Speaker Spotlight – March 2021

Speaker Spotlight with: Dr. Clarence Tam

"Everyone is so concerned about how the “face” or buccal surface looks in a reconstruction... The most critical angle of view is actually the incisal or occlusal - if you are fastidious in recreating primary, secondary and sometimes even tertiary anatomy from this view, the “face” will take care of itself."



Dr. Clarence Tam is originally from Toronto, Canada, where she completed her Doctor of Dental Surgery and General Practice Residency in Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto, respectively. Clarence’s practice has a focus on restorative and cosmetic dentistry, and she strives to provide consistently exceptional care with each patient. She is well-published in both the local and international dental press, writing articles, reviewing submissions, and developing prototype products and techniques in clinical dentistry. She frequently and continually lectures internationally.

Clarence has multi-faceted dentistry experience that extends across multiple tiers of leadership. She is the immediate past Chairperson and Director of the New Zealand Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. She is one of merely two dentists in Australasia who are Board-Certified Accredited Members of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). Moreover, Clarence maintains Fellowship status with the International Academy for DentoFacial Esthetics. She sits on the Advisory Board for Dental Asia, and is part of the Restorative Advisory Panel for Henry Schein Dental New Zealand. Aside from the professional organizations she belongs to, Clarence is a Key Opinion leader for an array of global dental companies, including Triodent, Coltene,Kuraray Noritake, Hu-Friedy, J Morita Corp, Henry Schein, Ivoclar Vivadent,Kerr, GC Australasia, SDI, and DentsplySirona. Moreover, she is the sole Voco Fellow in New Zealand and Australia.

Clarence participates in a number of charitable endeavors and takes great pride in achieving beautiful smiles for patients in and around her community. She sits on the board of Smiles For the Pacific, an educational trust and charity that aims to expand professional dentistry services across the entire South Pacific region. She is involved with Delta Gamma Sorority and aims to spearhead projects harmonious with Service for Sight in the South Pacific.

What is one thing you want everyone to know about aesthetic dentistry or something you learned during your years that you would like to share with other dental professionals?

Everyone is so concerned about how the “face” or buccal surface looks in a reconstruction, whether limited to one tooth or 10 teeth.  The most critical angle of view is actually the incisal or occlusal – if you are fastidious in recreating primary, secondary and sometimes even tertiary anatomy from this view, the “face” will take care of itself.  This applies to both anterior and posterior teeth.  Photography is your greatest critic and ally – take photographs of everything and evaluate them afterwards – it will continually humble us as we strive to make our creations more and more like Mother Nature each day.  

You are originally from Canada, what is it like studying in there and then making a big move to New Zealand? Do you notice any difference in values/ priorities between Canadian and New Zealand practices?

I guess I only have experience with studying in Canadian institutions, so I can say that the experience is quite balanced – there is both didactic and clinical balance, although if I “knew” some of the things that I knew today, even as basic as the angulation of the handpiece and bur during some procedures, it would have made life that much easier.  My school was one of the first to adopt digital dentistry, so that made evaluation and treatment that much more efficient.  The values of Canadian practices unfortunately often are centered around insurance billing – from my understanding, as there is a set amount of billable income from each respective procedure, it then becomes about a billing per unit time.  I have always been fee-for-service here in New Zealand and even if I practice in North America again in the future will set my practice up there to be the same.  

You have developed prototype products and clinical techniques. Tell us more about that and how you got into it.

I have had many fortunate opportunities to work with many multinational dental companies – it is nice when you have the ability to help develop a certain matrix system, or push to fine-tune the handling and delivery properties of a fissure tint.  As experience often causes you to become friends with failure, you look actively for ways to experiment and avoid failure.  I noticed this recently in a course I was hosting for the New Zealand Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry in which a ceramist had “lost track” of which “pile of ceramic paste” was for which part of the veneer he/she was building. This led me to create a revolutionary (and smickly styled I might add haha) next generation ceramic mixing tray for dental ceramists, called “Mixing Deck” by Bite Lab.  It aims to minimize hand fatigue and risk of RSIs.  It aims to increase efficiency and precision, all whilst looking pretty in your workspace.  We recently had a full design patent registered in multiple countries, so that was a different side of dentistry too.  Check it out here: www.bitelab.co.nz .  I think we are in a blessed position; well poised to drive the evolution of techniques and materials in our reach for excellence.  


What did you do to enhance your clinical skills? (Did you find certain CPD courses to be helpful, watched videos, carved soap?) and during this COVID era where new graduates may be stuck at home, what would you encourage them to do to refine their skills?

I made the decision to undertake one of the most challenging and life-changing ventures in gaining Accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry in 2017.  It is a structured, board-certified protocol that will hone your hand and eye towards creating predictable nature.  One of the people I look up to re: direct anterior esthetics is no other than Accredited Fellow, Dr. Marshall Hanson.  His ability to nail cases every time whilst being non-or-minimally invasive is something we all strive to do.  Attending the annual Scientific Sessions for me (pre-COVID of course) were a fantastic way to learn both in and out of the classroom.  With myriad course subjects and workshops to whet the appetite of even the most seasoned esthetic dentist, that is the playground from which my passion was seeded and drive ignited.  Something I heard years ago that I still holds true to every speaker: “You can always learn something new.”  We just have to pay attention.

Thanks for reading and thanks for the opportunity to share with you all.  Looking forward to seeing you in the vaccinated era to come.

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