Tooth Fairies

Oct 2011

By Jack Krayenhoff

Cheri Wu, Warren Wu and Darcie Frederikson outside of Focus on Dental Hygiene

Well, Cheri Wu and Darcie Frederikson may call themselves tooth fairies to tell us that they are gentle and don't expose our teeth to high-whining dental drills, but let me tell you: they are professionals who do not depend on magic wands but on state-of-the-art equipment.

You sense that the minute you walk into the spacious, tastefully done office of Focus on Dental Hygiene on Menzies St., next door to James Bay Coffee and Books, and meet Warren Wu, Cheri's husband who acts as receptionist and keeps his desk uncluttered. He is able to do that because he is an (almost) paperless computer whiz who has worked with computer systems for years with VIHA. But he gave that up and together with Cheri launched (and somehow financed) this independent dental hygiene enterprise. Independent from a dentist's office, that is.

The sense of quality is further confirmed when you walk into an examining room and are invited to relax into the reclining chair, which gently begins to massage your back. Very comfortable. The next stop is the impressive instrument sterilization room. Nothing slip-shod here about keeping the equipment and instruments rigorously clean.

Darcie Frederikson with a patientNow it is time to sit down and quiz Cheri Wu. Her partner Darcie was unable to be there and that was a pity, because apparently she is funny and helps to keep an upbeat atmosphere in the place. However, she has written down some important information, which will be incorporated in what follows.

First, the education of dental hygienists. To get into that two-year training towards a diploma as Dental Hygienist you first need to have first year university. After that, to get your Bachelor's of Dental Science, as Cheri did, takes another year at university, so that made four years altogether. And by the way, she teaches dental hygiene courses at Camosun College, and offers courses in ultrasonic instrumentation in B.C. and Alberta. She is not your average, run-of-the-mill dental hygienist, that is clear.

JBB asks why such a long training is needed to learn to clean teeth.

"We do a lot more than cleaning teeth", says Cheri. "We look at the health of the whole mouth. For instance, with our Veloscope we are able to pick up early cancers before they become visible in ordinary light. Also, a healthy mouth is essential for the health of the rest of the body, and we pay attention to that as well. We check the patients' vitals and blood pressure every time."

"Over 50% of people are unaware that they have gingivitis or periodontal disease, and seven out of ten people will develop gum disease at some time of their lives. Not only can that lead to teeth falling out eventually, but it means you harbour millions of bacteria in your mouth. Not only can they give you bad breath, but also they can do harm elsewhere in the body."

  "We also educate people how to prevent problems themselves, and for that our new digital X-ray machine is a great asset. With a minimal exposure to radiation it shows the patient exactly what his problem is, and that motivates him to do something about it."

Are the treatments painful?

With the use of ultrasonic instead of hand-held instruments, there is not much of a problem, according to Cheri. However, if necessary she can use an anesthetic dental gel that is quite effective. For extremely sensitive people there is even more she can do. To Cheri it is supremely important that her patients are entirely comfortable.

Now the bottom line.  How much does it cost?

"The fees are set by the BC College of Dental Hygienists, and are based on units of time. For regular hygiene treatments they range from $90 -$150 max. As we are just starting out here, we don't charge the fee schedule $85 for a full examination if the dental plan does not cover it. If you just want to find out what is involved and how much it's going to cost, we will have you in the chair for 15 minutes. If you book it before December 1st, we will do that free, and after that $10. And one more thing: senior get 10% off everything."

Another convenient feature about the tooth fairies is their flexible time schedule. Essentially, their time is yours. 'When you need us, we'll be there," writes Darcie. "I prefer the late shift, and Cheri is the early bird. We are available from 8 am to 8 pm, Monday through Saturday."

Well, what do you think, James Bay? Those fees and appointment times sound pretty good, don't they? But remember, they are just starting out, and therefore most eager to please. I would say it is a good idea to get our foot in that door before they get really busy, because they are good, and they are going to succeed.