Carla Bianpoen, Contributor, Jakarta
At 18, after high school, Hilly Gayatri had no idea what to do. Her father chose a career for her: dentistry. Today she is one of Indonesia's foremost women in dental care who thinks that teeth and dentures are only part of the total person.
The idea of a holistic approach did not originate with her, but she is the first female dentist to have picked up the idea and put it into practice.
In fact, Hilly had wanted to be a medical doctor ever since her grandfather, who was a medical doctor, had taken her by the hand. But she was unable to gain admission to the school of medicine at the University of Indonesia.
With hindsight, studying dentistry was just as well, for helping other people was part of her character and making people look beautiful fitted with her sense of beauty and art. Paving her own way, carving like an artist toward her ultimate vision and imagery, Hilly is a skilled professional and an accomplished person in her own right.
Hilly is, of course, a well-known and well-established name on the Jakarta scene. While she thinks modestly about her achievements, her patients think differently. For one, Hilly's dental salon is unique, for when has one ever heard of a dental salon before? Usually, simply thinking of going to the dentist gives people the jitters, and the atmosphere of white coats, the smell of the drugs and the whine of the drill only make things worse.
Hilly Gayatri's Dental Salon is another world, another experience, a place where dentists have ditched their white coats, chatter and laugh, and the atmosphere parallels that in a beauty salon. If there is pain, the atmosphere takes a lot of its terror away. Special care is also taken for patients with a risk factor, for instance a heart problem. Root canal treatment for such patients always has an extra specialist attending throughout the treatment.
Hilly Gayatri's Dental Salon certainly needs no further introduction. Over the years it has become an icon in the capital city, and to make sure this will be the only dental salon, Hilly has patented it in her name.
More than just dentistry, Hilly proceeded to include esthetic dentistry and orthodontics, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of dental and facial irregularities, such as crooked, overcrowded, protruding teeth and poor jaw alignment.
To support the idea of a holistic approach, Hilly also provides ortho-cosmetic treatment and advises how to be healthy, feel young, and halt aging.
""The sagging jowls of elderly people have much to do with the relaxing of muscles as one grows older. Similarly, young people's teeth mostly show when they speak, while with the elderly, one tends to see only the lips,"" she said.
The bottom line is to recover one's youthful elan. At Hilly's ortho-cosmetic center she analyses a patient's every movement to determine treatment. ""It's not enough any more only to watch the smile. After all, one can't smile all day long,"" she says.
She wants people to look their best even when they don't smile. Treatment includes special exercises and therapy with anti-aging food supplements.
Hilly reveals she did not have any interest in dentistry when she started to study it at the University of Indonesia. I used to be a very obedient kid, she said, just doing what her father had told her to do. She used to be a fervent reader, though.
""At that time, there was nothing else to do, so I just read everything I could get hold of.""
Eventually, her hour of truth did arrive. Her professor in Amsterdam, where she pursued her studies after her fourth year in UI, became her inspiration. ""He asked me to watch him at the clinic during every lunch break. Don't do anything, don't say anything, just watch, he used to tell me,"" said Hilly. She became inspired by his skill, and the way he treated every patient equally.
Coming home, she wanted to be a teacher, but somehow, landed a job as an assistant to Dr. Lucas, whom she calls the first modern private doctor in Indonesia. He campaigned for the dentistry profession to be holistic.
""Here, my eyes were opened to the dental treatment of people. I learnt how to socialize with clients of a certain standing. But I had still put my hopes in teaching, so I became an assistant to Dr. Hendra Hidayat. I learnt a lot from both; they were my two gurus,"" she said.
In 1987 she opened Hilly Gayatri's Dental Salon, where she combined her professional skill with all that she had learnt during her time as an assistant and added new innovations. Almost every doctor there is a specialist in his or her own field, but consultations usually bring two or three of them together.
But life proceeds, and so do technology and new innovations. It's not a problem to Hilly, for participating in seminars, upgrading courses and international conferences is all part of her preoccupation with designing an attractive face for whomever is interested in having one. Being youthful helps one feel good and do things otherwise unthinkable.
It may not be without predetermination that Hilly is linking dental care and orthodontics with ortho-cosmetics, and lately with anti-aging, through which facial treatment can be enhanced and made more attractive. Although still in the prime of life, Hilly realizes that while aging can be delayed, it can't be halted forever. When that time arrives she will just concentrate on being a facial designer.
For now, however, Hilly Gayatri is as young as when I last saw her some 10 years ago. One can't halt age but evidently ageing can be slowed or even reversed. All you have to do is revitalize your spirit. How? Just ask Hilly Gayatri.