the very waiting room, sitting on uncomfortable chairs, with ten-year-old magazines as the only distraction, a dusty water cooler, and children whining with boredom. So we have soft velvet sofas, good coffee, the latest magazines, and a children's play area, where our young patients can play or watch DVDs before their treatment. It's all part of our practice's strategy: "Stress-free dentistry ... beautiful smiles"

What, in your view, are the biggest differences between the German and the Chinese way of working? Was it difficult for you to adjust to the way people work in Hong Kong?

To be honest, I really can't compare them. I have never worked in Germany, because I moved to London very soon after my state examinations. But, in general, everything in Hong Kong is much faster-paced, and people work very hard. Working hours are longer, there is no lunch break, and of course work continues on the weekend. But you get used to it, and now I find it much easier than I did in the beginning, shortly after we founded the practice.

You have been living with your family in Hong Kong since 2001. How much time did you need to get used to it?

Since we had previously lived in London, we were used to big-city life. But Hong Kong is something quite different: incredibly noisy and packed. Because of the lack of space, it is a very vertical city, where you may well have to go to the twentieth floor of a skyscraper to visit your hairdresser, for example. But you also have to get used to the traffic and the crowds.

Moreover, I couldn't practise in the first year, since I had to pass a licensing examination first. That was particularly hard for me, because I love my profession very much. So I would say it took a year before I really felt at home here.

One of the central parts of your work is aesthetic treatment. Can you identify differences in aesthetic awareness between your Chinese and German patients?

The smile-makeover trend is generally oriented toward the idea that "the natural way is much better" and "no-one can do it as well as Mother Nature." I would say that the local population is traditionally not so concerned about cosmetic improvements as, say, the Germans are. I can see an upturn coming in the future, however, since good teeth are also becoming more and more a status symbol here, as well.

Are there dental disease patterns which are found more often in Hong Kong than in Germany?

I mainly have "Gweilos", that is non-Chinese, as patients, and of course very many Germans. About 40% of my patients come from Germany. In general, you can say that periodontal diseases occur comparatively more frequently among Chinese than among Europeans, because the population has a genetic predisposition towards these conditions.

What importance does x-ray, combined with image plate technology, have for you? You use the Dürr Dental » VistaScan Mini. Why did you decide on this system?

In my opinion, digital x-ray and » image plate technology are far superior to traditional x-ray because of its superior image quality, its archiving and communication options, and its lower radiation level. I have been familiar with Dürr Dental since my university days in Germany. But the company also has a very good reputation here in Hong Kong.

You were talking about the very limited opportunities which a dental practice has for advertising in Hong Kong. What opportunities are there?

Advertising is prohibited and, is punished as patient theft! The patients simply aren’t allowed to know what you can do – absolutely absurd and old-fashioned, of course. But word-of-mouth is a very good advertising channel, and on our website, for instance, we have a private section, just for our patients. Anyone can access it, though, and here too we are only allowed to publish very general information about our practice. We can only hope that these restrictions will change soon.

What drives you the most every day, or in other words, what makes you get up in the morning? What is the greatest compliment your patients can give you?

Even after nearly 23 years as a dentist, the greatest motivation for me is still the thought that it really is possible in 2014 our profession to improve our patients' quality of life considerably. When patients who were once ashamed even to smile now grin at me with total happiness, that is my greatest reward.

Given your many activities, we would like to know, what do you do in your free time to relax? Do you make a clear distinction between work and leisure time?

At home, my husband has a strict five-minute rule for "dental talk." I love my profession and also find relaxation in interesting continuing education courses and when comparing notes with my colleagues. But of course, you've also got to “chill out” sometimes, as we say in Bavaria, and I do that through cooking, pilates, yoga, and of course by maintaining and expanding my extraordinary shoe collection.

Many thanks, Dr. Hulac!

„My clients think it's surreal" An interview with Idalina Silva from the practice Tam, Hulac & Partners

Idalina Silva works in the practice not just as a dental hygienist, but also as a photographer.

D’life: Your pictures have a language of their own - you are absolutely passionate about your photography. How did your passion for photography develop?

I love capturing the best in everyone. For me, it is a challenge when clients say, "I hate being photographed," because in most cases they are surprised at the result. A little while ago, a client said, "This is the first time in my life that I can look at a photograph of myself and feel good while doing so."

You have a photography studio here in the practice. Do you use it as a marketing tool?

The studio was originally set up to take pictures of patients before and after complicated treatments, such as veneers or orthopedic jaw treatments. I always loved photography and was very pleased about the studio. But it was never intended to be used as a marketing tool. I am primarily a dental hygienist. But my work got around by word of mouth, and some of my patients first heard of me through my photography.

Is the photography a standard service for every patient?

I don't take photographs of all my patients, but every day I find willing models! My clients think the experience is surreal, because they don't expect to come to the practice for preventative care and then get involved in a photo shoot.

What has your best experience been when taking photographs here in the practice?

My most unforgettable experience was when I took a photograph of a client during her pregnancy, and then six months later she came again with her daughter – these pictures are just pure joy!

Many thanks for the interview!

Published by: rf/tk 04/16
Stress-free dentistry in Hong Kong

Stress-free dentistry in Hong Kong

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