Mimi Talks To Dr Uchenna Okoye

BATD ON Sep 21, 2009 AT 9:31 am

Dr Uchenna Okoye

Dr Uchenna Okoye

Uchenna is responsible for the miracle mouth make overs on must-see TV programme, 10 Years Younger. From a traumatic childhood experience at the hands of a clumsy dentist, she has a full blown dental phobia that has driven her to approach oral health from a completely different angle.

Uchenna, what the heck happened to you?
When I was seven, my mother took me to see a dentist who removed a tooth with no anaesthetic. I thought I was going to get an ice-cream.

How has this formed your approach to other dental phobics?
I have a policy in my practice that however many sessions it takes, I’ll never force a client to go further than they want to. Often, it will take them three or four visits to even get into the dental chair; I never show impatience or irritation because I know what it’s like to have to deal with such a deep-rooted fear.

Once they get to the chair?
I’ve got good at reading body language; I know before the patient raises their hand that I need to stop and reassure them. And, people have different pain thresholds; what is a breeze for one person is agony for another. And, tension and anxiety makes everything more painful, so it’s important to create an atmosphere of trust.

Less than 50% of British people regularly see a dentist

Less than 50% of British people regularly see a dentist

Americans are continually shocked at the state of British teeth.
Well, less than 50% of British people regularly see a dentist. When there were more NHS dentists subsidising oral care, there was less of an excuse not to go, but over the past five or six years many dental schools have been shut down because they were too expensive to run, leaving a shortage of dentists. Finding a dentist in some areas is a problem. Dentistry is an expensive business to run – my dental chair cost £25,000! In America, where dentistry has never been subsidised by the government, there’s a more flexible attitude to it being a natural life expense.

Who comes to see you?
Well, my clientele falls into two camps. There are what I call ‘the big eventers’, who want a complete make over after divorce, a new job or finding a new partner, then the ‘newly affluent’; those whose children have left school or university, leaving them with some spare cash at last to fix themselves up! The joy of a private practice is that you can really make a difference to someone’s entire smile and therefore their confidence: when I worked in the NHS, if a tooth was bad, we’d take it out and that would be that, rather than try to crown it or replace it with a implant.

Click here to read part 2 of out interview with Uchenna…

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