Health & Wellbeing
JAM | Feb 8, 2023

The Tooth Crew Dental: on a mission to reduce dental anxiety in their patients

Candice Stewart

Candice Stewart / Our Today

Reading Time: 5 minutes
From left: Dr. Christine Williams-Fullerton and and Dr. Rhonda Williams, owners and operators of The Tooth Crew Dental practice.

Let’s face it, we all know at least one person who gets heart palpitations knowing that they have to visit their dentist for any kind of procedure. There are, however, dentists out there who work to reduce that kind of fear all while giving the best care they were trained to give. 

Dental surgeons, Drs Rhonda Williams and Christine Williams-Fullerton, owners and operators of The Tooth Crew dental practice, are on a mission to reduce dental anxiety in their patients. They do this through their attention to details and level of communication with their patients. 

“We want to break through the dental fear and anxiety that plagues most Jamaicans. We know that it can be overwhelming going to the dentist and we want our patients to understand that it doesn’t have to be a scary experience. So, we walk them through their procedures and explain what will happen to help them understand the process. We pay attention to their needs and we help them based on that,” said Williams-Fullerton.

Dr. Christine Williams-Fullerton of The Tooth Crew dental practice.

The Tooth Crew Dental opened its doors in November of 2022 and serves their patients to provide a sense of calm and reassurance to reduce the fear.

Before their practice came to fruition, both dentists worked full time with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to serve patients. Before that, they had practical experience at school. It was from a combination of both that they noticed the extensive fear people have to see a dentist. It inspired them to take their calm approach with each patient. 

Dr. Williams still works in government service as well as with the Tooth Crew. Her colleague is solely at the practice. 

“We have found that doing a walk-through and educating our patients helps to reduce their anxiety levels and it makes them more comfortable when they have to sit in our chair. We also see children and adults who have dental anxiety, so we have to tailor our approach accordingly. It requires patience and empathy but it’s part of our job and we willingly do it,” Dr. Williams said.

Dr. Rhonda Williams, dentist and co-owner of The Tooth Crew dental practice.

During the typical work week, the dentists sometimes work until seven in the evenings to facilitate their patients who have work or school and lack the capacity to make appointments in the day time. 

Both doctors take great pride in their patient management and hope to, one day, expand their work in preventative dentistry in Jamaica through charitable service offerings, charitable donations, and educational presentations to, over time, decrease dental anxiety and improve the rates at which people visit their doctors for preventative care and treatment for oral health care.

DIFFERENT JOURNEYS INTO DENTISTRY

The two dentists, who met each other in school, are graduates of the five-year dental programme at the University of Technology School or Oral Health Sciences. Their individual journeys to that point, however, are dissimilar. 

Dr. Williams, who always wanted to be a dentist, wound up with a first degree in economics and mathematics after not being accepted into the School of Dentistry at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus. 

“After completing my first degree, my family encouraged me to apply to the programme at UTech where I barely missed the deadline. Due to my late submission, I learned of my acceptance after the start of the academic year,” said Williams. 

Dr. Williams-Fullerton was interested in research and originally went the route of pursuing a double major in experimental biology. She also felt the urge to become a medical doctor but that shifted at the thought of being unable to help all patients. Upon completing her degree, Williams-Fullerton could not secure employment in her field and ended up in the banking sector for a short time. 

“To be truthful, after my first degree, I applied to become a dental hygienist at UTech and at the interview, members of the panel encouraged me to go into dentistry. I applied and was accepted. I was also fortunate enough to receive a partial scholarship,” Williams-Fullerton explained. 

“It wasn’t a straight line type of journey for either of us, but it worked out in the end. Going through it the way that we did prepared us for our current situation,” Dr. Williams highlighted.

APPRECIATION FOR PARENTAL AND FAMILIAL SUPPORT

The Tooth Crew openly expressed gratitude to their parents for the sacrifices made to ensure that they had the best chance of completing dental school. 

It is based on those sacrifices, seen and unseen, that they say failure was never an option.

Office space at The Tooth Crew dental practice.

“My parents found a way to fund my goal of practicing dentistry. We had countless discussions and planning sessions until they agreed to help me. It wasn’t always easy or clear cut but somehow they made it happen. The planning was crucial because my brother was in college abroad and my other siblings would soon start their journey,” Dr. Williams Fullerton explained. 

She also recalls when her father sold his van to pay towards her tuition.

Dr. Williams had a similar experience with her mother who worked to finance her studies. 

“My mother did not think twice about it. She wasn’t sure how she would pay for my tuition and that of my siblings, but she found a way to make it work as she did not want us going in debt in the name of securing the future we wanted,” explains Dr. Williams. 

In a follow up, Dr. Williams-Fullerton exclaimed, “parents are so integral in everything that we do! I cannot figure out how my parents made it work. I can never say that we were ever short-changed on anything. Based on that, failure was never an option for either of us. We had to achieve the dream!” 

The Tooth Crew dental practice.

FOR FUTURE DENTISTS

If your dream is to become a dentist, the Tooth Crew says you need to be sure of what you want and work towards it despite any naysayers or any difficulty you may face. 

“It’s a long road and it is not easy by any measure. Perseverance is key. Work hard, keep your eyes on the prize and know that you’ll get there,” Dr. Williams said. 

“It’s also not a race, it’s a marathon,” Dr. Williams-Fullerton added.

To connect with The Tooth Crew,  you may find them on Instagram @thetoothcrewdental 

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