An Unconventional Journey to Dentistry

Raylien Chao studied in Taiwan, Wisconsin, New York, Minnesota, and Florida before starting to practise last summer in Vancouver. We asked her to share her thoughts about her unique path to becoming a dentist and her focus on lifelong  oral health for her young patients.


Name:  Dr. Raylien Chao, BSc., MSc., DDS
Graduation: School of Dentistry, University of Minnesota, 2015
Pediatric Resident: NYU Langone Medical Centre, 2015 - 2017
Current Roles: Associate with Playtime Pediatric Dentistry and Clinical Instructor at the University of British Columbia
Practice Ownership Plans: Within three years


I wasn’t into science as an undergraduate.  In fact, I was studying finance. Then one day I volunteered at an event that was offering free dental care and a light went on for me. Thousands of people lined up and I witnessed the fulfilling rewards to both provider and patient. Speaking with dentists, I realized how creative the work was, how they worked with their hands, how much personal interaction there was, and I thought this is for me. Also, my grandma was a pioneering dentist in Taiwan, so I guess maybe it was in my blood.


I didn’t have any prerequisites for dental school!  So I did a Master’s degree at Columbia University where I studied nutrition and did research in periodontal disease and its connection to obesity. This not only gave me my science requirements, but it inspired a passion for public health and disease prevention that has stayed with me to this day.


In school, I loved all types of dentistry. Near the end of my third year, I started doing dentures and I was struck by how many times people said, “I love my new smile, but I wish they were my real teeth. I wish someone had told me how to take care of my teeth when I was younger.” And another light went on—I should focus on kids.


I was thrilled to learn about CDSPI when I came to Canada. In the U.S. you’re approached by so many agents with different plans, and prices and stories, you don’t know who or what to believe. When I got here some friends told me, “Just go with CDSPI, they have everything you need.”


I just knew I could count on them. It was great to talk to an advisor about the level of malpractice and disability that was right for me, and about plans I would need when I own a practice. When I found out they were a not-for-profit, that clinched it for me. I also learned they sometimes reduce premiums when there are fewer claims. What other company would do that?!


Life is for living, right? This past winter, my husband convinced me to take up snowboarding and I adore it. We go whenever we can. On top of that I’m into hiking, playing guitar and ultimate frisbee!


Teaching reminds me to be humble. It’s amazing how much you learn and grow as you start practising. I feel fortunate to be able to pass some of that on to the students I teach at UBC.