I have driven by Steveston Smiles countless times yet until I met with Dr. Michele Nielsen I had never been inside the building. Her father, Dr. Doug Nielsen, had the facility built when he was a new graduate from UBC Dental School, and opened his practice in February 1973. The first thing I noticed was the open concept architecture, which conjured up images of a stacked beehive. The building houses four separate dental practices (which make up the Steveston Dental Group) including Steveston Smiles.
Growing up with a dentist as a father one would think that Michele Nielsen (to avoid confusion they go by Dr. Michele and Dr. Doug) knew that dentistry was her calling. Throughout her teenage years she assisted in the office, yet she did not dream of following in her father’s footsteps. In fact, she laughs when she says she wanted to be original, and considered teaching or biology as possible career options, however she soon came to realize that dentistry combined all of the things she loved.
In 2001 Michele Nielsen graduated from McGill University and in 2002 she began working with Doug Nielsen. In 2004 she spent an additional year training in forensic dentistry, which she finds fascinating but she is so busy with work and home life that she has yet to pursue this area of interest.
In April 2012 Michele Nielsen purchased the business and Doug Nielsen continues to work alongside her. Three dental hygienists, three assistants, and two front desk staff all assist in making this busy practice thrive. Steveston Smiles takes pride in offering a caring family environment with dentists who listen and have the talent and skill to achieve the results you’re looking for – whether it’s a simple procedure, or a life changing transformation.
What is it like working with her father who, she jokes, now reports to her? Michele Nielsen describes Doug Nielsen as “amazing.” She says he is her mentor, and that they value learning from each other.
Doug Nielsen conducts many of the root canal appointments while Michele Nielsen sees many of the younger patients, and admits this is one of her fortes. This is not surprising as she exudes a genuine warmth and compassion that children must gravitate towards. She has two young sons and radiates a maternal streak.
In 2003, the B.C. Dental Association launched a campaign recommending that children visit the dentist six months after their first tooth or at one year of age. Since this campaign commenced Steveston Smiles has offered complimentary orientation visits for children under the age of three. This visit includes an exam by Dr. Doug or Dr. Michele, a tour of the office as well as a baby bag of goodies to help care for your child’s teeth. For older children a visit to the toy chest is always a post appointment highlight.
In 2006 Steveston Smiles began offering Invisalign braces, a modern approach to straightening teeth. These virtually invisible custom-made aligners gradually and gently shift teeth into place. There are no metal brackets to attach and no wires to tighten.
Have you dreamt of having a crown completed in a single visit? CEREC is a dental restoration product that allows a dental practitioner to produce an indirect ceramic dental restoration using a variety of computer-assisted technologies. With CEREC, teeth can be restored in a single sitting, for natural looking, tooth coloured crowns. No impressions or temporaries are required. You can relax while you watch the computer mill your new restoration before your eyes.
Michele Nielsen showed me the fascinating digital x-ray technology they use. This high-tech diagnostic tool can help detect tiny problems and prevent them from growing larger. An added benefit, digital radiography dramatically decreases the amount of radiation required for an x-ray. Clinicians wear tiny ‘microscopes’ on their glasses, or loupes as they are called in the dental field, which enable them to get a better view of your oral condition, and patients can see the images magnified on the computer screen (no more trying to decipher a tiny film negative).
Believing that dental anxiety should not be a barrier to getting dental work done, Steveston Smiles offers nitrous oxide sedation free of charge. Nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” is used for its calming effect. It can help to relax you, ease your fear and make you feel more comfortable during your dental treatment.
Beginning in 2007 The College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. began allowing dentists to perform Botox. This makes sense as dentists know the facial muscles very well. Michele Nielsen explains it is a service that some patients appreciate while they are already at a dental appointment, while other clients come in simply for this treatment.
Michele Nielsen enjoys seeing generations of families come to the office. Recently they found a photo album from the 1980’s of “No Cavity Club Parties” containing pictures of Steveston Smiles patients, and today Michele Nielsen works on some of their children’s teeth. She says, “It is so rewarding to have a true family practice.”
Playing a role in changing people’s perceptions about dental appointments is another satisfying aspect of her job. Michele Nielsen has treated patients who for years avoided getting any dental work done yet “with time, patience, empathy and compassion we have been able to change their experience and restore their mouths and dramatically improve their oral health.”
The dental office has created a number of clubs with gift certificate incentives to encourage participation in health care and promote overall wellness. The Happy Smile Club is for 2 to 8 year olds. Every child has their picture taken and placed on the Happy Smile board. The Junior Achievers Club (9 to 12 year olds) and Teens to the Top (13 to 19 years old) encourages these age groups to practice a high standard of preventive dental health care. The Referral & Rewards Club thanks clients for introducing new patients to the clinic.
Steveston Smiles takes a proactive approach to tooth decay by offering all ghouls and goblins a very attractive post-Halloween offer. Donate your candy during their 3rd Annual Sweet Swap (between November 1 – 5) and in exchange you will receive an entry ballot to win an iPad mini. Now that is sweet!
3951 Steveston Highway Richmond BC V7E 2J9