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By Jullie Yap Daza

Jullie Yap Daza

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Old people miss their teeth, maybe all 32 of them. Professionals and working people are conscious that their teeth are not perfect. And teenagers? They’re in despair and socially awkward when they think they have to hide their teeth.

Orthodontists provided the answer: braces. They’re not the most comfortable thing to wear around one’s teeth – they remind me of Hannibal Lecter! – but those vainly hoping to look good, feel confident, and smile like Tom Cruise and Justin Bieber are willing to wear a mouthful of metal braces for six months at a time, with multiple visits to the dentist. Comes now a new-generation aligner that’s designed to straighten crowded or crooked or whatever’s-wrong teeth to make a girl or guy smile: Unlike a retainer or braces, the aligner is invisible, made of a clear and lightweight material that fits snugly at only .2 mm thick, and custom-made by Align Technology (since 1998) in the US.

When the beauteous Dr. Joyce Ambray (in spite of her name, she’s not a foreigner) of DentaDerm – she’s both a dermatologist and dentist/orthodontist — demonstrated the wonders of hi-tech millennial dentistry at our “Bulong Pulungan,” we were all ears and almost all smiles. The “Invisalign” procedure costs $5,000 but in deference to our status as a Third World country, the fee is $3,500 when it’s performed here.

Dr. Joyce’s patients include “the very top CEO’s,” movie and TV stars such as Mica de la Cruz, and an Australian, who should inspire other dentists to push dental tourism as a dollar earner. An invitation from the doctor: “For Australians and other nationalities, we’ll adjust their teeth without their having to come here. Just tell them to send us their pictures, and we’ll do the rest.”

The Philippines is practically virgin territory for Invisalign. About 500 to 600 patients are fitted with the aligners each year by a forward-looking group of 70 dentists, but only Dr. Joyce has the R2.5 million scanner that makes a 3-D model of the patient’s teeth “in one minute.”

When he was president, FVR’s humanitarian gig was to distribute dentures to elderly citizens who probably never ever had a dental appointment in their lives. We’ve a long way to go, Sir, but anyone who’s afraid of dentists may take comfort in Dr. Joyce’s words: “Dentistry is not about pulling teeth but saving teeth.” Now, that’s reason to smile.

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