Two new Dentists for Tumbler Ridge

Lynsey Kitching

Everyone brings different skills to the table. This is how both of our new dentists in town feel about the fact that there are now two dentists instead of none. Aren’t we a lucky bunch!

Let’s look at how these dental practices differ and how they will be working together to make sure Tumblerites have healthy smiles and happy minds.

Dr. Andrew Cheng’s dental practice was brought into the limelight because he has started his practice out of a house on Wolverine Drive. Council has granted Dr. Cheng a two year temporary permit to help him get his business off the ground. He will be in town two weeks a month and is now fully licensed to do extractions and other dental procedures.

He will always have a hygienist here in town to do cleanings; however, the patient will have had to have seen a dentist within the last year to be able to only see his hygienist, not the dentist. This is law in BC.

He says, “I have a little competition now. Big surprise for me,” he says with a laugh, “This clinic in the hospital, I thought it was just going to go away.”

The clinic in the health centre was purchased by Dr. Sophia Dahia, who has been a dentist in Chetwynd since 2009 and owns the Chetwynd Dental Associates. She says, “I actually started in Dawson Creek. I was born and raised in Vancouver and did my schooling at UBC. I worked one year in the city and then started doing locums. My first one was in Dawson Creek. I got exposed to the north that way. I’m a very outdoorsy active person and being born and raised in the city, there is lots of time spent in your car travelling so when I came up north it was a whole different lifestyle. I have free time, I can have breakfast! People are a lot friendlier. However, I have a husband who is an architect who lives in Vancouver so we’ve been doing the back and forth.”

Dr. Dahia doesn’t see having two dentists as a competition. She says, “I wouldn’t look at it as competition. I think all dentists do their own thing differently and there are things he has experience where I don’t and I’m not going to try and pretend about that. We are colleagues and I am hoping we can call on each other. We can do extractions, but I don’t provide nitrous yet, it’s something I’m looking into. I might not be open one day, so there is another dentist to provide service. It works out, it’s not a hindrance. I knew that when I purchased as well. It wasn’t going to stop me from moving forward. Everyone is going to have their preference. I don’t focus my energy on the ones who don’t want to come see us, I put my energy into the ones that do.”

Dr. Cheng says, “As a professional courtesy, she sent me an email and let me know she bought the clinic. Wow I thought, because that clinic will take a lot to resurrect. I’m okay with it. A little competition makes everyone better. We do different things. I do my Invisalign and single day crowns.”

Dr. Cheng was contacted just before the announcement that his home dental practice had been approved by Council on March 5, 2013.

He addresses some of the concerns about having a dental practice in a residential area, “I haven’t had any complaints yet. I can’t see parking as an issue. Also, we aren’t noisy and there aren’t any fumes that come out of the house. There aren’t any environmental issues. I take our garbage out to the dump. I can’t see there being any problems other than the neighbours just not wanting it in their backyard, but if they can put up with me for a year or year and half they will realize it’s not so bad. In order to get a dentist here they have to have a house to live in and I can’t see a guy coming in with a million dollars to make a brand new clinic and having no patients to start off with. You have to get there.”

Dr. Dahia already has some patients from Tumbler Ridge and feels lucky to be a minority in a male dominated field. She says, “I already have a lot of patients from Tumbler who come to our Chetwynd clinic, so I’m letting them know they don’t have to do the drive anymore. It’s nice to be a female dentist up north because I’m rare apparently; it is a male dominated profession. I think a female dentist brings a little bit of gentleness and compassion to health care.”

She also plans to bring some gentleness to the feeling of the clinic itself, which she purchased with her own money. Dr. Dahia says, “The next few weeks will be spent renovating. Just cosmetic renos for now, it is very expensive. I have actually used my own money to purchase this, no loan from the bank. That is because it’s my passion and I want to make it my own. One thing I try to do to make my clinics different, is I try to do a little more of a home feel, like spa dentistry. We offer Botox and facial messages, things other than the nitty-gritty of dentistry, where you can feel at ease and less anxious. I realized I’m more a people’s councilor than their dentist because it’s not fun to be there. I want it to be inviting, so I’m warming it up a little bit.”

Dr. Cheng will be warming the hearts of his patients by lowering his fees to the BC fee guide. He says, “I was charging my Vancouver fees, which was 15 percent above the fee guide, but now the feedback I’ve been getting is, ‘patients have 100 percent insurance’ so I’ll just charge the standard BC fee guide and I won’t bill above that, but everyone else does around here. I’m doing it to keep the peace now that I’m in the house and I don’t have to extend myself. I’m gonna make a go of it. The patients, instead of going to Dawson, perhaps they will just stay in town and they will save money on gas too.”

Dr. Cheng has offered to assist Dr. Dahia and the same goes both ways. Dr. Cheng says, “I’ve said I will help them, as long as there is no conflict of interest. I even offered to help her in Chetwynd because I do extractions very well. Now that Tumbler Ridge has two dentists, great.”

He also still has the hope that Triland will continue their development in town. Dr. Cheng says, “I just sent some messages to Peter Thompson from ReMax and I am still hoping perhaps HD will work out their problems with the unions and somehow that project that we discussed in the fall will still happen, the medical/dental. That would be great for the town. That will be at least a year and half two years, but that’s just a dream now. To be realistic, I am better off buying one of the spaces downtown and the one that is beside the newspaper is a little big and it might be too expensive to gut everything.”