Dr. David Lee is a man of many talents. Born in Taiwan and raised in the US, he speaks “six or seven” languages, plays several musical instruments, and was the first American dentist to obtain a license to practice in China. Currently the chairman of OASIS International Hospital’s dental department, Dr. Lee graduated from the University of Maryland in 1995 and practiced in Maryland, Virginia, and California over the following 10 years. His specialties include implants and pediatric dentistry. Recently, he took time out of his busy practice to answer questions from Year 6 students at Dulwich College Beijing.
James Craig, 10, UK
Have you ever had your fingers bitten?
Yes, I think all doctors have at some point or another gotten their fingers bitten by a patient.
Michael Romero, 11, Philippines
Is there anything you don’t like about being a dentist?
Yes, of course. When I have to pull out a tooth that someone waited until the last minute to treat, they won’t have that tooth for the rest of their life. That’s sad for me.
Santiago Wamp Blanco, 10, Brazil
Is it sometimes boring to be a dentist?
No. I’m still challenging myself, even after 20-30 years of practice. I can even prevent you from getting braces!
Leona Williams, 11, US/Scotland
Do you tell people that they have to floss?
Yes, I tell everyone: “Floss and brush the teeth that you want to keep.”
Leon Bruder, 10, Germany
Do you get annoyed telling people the same things over and over again?
Yes! I’m like broken record: “Brush your teeth, brush your teeth, brush your teeth.”
Alasdair McDouall, 10, UK
What’s the worst thing that happened to someone’s teeth?
Asides from a tooth extraction? Not very much. However, many people – especially in China – think that you lose your teeth when you get old. This is wrong; if you take care of your teeth, they will last a long time.
Charlie Shum, 10, Hong Kong
How long do you rest between appointments?
It depends. My record was 29 patients in one day. Sometimes I have no patients; I teach and do other stuff.
Justin Lock, 10, Singapore
What do you do in your free time?
I take doctors to [disaster zones], orphanages, and the countryside to help kids.
Song Ern Kim, 10, South Korea
How many years do you have to study to be a dentist?
Not only do you have to study for a long time, you must also have lots of experience. In high school, you should volunteer at a clinic or hospital [if you’re interested in healthcare].
Erica Dudek, 11, Australia
Is it really difficult to be a dentist?
Yes, because you have to study eight years in Canada and the US to be called “Doctor.” My wife thinks I’m a geek.
Elenya Chuan, 10, Singapore
What was the hardest job you had to do on a tooth?
In the mountains of Honduras, there was a beautiful 14-year-old girl with two decayed front teeth. I cried that night, because I could’ve fixed them easily if she was in Beijing or London. But because there was no electricity, I had to pull them out.
Diego Colin, 11, Mexico
Do you feel very proud of saving people’s teeth?
Of course I do, because I give people their health back.
Elysha Suhandinata, 11, Indonesia
What do you love about being a dentist?
I don’t like people talking back to me [chuckles]. Also, dentists make good money!
Marjorie Yang, 10, Canada/China
What’s the best thing about being a dentist?
I help people every day get rid of their misery and pain; I have the best job in the whole world!
Alexandra Pillsbury, 11, Canada
What inspired you to be a dentist?
I can work anywhere in the whole world: a jungle in Honduras, a small island in the South Pacific, even in prison! Murderers get toothaches too.
Christine Ren, 10, China
Did your parents encourage you to be a dentist?
No, I’m the first dentist in my family.
Stella Ko Won, 11, South Korea
When you were young, did you want to be a dentist?
I wanted to be a doctor, but I wasn’t as smart as you guys [laughs].
Rena Zhang, 10, China
If you weren’t a dentist, what would you be?
I could be a translator because I speak so many languages or a musician because I can play so many instruments. But I’m sorry to say, dentists top them all.
Ella Jones, 11, UK/US
What’s the difference between doctors and dentists?
Many doctors get calls in the middle of the night because of emergencies, but I don’t. Most dental situations are not life-threatening.
Jamie Li, 11, Hong Kong
Do you encourage people to believe in the tooth fairy?
I neither encourage nor discourage, but try to make people relax in my clinic by making jokes.
Thomas Kweon, 11, South Korea
When children are afraid to open their mouths, what do you tell them?
A doctor’s sincerity must come from their heart, not their mouth, because children can tell. You have to let the patient know “I want to help you,” then lead them to the next step.
Photos by VivaXiao Photography Studio