Dentist’s unusual claim to fame

Howard Sarembock has been a dentist in the city centre for over 30 years.

As a young dentist, Howard Sarembock cut his professional teeth in the city centre. Now, more than 30 years later, he had found a home for his career in the city where he loves practising.

“I’ve been privileged enough to travel the world, and there is no city that comes close to Cape Town. We have an all-in-one type of thing, like people live, work and play together and it all fits.” Howard grew up in Wellington, with lots of exposure to the medical field.

“My father was a medical doctor, and my brothers were also in medicine and I also had an uncle who was a pharmacist, so it was kind of destined.”

And so, he decided to go into dentistry. “As a youngster, I was always good with my hands so I decided to go study dentistry as a mixture of the two. After I did my military service, I graduated and bought my first practice at the age of 24 in the Foreshore.”

Howard said while he had lived in Wellington, he felt like the city was where he needed to be. “I am a very optimistic person and very ambitious, and when I walked into the space, it just felt right. I had also moved into the city at this point.” And while Howard is a well-known dentist in the CBD, he said his claim to fame were two events in his life that were not really about looking after teeth.

The first was winning a court battle with a big car dealership some 20 years ago. “I took them on because they sold me a faulty Porsche – they took two different halves of a car and turned it into one car, making it defective. After I won the case, I became fondly known as ‘the Porsche dentist’.”

And the second happened through his love of sport, when he met South African rugby player Breyton Paulse at a game overseas.

“I was introduced to Breyton and he was one of my birthday surprises in the past – like a celebrity guest. One time, he introduced me to the team, and we had made the first proper gum guards for them. Breyton and I are still close.”

He said one of the perks of his work is meeting people from all walks of life. “The tourists are always shocked at the quality of work that we do, and they are very friendly. The regulars come in and they give you a hug and you chat to them and it creates a warm environment. It becomes very personal for me.”

He said it was important for patients to feel calm, because many are very scared of visiting the dentist. “I base my practice on preventative dentistry, so when my patient comes back and there is nothing wrong with their teeth, it restores confidence and takes that fear away.”

While Howard has opened another surgery in Sea Point, he said his dream was to have a children’s surgery made up like a theme park. “I want to incorporate cartoon characters and things, so that it doesn’t look like a surgery. It’s important to make my patients comfortable, and especially the children.”

Asked about the dental industry, Howard said it was not as lucrative as it used to be. “Materials are expensive, and so is equipment. I feel like dentists should find a strength, or a field of expertise, and then work together. It’s hard to be in your own practice when you can offer a wide scope of services and then share the cost.”