Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Jakarta: Dentist Linus Boekitwetan in Jakarta Globe Newspaper September 2, 2009

My Jakarta: Dentist Linus Boekitwetan
Zack Petersen

Being a dentist is in Linus Boekitwetan’s genes, so if you happen to be his patient, you should know you’re in good hands. Besides being born to wield a drill, Linus, who is from West Jakarta, has a no-nonsense air about him that is comforting for those who find themselves in his dentist’s chair.

Is being a dentist or orthodontist in your blood?
My father is a doctor, a general practitioner, while my mother, my sister and my aunt are all dentists. My sister works in the Netherlands and my aunt is in the United States.

Is there any difference between going to a dentist in Indonesia and in the United States?
Here, people are scared of needles. They would rather deal with the pain of the drill than the prick of the needle.

Are clear braces catching on here in Jakarta?
A doctor who represents the Invisalign brand came here from the United States in 2008 to train local doctors and issue licenses to carry out Invisalign. Right now clear braces aren’t as popular as the metal ones, but they will catch on.

Is getting an invisible aligner a complicated process?
First, we make an impression of the client’s teeth here and then send it off to a lab in the US. What comes back to us is an intricate program that has 3-D imaging, called ClinCheck, which is able to show us exactly what the patient’s teeth will look like after the process. It’s pretty amazing. After the 3-D imaging is approved from our end, the lab starts the fabrication of the invisible aligners and sends them back to us. No one will ever be able to tell you have them on. No metal, no wiring, no bending.

How old are most of the patients who get braces?
They’re mostly in their 20s. People don’t have insurance here so they need to wait until they have enough money to get braces. I would say 90 percent of the people getting braces right now are women. It’s a big trend.

Have you ever had braces?
No. I don’t need them right now but maybe someday I will.

Is your week pretty busy, or are you like other dentists who are always off on the golf course?
I have a lot of appointments from Mondays to Saturdays. Saturday is the busiest day for me, but I only work until 4 p.m. because I want to go to the mall like everyone else.

Appointments in Indonesia don’t really seem to mean anything, with jam karet holding sway. If I make an appointment with you for 11 a.m., what time do you expect for us to meet?
Around 11:30 a.m. to noon, but on Saturdays my patients know not to be late.

Does it ever get old, smelling people’s bad breath all day long?
Don’t worry, I wear a mask. Sometimes people have calculus [or tartar] behind their teeth, which is caused by the continual accumulation of minerals from saliva on dental plaque that eats away at your teeth. That’s why if you don’t take care of your teeth, they will just fall out.

In your line of work, you cause a lot of people pain. Do you ever feel bad?
Let’s just say that if I don’t fix the teeth now, there will be even more pain later.

What’s the most interesting part of your job?
The fact that people come to me with a crowded set of teeth that need work, and then after a little work, I get to make them beautiful. That’s rewarding.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a dentist?
I would be the CEO of an international company. I don’t like working under people. I like to be able to make my own decisions. That’s why I became a dentist.

What is the hardest part about your job?
I like my job, but sometimes in orthodontics, the hardest part is straightening or moving teeth to improve the aesthetic of the teeth according to the schedule of my treatment plan. The most important thing in orthodontic treatment is that patients must report to me regularly, approximately once a month. If they don’t do that, the treatment time takes longer.

Is flossing really that important?
Flossing is very important. According to the American Dental Association, flossing helps remove debris and interproximal dental plaque, which is plaque that accumulates between teeth. Dental floss helps clean these hard-to-reach tooth surfaces and reduces the likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot effectively clean between these tight spaces. But in Indonesia, flossing is not as popularly applied as in the US.

Do kids get lollipops when they leave your clinic?
No. Instead I give them cute gifts. Like right now, I give out key chains that look like a beautiful set of teeth.

Zack Petersen from The Jakarta Globe