By Danny Chan
About six years ago, Dr Rita Trak went to a cosmetic dentist seeking a solution for the lines on her forehead and was treated with anti-wrinkle injections. That was shortly before she attended a course on cosmetic injectables, from which she learned that the creases on her forehead were not wrinkles but the result of dehydration – a diagnosis that negates the injectables approach.
“That episode pretty much sums up what I think of dentists providing injectable treatment without having an in-depth knowledge of skin health,” she says.
The same negative experience drove the cosmetic dentist to delve deeper into skin health, pursuing courses on the subject with fervour. This also led to her founding of Dental & Skin Clinic in January.
In a way, the clinic bears testimony to Dr Trak’s successful journey, traversing professional domains from the smile to the skin. The East Bentleigh practice, however, is more than just a vehicle to display the Practice Principal’s unique fusion of talents.
Its online manifesto reveals multifaceted goals: “Working inwards towards the smile, we capture, protect and amplify the face’s natural charisma and beauty through our cosmetic dentistry, dental veneers and facial treatments.”
This corroborates the dentist’s response, when asked the three most unique elements of her practice: Natural aesthetics; integrating cosmetic dentistry with professional skin care; and making dentistry enjoyable and professional skin care services accessible.
Making dentistry enjoyable, she adds, is the most challenging of the goals.
“The universal problem is that no one likes going to the dentist. How can we make people actually enjoy coming to see us?” she asks earnestly.
Dr Trak, whose dream profession since the age of 12 is to become a cosmetic dentist, believes the answer to that question is foundational to what she does for a living.
“I was always drawn to the fact that a good smile has such a great impact on someone’s mental health and I like the idea of being responsible for someone’s happiness.”
Where dentistry meets skin health
Whereas in the past the bosses would veto her “crazy” suggestions, Dr Trak is now free to walk the talk in Dental & Skin Clinic. The very concept of combining dentistry with professional skin health services is revolutionary.
The operative word is “professional”, which encompasses skin services you wouldn’t normally associate with a dental clinic: Skin needling, medical-grade chemical peels, mono threads, etc.
“The reason why I chose these specific skin treatments is because they chemically change the skin, so we’re not using the typical brands offered by other dentists,” she says. “It was really important to me that the skin services that we do offer are on a medical level.”
Dr Trak is proud that Dental & Skin Clinic is one of the only dental clinics in the world to gain Clinical Partner status with Skinceuticals, an American brand traditionally aligned with plastic surgeons and dermatologists.
Skin treatment hierarchy
Although Dr Trak is certified in cosmetic injectables, the service ranks low on her hierarchy of skin care treatment protocol.
“Dentists are versed in the knowledge and practice of conservative dentistry. There’s such a thing as conservative skin care too, and injectables is just one part of it,” she explains.
Dr Trak advocates the need to diagnose skin before offering injectables.
A typical skin treatment at Dental & Skin Clinic begins with a complimentary consultation, during which she commonly advises against wrong skin care regimes.
“Most clients are not aware of what to use for their skin type or they’re using products that are actually detrimental to their skin health,” she says.
“And if they’re using the right products, they may not be using them in the right order, thus diluting the active ingredients.”
These conversations have yielded a high conversion rate, with up to 90% of her dental customers, ending up receiving a skin treatment.
“We’re known for offering a natural makeover with our dental veneers, which accounts for about 70% of our clients,” she adds.
“With our veneer customers, we’re already having conversations about facial proportions, facial thirds, eye level, jaw line, jaw angle and so on. So it’s not weird going from that to talking about skin health.”
Clients are also drawn to the added benefits of receiving skin treatments from a cosmetic dentist.
For example, dentists are authorised and skilled in applying local anaesthesia. When it comes to procedures like skin needling, cosmetic dentists enjoy a clear advantage over a beauty therapist who can only apply numbing cream that requires 30 minutes to an hour to take effect, and it’s only able to superficially numb the face.
“I can completely numb my client’s face within seconds, and achieve more depth with my skin needling – up to 2.5mm deep as opposed to the typical 1mm depth,” says Dr Trak.
“The deeper I can go, the better the skin rejuvenation – which also translates to faster results and fewer treatments. Skin needling is great for wrinkles, lines, pigmentation, acne scars.”
In addition to the local anaesthetic providing a complete numb for a more comfortable treatment, Dr Trak goes one step further to also minimise the discomfort of the numbing process.
When administering anaesthetics, she uses DentaPen, an electronic pen that she says delivers anaesthetics through little impulses affording better control of the injection and a reduction in pain for the patient.
“I want to make dentistry enjoyable, so it’s not enough to just numb clients. The actual process to numb needs to be just as comfortable,” she adds.
Customers don’t want to leave
To say that Dental & Skin Clinic treats its customers well would be an understatement. Clients here get the sort of treatment you’d expect from a day spa.
As you enter a cosy lounge-like waiting area bathed in soft mood lighting, you are greeted by smiling staff members resembling airline stewardesses with their perfectly coiffured hair and fetching uniforms. They offer a welcome note and drink – your choice of tea, latte or sugar-free hot chocolate. Muesli bars, pretzels and popcorn are also on the complimentary menu.
While sipping your favourite beverage, you apply tingling creams and luxurious lotions, comparing different skin care products – available in test bottles – as you would in a classy beauty salon.
You can also opt for a “Duo Clean” that essentially follows up a dental clean-and-examination session with a skin-rejuvenation facial, leaving you sufficiently refreshed – in mind, body and breath.
This is what Dr Trak means when she waxes about making dentistry enjoyable. And her customers are responding exactly as she had hoped – lingering around long after a treatment. Some have even commented that they don’t want to leave.
“Clients have remarked that it feels like a hotel or retreat. If they are looking forward to the next visit, we would be achieving our goals.”
Due to overwhelming demand, the practice went from being operational two days a week to four days within eight weeks of opening. It was fully booked by the third month. While customers are voting with their wallets, Dr Trak insists that’s not the primary motivation.
“For a cosmetic dentist, transactional relationships with patients simply do not work, because cosmetic treatments are permanent,” she says.
“Personally, I’m not driven by money but genuinely invested in the client’s happiness. I believe it shows.”