Monday, August 16, 2010


I once read that L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, was convinced he could he persuade new teeth to grow simply by deleting old beliefs that something like this was physiologically impossible. Unfortunately, Hubbard fell foul of the power establishment and was hounded by the FBI, IRS and Office of Naval Research till he either died or had to go off-planet. So we shall never know if he was anywhere close to achieving new dental growth.

If we had access to such remarkable mental powers, no human being on Earth would ever again have to suffer toothlessness, limblessness, or even lifelessness. No woman need ever complain about being flat-chested and no man need resort to false modesty to conceal a penis less than seven inches long. Most of us would closely resemble our favorite deities, rockstars or movie icons.

And my amazing son-in-law, Dr Ansgar Cheng (and his competent and personable partners at the Specialist Dental Group in Singapore) would be out of a job.

I wish to record herein my profound gratitude that the long history of dentistry in the family has ultimately spared me the ignominy of being labeled “toothless” by mean-minded rivals in love. Policemen will now think twice before attempting to arrest me – lest I turn out to be a member of Tian Chua’s secret school of dental shaolin. What I am especially grateful for is that at no time during my visits to his sparkling clinic at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Center did Dr Ansgar Cheng ever involuntarily go “tsk tsk” (no matter how inaudibly) at the sight of my oral cavity.

Indeed, I found his “bedside manner” absolutely impeccable. He treated me with utmost courtesy and took pains to explain every aspect of the implant procedure, with only a friendly warning that nicotine causes constriction of the blood capillaries in the gums, which interferes with healing after an implant. He gently suggested that if I had to continue smoking, let it be the barest minimum over the maximum span of time. The upshot is, not only have I gained a full set of chompers, I am also in the process of acquiring far greater self-control when it comes to smoking.

Some are addicted to wine, some to song, and some to women. Well, I can live quite happily without a single drop of wine. I enjoy playing and listening to music, but haven’t become a compulsive iPodder; and I have learned the hard way how to let go and keep loving when women leave me. But tobacco has been an intimate friend since I was 15. The idea of being a non-smoker actually offends me. It would be akin to surgically removing the pipe from all images of Sherlock Holmes – or rewriting Lord of the Rings so that Gandalf no longer blows colorful smoke rings – or excising all mention of cigarettes from Mickey Spillane’s detective thrillers. Can you imagine Popeye being advised by his doctor to give up eating spinach out of a can?

Frank Zappa was once asked on a TV talk show why he smoked cigarettes and drank black coffee even though he claimed to be vehemently against substance abuse. Zappa momentarily frowned, then sucked on his cigarette and said with a grin: “Caffeine and nicotine constitute my staple diet. This is my food.”

True, Zappa died pretty young at 58 – of prostate cancer which, some believe, commonly afflicts men who don’t ejaculate often enough.

Ansgar made plaster casts of his newborn daughters' baby feet

Under ordinary circumstances I couldn’t possibly afford instant implants – at least not the high-end type offered by the Specialist Dental Group with titanium screws and base. Before affixing them, Dr Cheng showed me his masterpiece. He had been laboring over my implants in the lab for days, polishing every bit to perfection.

To keep his fingers nimble, Ansgar assembles model cars and makes jewelry in his spare time. I’m no expert but what I saw truly impressed me as the finest example of dedicated craftsmanship: my lower teeth were beautiful enough to wear as a pendant, and worth as much as, if not more than, a string of genuine Mikimoto pearls. In any case, they’re infinitely more useful to me than any ornament you can name. It simply means I will be able to enjoy eating normally as long as I live. Not only that, the new gnashers have taken a good 20 years off my smile. I can now pass off as a weather-worn 40-year-old rather than be mistaken for a well-preserved septuagenarian.

My daughter Moonlake remarked the day I arrived at Ansgar’s clinic for a preliminary scan and analysis of the situation: “You know Ansgar and I have been married 18 years. What took you so long to come and see him?” The glib answer on the tip of my tongue was: “Well, I wisely waited till he got really good at this!” But, in truth, I knew roughly how much this sort of sophisticated dentistry can cost and felt reluctant to impose on Ansgar’s goodwill just because he was married to my daughter. Out of curiosity, I enquired how much it would normally cost to get all this work done and barely managed to not bat an eyelid when a ball park figure was mentioned. But, then again, most folks would roll about on the floor laughing their asses off if they knew how low my overheads actually are... for me almost any figure would have been too much!

Moon & Ansgar with Allie (7) and Hana (5) in July 2010

My son-in-law has put in long years of study to acquire the impressive collection of degrees and diplomas adorning his office. After qualifying as a dentist in Hong Kong, he continued specializing in the U.S. (Northwestern University and UCLA) obtaining professional degrees as a maxillofacial prosthodontist. When China repossessed Hong Kong in 1996, Ansgar’s parents moved to Toronto, Canada, where they bought a house. Ansgar and Moon decided to join them in Toronto and Ansgar sat for another examination to qualify to practice in Canada.

A few years later he was appointed Head of Maxillofacial Prosthetics at the University Health Network, Princess Margaret Hospital (the largest cancer hospital in Canada). He was also a consultant to the Department of Otolaryngology (ENT) at the Toronto General Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Prosthodontics with the University of Toronto. Dr Ansgar Cheng also happens to be an Examiner in Prosthodontics with the Royal College of Dentists of Canada. In short, the man is more than qualified to make a set of bionic teeth for his father-in-law.

If you happen to be extremely eccentric (and enormously rich) and fancy replacing your entire skull and jaw with a customized assembly carved from a giant quartz crystal, the Specialist Dental Group can probably handle your request with unruffled aplomb.

Ansgar was a tad disappointed I was unable to stay for a week-long stretch in Singapore – that was how swiftly he could have accomplished the Instant Implant. Instead, I opted to get the work completed in three painless sessions spread over three visits. At no time did I have to walk around displaying bare gums – and that was truly a great mercy.

Some of the technical feats Dr Ansgar Cheng and his specialist colleagues have achieved since they began their partnership have been documented in professional journals and health magazines. Many have been published on a very readable blog managed by Moonlake who was in charge of corporate communications for the company - till being a full-time mum to two fast-growing girls put a stop to that.

Now that I have joined the ranks of potential toothpaste models with my Hollywood smile, I just have to studiously avoid plane crashes and assassin’s bullets – or all of Dr Ansgar Cheng’s noble efforts and incredible craftsmanship will be wasted.