Digital impressions are currently revolutionizing the way dentists create dental restorations for patients. A digital impression is a virtual scan that creates a map of your teeth. By using lasers and other optical scanning devices, dentists can create a virtual, computer-generated model of the hard and soft tissues in the mouth. This digital model allows dentists to view patient’s teeth on a computer screen rather than using a mirror, taking a mold, or looking at an X-ray, which are the traditional methods. After an impression is taken, a dentist can immediately send the digital impression to a lab where dentures, crowns, bridges, and other restoration models can be made quickly and accurately. (DDS Lab)

It is ironic that though I was trained as a dentist, my dental health has never been the best. It didn’t help that I lost two of my teeth during a hockey game in my second year of dental school. Currently, though, I need a crown and a new denture. Last Tuesday I went to see my dentist, Dr Tan Chin Hwee. He prepared the tooth that needed a crown, took a digital impression of my mouth and, during my next visit, I should be able to get my crown and denture.
Dr Tan is my friend and my brother in Christ. We were classmates in dental school. He models for me what it means to be a Christian dentist. He brings both compassion and competence into his work. I know how he cares for me, and I see his interaction with his other patients. He cares for us. In a day when new technology and new techniques are appearing all the time, it is so easy to focus on one’s tools and forget the human connection. The most important element in medical care is the compassion that a patient feels from his or her doctor. Indeed, our first call as a Christian is to love our neighbour and surely that means showing genuine care and concern for our patients.
It is precisely because we care for our patients that we want to do our best for them. That means being as competent as we can be in our treatment. It means using the best tools at our disposal. The newest equipment and the newest materials are not cheap, so all medical professionals have to juggle between wanting to use the best for our patients and the question of costs. But the commitment to treat our patients to the best of our ability is not negotiable. I haven’t been practicing dentistry for many years now, but whenever I get the chance I remind my Christian dental colleagues of the two Cs — compassion and competence.
One of the reasons why I keep reminding my dental and medical colleagues of a Christian approach to medicine is because the church provides very little teaching on how followers of Jesus ought to do their daily work out in the world. I have had many Christian young adults tell me that the church taught them how to do the spiritual stuff — Bible study, prayer, evangelism — but gave them no help as to how to live out their faith at work; something that occupied the largest portion of their time. Indeed, looking at what happens in many churches, it would seem like saving the lost is the most important or even the only game in town. Of course, all believers are to be committed to sharing the gospel with others and inviting people to a saving relationship with Jesus. But shouldn’t we also equip them to live out their faith in all areas of life? Didn’t Paul say:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. (Colossians 3:23–24a NIV)

What does it mean for a Christian dentist to work with all his/her heart as working for the Lord? For teachers? For Grab drivers? For engineers? For hair stylists? Looking at the Christian education and discipleship programmes of most churches, you will find little help for this. You may argue that saving a soul is more important than saving a tooth. But is that how the Bible frames the issue? We need to share the gospel with urgency to as many as we can, but when people respond in faith and become followers of Jesus, we need to help them live out their faith in all areas of life, of which their work is a key component for many.
I believe this refusal to operate with a sacred/secular divide has implications for our evangelism too. Is the gospel just about escaping hell and going to heaven when one dies? Many are hungry and searching for meaning in their lives today. That includes finding meaning in their work. Surely the gospel is big enough to help in that as well.
I have been called to be a teacher of the Word. My friend Chin Hwee has been called to care for the oral health of people. I am glad I am a beneficiary of his calling.