If Dr William Tang can make his young patients laugh during a dental check-up or procedure, then he’s done his job well. Helping kids feel comfortable and safe at the dentist is his focus. Find out how time in regional Australia inspired his work in paediatric dentistry, and his top tips for looking after kids’ teeth.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I immigrated to Australia with my family when I was five-years-old, and have had the pleasure of calling Australia home for several decades.
I started my journey in the health industry as a pharmacist, working in both communities and hospitals. Motivated by a strong desire to help others, I completed my dental degree and training at the University of Sydney.
I love looking at teeth because they tell a story. They can tell you about how people live, what they eat and even sometimes how they grew up. For instance, worn down teeth could potentially be a result of night grinding due to stress. Stained teeth could be a result of coffee or wine consumption. Our teeth are important to our well being and giving them the best care can prevent secondary health issues in the body.
My interest in paediatric dentistry stems from a great desire to help children develop good habits and a positive relationship with dental care. I had the opportunity to work in regional New South Wales, from the Hunter New England region to rural locations such as Tamworth, Gunnedah and Taree. I decided to pursue a career in paediatric dentistry while consulting in a small, community clinic on the grounds of a public school. I witnessed a great sense of dread from the children and their parents when visiting the dentist and a lack of understanding of the importance of good oral hygiene. I knew I wanted to achieve two things – firstly, to help these children cultivate a good relationship with their teeth and secondly, to help them have a fun experience at the dentist. I have made this a focus of my work ever since.
Is there an area from paediatric dentistry that particularly interests you?
Management of acute dental trauma and complex root canal treatment in children. The latter is a common consequence of dental trauma. Having worked at Westmead Dental Hospital, I often faced challenging clinical situations, which required me to adapt and reassure anxious parents and patients who may be stressed about their visit to the hospital. Being exposed to many different types of emergency scenarios, I have learnt to think on my feet and adjust to the situation. Understanding and managing the complexities of root canal treatment in a young person is crucial to ensuring long term success and preservation of teeth.
What is the best thing about your job?
Being able to help children through challenging situations and make them laugh. It makes my day.
How do you approach a nervous patient?
People of any age are often nervous in situations they cannot control. Helping them feel in control while in the chair is key. At Sydney Specialist Dental Group, all the specialists take a cautious approach. I believe with children, especially nervous children, it is essential to breakdown the process in order to help them understand. Above all, we are here to help and not hurt them.
What can parents do early on to ensure good oral health in kids?
Good oral health stems from diet and hygiene. A balanced diet comes from an understanding and awareness of the food we put into our bodies. A lot of food marketed as healthy by companies might not to be good for us and it is important to understand and read nutritional information carefully. Of course, that does not mean depriving the body of indulgent treats, rather appreciating the importance of moderation.
Secondly, take good care of your pearly whites with consistent cleaning and brushing. A simple recommendation for parents who plan to help their kids brush, is to run your fingers around your kids’ teeth and ask them to do the same to yours. This is important, because you don’t have the same sensory feedback as when you brush your own teeth. By doing this you can better position the brush to ensure not only effective brushing, but a better and more comfortable experience for your child.
Lastly, try and establish this routine early on and always associate brushing with another fun activity the kids enjoy, like brushing their teeth in the bath.
When should a child’s first visit to the dentist take place?
My recommendation would be by their first birthday. As teeth start to develop, it is important to catch any potential issues early to ensure a healthy dental development. At Sydney Specialist Dental Group, we offer guidance and support and create great dental experiences in clinic, to help children feel comfortable and calm in that setting from a young age.
What has been something positive for you during the pandemic?
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of slowing down and reflection. This applies to both my personal and professional life. Very often I focus on doing what is best for everyone else, rarely do I have the time to stop, think and enjoy being in the moment. I have enjoyed slowing down and working on different interests in my life.
When you are not working, how do you like spending your spare time?
Working on building my indoor greenhouse and cultivating my green thumb.
Sydney Specialist Dental Group, 78/ 60-82 Princes Highway, St Peters, 02 9550 1188, ssdg.com.au