Current Issue #488

Drawn to the City: The Dentist

Drawn to the City: The Dentist

Each month, illustrator Leo Greenfield sketches and profiles an Adelaide character who makes this city tick. This month: Dr Adelyn Yeo

Putting o a trip to the dentist could be a national pastime, as often there is real anxiety at the thought of that brightly-lit chair and threatening drill. But for Dr Adelyn Yeo, based at The Dental Practice on King William Street, these stereotypes are something she is keen to dismiss. Yeo is a dentist who wants to show the human side of her profession and sees good communication as a vital tool of her trade.

“You can’t take it personally,” says Yeo, when discussing the worries people face when heading to the dentist, “but no one should have fear with proper treatment and good explanations.” Yeo believes in being humble about her profession and works to calm her patients, taking her time to give clear information while administering dental care.

Yeo brings an array of experiences to her practice and “loves working with my hands”. For Yeo, this notion connects as much to her education in medicine as her ever-present passion for the arts, because as Yeo states “dentistry is as crafty as a job gets”.


Growing up in Singapore, her family inspired this passion in her. Yeo’s father, a graphic designer, was a particular influence and even though Yeo started her career as a dental nurse, it was the dexterity of design that drove her education.

As a nurse, Yeo applied her skills in creating dental plates and retainers: objects for medical use that hold all the wonder of artful insight. Later, in 1997, Yeo began studying to be a fully-qualified dentist at the University of Adelaide.

Heading to Australia was a culture shock for Yeo after the excited streets of Singapore, but Yeo came to feel at home here in Adelaide and particularly likes “the calm of the city”.

Dentistry is an aesthetic practice and Yeo considers it a marriage between art and science. It’s no wonder then that she is mesmerised by the artwork of the Renaissance and the legendary sculptures of Michelangelo. Like sculpture, Yeo’s craft is about building and re-modelling through the consideration of colour, shapes and proportions.

Yeo took this line of enquiry further and continued her education with a Post Graduate Diploma in Art History. Here, Yeo studied the theory behind classical art theory as well as provocative contemporary art.

Being a dentist doesn’t stop Yeo from enjoying good food or even sweet treats. Her love of using her hands is applied with vigour to baking, especially while studying at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Pâtisserie, in Yssingeaux, France. Here Yeo applied the patience she utilises as a dentist to the creation of fine French cakes. “Entremet… now they are a work of art,” she says.

Whether in the surgery, sharing a fine cake or discussing art: communication is at the heart of how Yeo approaches her work/life in Adelaide. Her patients won’t see just how artful her fillings are, but Yeo does hope they will remember the personality behind the dentist, and how that helped them face a worrying treatment.

Dentistry may come across as sterile (and necessarily so) but Yeo makes her patients see what an important role a dentist can play in their social lives; because for all the stereotyping of her practice, “it’s a wonderful feeling,” Yeo says, “to give someone back their smile”

Leo Greenfield is a freelance illustrator

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