Has the age of a first-time braces patient changed over the years?
The American Association of Orthodontists’ guideline is: “All kids should get a checkup with an orthodontist no later than age 7.” The average starting age for orthodontic treatment at [my clinic] is 11 years old. I don’t think the starting age of first-time braces has changed since I graduated from orthodontic training. However, we have [more] adults as first-time braces patients in comparison to the past; one of our oldest patients started her first-time braces at age 70.
How common is it for people to get braces two or more times over the course of their lives?
It is not uncommon for people to have braces twice in their lifetime. I had braces twice because I didn’t wear my retainers. After a few years of good retainer wear, I slacked off, and my teeth relapsed. I got my second set of braces after becoming an orthodontist. This may be controversial, but I tell our patients, “Retention is for life.” You need to wear your retainers to maintain straight teeth.
Do orthodontists still prescribe headgear? As children, that was the closest we came to medieval torture.
Headgear does look very scary. I use a threat of using headgear to coax cooperation from our patients. Seriously, though, headgear is an effective tool, and there is a place and case for headgear. However, I stopped [prescribing] headgear because I saw limited cooperation. I use other bite-correcting appliances, which I found to be more effective.
What does the name of your practice, OoLi Orthodontics, mean?
OoLi is a Korean word, which means “our.” In Korean culture, people use the possessive adjective “OoLi” to describe their relationship to things dear to them. For example, Koreans say our mother, our house, our country, etc. It’s an endearing and inclusive word. OoLi is reflective of the orthodontic practice that we strive to run.
What do you miss most about your hometown of Philadelphia?
I miss the food, the concerts at the Academy [of Music], and of course the family, but I miss our old home in Wallingford the most. This is where my wife, Tiffany, and I started our life together with our first Yorkie, Tazmanian. I miss the backyard picnics and chasing after Taz.
What’s the funniest thing a patient has said to you on nitrous oxide?
This happened during dental school. I was doing a filling on an 8-year-old boy. Even though he was on nitrous oxide, he cried and struggled all the way through the treatment. When he was finished with his treatment, he calmly got up, thanked me and shook my hand. He took me by surprise and confirmed that dentistry “ain’t so bad.”
What do you do in your spare time?
I am trying to spend more quality time with Tiffany and our Yorkies, ToTo and TinkerBell. We recently lost our first Yorkie, Tazmanian. Taz’s passing reminded us that we needed to spend more quality time together.
“If I wasn’t a dentist, I’d be…”
In the Peace Corps. I still have a fantasy of serving in the Peace Corps for the good of humanity. Someday…