Williams Lake dentist Dr. Rudy Wassenaar is hoping that having his practice featured on the television series Behind the Scenes with James Earl Jones will inspire dentists, doctors, teachers, electricians and other professionals to make Williams Lake their home.
The documentary which talks about Wassenaar’s work as a cosmetic dentist, including the emerging technology of dental implants has appeared on some 200 television stations all over North America this year.
“I hope the documentary inspires professionals that you can have a great career in a small town,” Wassenaar said. “It doesn’t have to be in a big city all of the time.”
Wassenaar said the show’s producers sought him out for the documentary, likely because of his work as president and educator with the B.C. Chapter of the Academy of General Dentistry which focuses on delivering continuing, high quality education to the dentistry profession.
“As president it is my responsibility to increase membership and organize workshops and courses,” Wassenaar said.
Working in cosmetic dentistry and as a leader in the field of dental implants he has been invited to lecture at workshops, conferences and seminars as far afield as Dubai, Paris, New York, San Diego, and Chicago.
“Over the years I acquired a lot of additional skills that have allowed people to have cosmetic dentistry and dental implants in Williams Lake instead of going out of town for the service.”
Wassenaar is an example of a professional who left a big city for small city life and has been able to build his specialty through continuing education.
He grew up in Amsterdam, Holland and decided to become a dentist at the age of 10 after breaking a tooth on his school playground.
“I was intrigued that they could simply put on a cap and make a new tooth so at 17 I decided to become a dentist,” Wassenaar said.
He spent six years in dental school and another six years working as a dentist in Holland before he and his young family immigrated to Canada.
They chose to settle in Williams Lake after a visit with his aunt and uncle Mary and Joe Wassenaar at Rose Lake.
“We were looking for some fresh air and green space,” Wassenaar said. “I had a good look around and knew I liked the town. It was small enough for me, but also big enough to make a living.”
He earned his Canadian dental license at the University of British Columbia. There was no language barrier to the transition because in Holland students start taking English in Grade 4.
In Williams Lake he bought an existing practice from Dr. Don Lauriente and over the years specialized in cosmetic dentistry including caps, veneers, and the latest technology in dental implants, which includes owning his own CT scanner.
Clients seek out his implant skills from all over B.C. including Vancouver and as far away as Prince Rupert.
“Implant technology has proven to be a very successful method of tooth replacement,’ Wassenaar said.
Wassenaar is also a firm believer in giving back to the community that has supported him over the years, a practice appreciated by his staff.
“He is a huge supporter of the community,” said Jenn Rowley, his office manager of 15 years.
“My daughter plays soccer and he supported two teams this year. I also like the fact that he always offers the newest technology and is always learning new things which you sometimes don’t get in a smaller community.”
Wassenaar regularly contributes to fundraisers for the hospital, 4-H, scholarships for TRU students, the Harvest Fair, Stampede and other groups such as the Stampeders hockey team for which he also provides mouth-guards.
“I like the people,” Wassenaar said of his giving ways. “I like the lifestyle here and have always appreciated the support I receive from the community.”
He said Williams Lake has also been a great place to raise his now grown five children. Son Tjeerd is a building contractor in Vancouver, son Matthys is a fireman in Burnaby, daughter Rosanne is a certified dental assistant in Penticton, son Friso is a fireman in training, and son Ruben is studying business administration.
Wassenaar said he also believes in a balanced lifestyle which living in the Cariboo has given him. He enjoys outdoor activities including trail riding, camping and fishing and playing music.
He harmonizes and plays the keyboards with the Bluenote jazz and blues band which includes vocalist Carmen Mutschele, Michael Fait on drums and Richard Butters on sax.
He has also lent his musical talent in Studio Theatre musical productions and dances put on by the Cariboo Gold Dance Band special.
Over the past three years he and his partner have also enjoyed exploring North America by motorbike, putting on some 45,000 kilometres in some 14, short 10-day trips.
“It is very interesting to see the countryside from that perspective,” Wassenaar said.
He enjoys his busy lifestyle and missed his dental practice when he was closed for three weeks this summer due to the wildfire evacuation and smoke from the wildfires.
“I haven’t had a three-week holiday in 40 years and it just about drove me bonkers,” he said.
Wassenaar is celebrating the 30th anniversary of his practice in Williams Lake this week by inviting the community to an open house and barbecue from 12 to 2 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 30 on the patio of his Williams Lake Smiles dental practice located 249 Barnard Street.
Wassenaar said he was surprised and pleased to receive a certificate of merit from the City of Williams lake for his work and expertise in implant dentistry and a congratulatory certificate from federal MP Todd Doherty.
While he would eventually like to start training a dentist to take over his specialty practice, Wassenaar said he has no immediate plans to retire.
“I love my work and am still intrigued by dentistry,” Wassenaar said. “I can honestly say that if I had to do it over again I’d be a dentist in a heartbeat.”