Dentistry, like medicine in general, has been a male-dominated profession until recently. In Singapore three female dentists founded and run The Dental Studio and now they are employing and mentoring the next generation of female dentists. We speak to Dr Lynette Ng and her mentee, Dr Stephanie Yap.

Q: When did you decide to become a dentist?

Dr Ng: In 1998, after completing an internship at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital, I began an internship at a dental practice. There I realised that there is more to dentistry than meets the eye; as well as the helping patients restore their eating and speaking abilities, good dentistry can help with improving a patient’s appearance and raising his or her self-esteem.

Q: When and why did you decide to start your own practice?

Dr Ng: Having spent almost 10 years in public service, I was approached by the Singapore Medical Group with the opportunity to begin a practice in partnership with them. I was excited as I wanted to run a boutique-styled practice where care and individualised attention for every patient is key.

Q: Was it a conscious decision to choose female partners?

Dr Ng: Having female partners was not a conscious decision but one that fell in place; and I am glad it did! My partners and I have developed a good relationship from working together previously and were keen to continue the relationship in a private practice setting.

Q: Why were there less female dentists in the past?

Dr Ng: Dentistry is technical in nature and therefore assumed to be a man’s vocation, so perhaps that was why there were so few female dentists. Some patients think that female dentists are less capable of pulling out a tooth than male dentists as male dentists are stronger so I have to educate them that extracting a tooth efficiently lies in its technique and not brute strength.

Q: Do you think there are differences between female and male dentists? What do your patients think?

Dr Ng: Women have smaller hands compared to men. A few published longitudinal studies have shown that women are more empathetic and this is probably true of me: my patients have told me that I am gentler and I do feel bad when I see a patient wince. Other than providing a high standard of professional care, we must ensure that the treatment itself is comfortable.

Q: When did you decide to become a dentist?

Dr Yap: I started practising general dentistry in 2011. I was first exposed to the inner workings of the healthcare industry when I participated in a job-shadowing stint at Raffles Hospital. There I was exposed to various departments practising various disciplines, one of which was the dental clinic. I realised then that a successful dental treatment not only facilitates essential a patient’s essential daily activities such as speaking and eating, but restores their confidence. I was drawn to practise dentistry, seeing how maintaining dental health and restoring dental function can impact a persons’ quality of life.

Q: What made you join The Dental Studio? How has the experience been like?

Dr Yap: I was acquainted with Dr Lynette Ng when she was instructing in Faculty of Dentistry at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Through our interactions, I found that she practices what she preaches and is keen in mentoring younger dentists. I was drawn to her as I find it such a privilege to be able to work with practitioners who are willing to invest their time and resources in younger dentists like myself.

Q: Do you think there are differences between female and male dentists? What do your patients think?

Dr Yap: I don’t think there is much of a difference and there shouldn’t be. As Dr Ng said, some patients think that male doctors are better at extracting teeth as they are stronger but it is not true. Lady dentists can be equally technically efficient in removing teeth. Patients have their preferences in that some are more comfortable with female dentists because they are less intimidating and that certainly works in our favour when managing paediatric patients, for example.