There’s big business in teeth care
This dentist has been called crazy-on more than one occasion.
But it wasn’t for any unruly or unethical behavior. Instead, it was because of Dr. Steve Mark Gan’s fearless strides to improve the dental healthcare system in the country, which, perhaps to many, are a tad beyond the usual.
Before “implant dentistry” became popular in the country, he was pursuing it. When every other dentist was shying away from purchasing expensive dental equipment, he was heavily investing on them. While many are against the “Mutual Recognition Agreement,” (more of this later) he was rooting for it.
But every time he’s been called crazy, he redeems himself and proves naysayers wrong. For Gan, nothing stands in the way of giving his patients the best dental treatment they could ever have.
The result is Metro Dental, a top-notch dental healthcare center for Filipino families that Gan put up with business partners. With clinics in strategic areas, it offers distinct dental experience with the use of the latest in dental technology and the services of some of the country’s leading dental practitioners.
“I take my job as a dentist [and CEO of Metro Dental] very seriously,” says Gan, the group chair of Equicom Group of Companies that runs Metro Dental. “We try to be the benchmark in the Philippine dental industry.”
With over 15 branches in key areas in the country (and about 15 more opening before the year ends), Metro Dental and its pool of full-time licensed dentists allow it to be accessible to more people looking for dental services ranging from conventional check-ups to cosmetic dental procedures; from orthodontics (braces) to endodontics (root canal therapy); from restorative dentistry to tooth extraction.
“We try to have out-of-this-world latest equipment,” he says, referring to a newly purchased machine that scans oral cavity in 3D (three dimensionally) as compared to the usual panoramic view. The equipment was imported from Korea and cost P15 million each unit.
“Fellow dentists ask how we get the money back from the equipment we purchase. We don’t. It’s about having the latest technology. If it makes our patients feel better even by 10 percent, then it’s worth it. It’s not always about financial investment,” he says.
Besides, he says, he believes Filipinos aren’t a nation of mediocre dentists. He refuses to be left behind by other countries when it comes to dental healthcare system.
As a dentist, Gan’s dream, and perhaps his own contribution to society, is to change Filipinos’ views of dental health care. For him, it’s all about educating the public to change their habit of going to their dentists only when there’s already something wrong.
“I know it won’t happen overnight. But, in the future, I want people to say ‘hey, going to the dentist is fun!’ like how it is in the US where individuals look forward to visiting their dentists,” he says.
It looks like his efforts are paying off. According to Gan, he notices how many of his patients are less apprehensive and more open than before to going to surgery such as dental implants (a treatment that aims to replace missing teeth with the use of titanium “root” device).
He credits this openness partially to constant aggressive promotion and several endorsements – many of them unpaid – from the country’s brightest celebrities.
“It wasn’t intentional at all to get so many celebrity patients. I guess it’s from word of mouth. It started with one celebrity-friend then they came pouring in,” he says.
Today, he counts as celebrity clients the likes of John Lloyd Cruz, Sam Milby, Sarah Geronimo, Gerald Anderson, Kim Chiu, Phoemela Baranda, Boy Abunda and Ruffa Mae Quinto, among many others.
The number of stars that come in to Metro Dental has led many to dub him as “Dentist to the Celebrities.”
“It’s an honor to be tagged that. At the same time, there’s a pressure to live up to that reputation. There’s a lot of dentists that want to have that title. For me, it’s not about titles but about the quality result of our work that says it all,” he says.
Despite this reputation, he reiterates that everybody is welcome – and encourages – to visit their clinics. He says: “We do not discriminate our patients, we have patients that are politicians, that are janitors. Everyone is treated special; everyone is treated equally.”
“We ensure that every patient – everyone’s VIP – that goes to Metro Dental will get that best quality time and the most excellent service they can ever receive,” he says.
In the near future, Gan hopes to have the “Mutual Recognition Agreement” to be fully implemented soon. The MRA is a provision that lets professionals in the region – dentists, engineers, nurses, etc. – to practice in Asia as long as requirements are met.
“There are lots of dentists that are very close-minded about this. They want to just stay in their offices and wait for their patients. But if we implement this, we can tell the world that there’s quality dental treatment here in the country,” he says.
True, the competition would be tougher, because then, if the MRA is implemented, other dentists and professionals would be able to practice in the country as well. But he says that the real winners in this situation are the customers, who would undoubtedly benefit from the quality of services they’d be able to choose from.
Indeed, Gan has come a long way. From starting his practice with only P3,000 as capital and only one second-hand dental chair in 1998. He knows there’s still a long way to go before his ideal dental healthcare in the country is achieved. But he takes it one day at a time.
He states: “I want Filipino dentists to be united so we can stand on our own then move forward. I believe in our hard-working, talented, passionate, artistic, hospitable Filipinos – the perfect candidate for a good dentist.”
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