How would you best describe what you – a prosthodontist – does? And how does your work differ from a general dentist?
The field of prosthodontics covers fixed and removable prostheses, that includes veneers, crowns, bridges, implant restorations and also all types of removable prostheses. However, it’s not just the making and fitting of devices that the everyday Prosthodontist does. More extensive treatment plans often involve multiple specialist input, and a Prosthodontist becomes the ‘conductor’, or general organiser and planner of the treatment, making sure the optimal outcomes are achieved for each patient.
What made you decide this was the career for you?
After a few years in practice in New Zealand and in the UK, I felt that I wanted to do more study and specialise in some area. After much deliberation and advice from mentors, I chose to study the post-graduate course in Restorative Dentistry, which was ‘reformatted’ several years ago as Prosthodontics. I always enjoyed learning and wanted to gain a better understanding of the more complex aspects of dental treatment. I wanted to be able to provide this type of care for patients with the necessary knowledge base that is gained by doing a post-graduate specialist training course. I have never looked back.
You’ve run your practice for over 20 years, what do you think has made it a success?
A lot of patients who come to our practice say that it doesn’t feel like a normal dental practice. Maybe that’s because of our relaxed approach, or a result of our friendly and welcoming atmosphere and our fantastic staff team. Or maybe it is because I have striven to practice in a patient-centred manner; I never want to talk people into things, and I always give patients options and let them drive the decision-making process when we are planning treatment. It’s most likely all of those things that has caused us to be as successful as we have been, and although it’s a hackneyed cliche, the truth is that I have a sincere desire to help people, and make people’s lives better.
I understand you worked in Lower Hutt Hospital for some time, tell us about your work there.
Yes, I have been a visiting Consultant to Hutt Hospital for some time. Hutt is the Regional Centre for maxillofacial surgery and reconstruction, and my work involves treatment of patients who have various syndromes involving the teeth and jaws, such as cleft palates, and patients who have had surgical procedures for the treatment of malignant disease. Many of these patients are unable to source and fund treatment in the private sector and the hospital pays me to provide a service there that gives them access to specialist treatment with a team of dental specialists.
You present and train other dentists and dental students. Tell us a bit more about this part of your life.
I have always loved teaching, and in some respects, I was sad to leave the Dental School as initially, I had my sights set on an academic career following post-graduate study. I always enjoy the moment when the ‘lights go on’ when people are learning, and my favourite part of teaching is in small groups where we teach practical procedures, often in hands-on. Whether a course is for a small group of people, or you are lecturing in front of hundreds, it takes a lot of time to put together a presentation that is entertaining, relevant and informative, and while I enjoy this aspect of my work, it does take up a lot of my spare time! The majority of the courses I have taken are in aspects of implant dentistry, ranging from beginners’ courses to specialised programmes on advanced techniques, such as full arch implant restorations. However, I still get a kick out of taking beginners’ implant courses, where people who know very little come in, spend a day or two and go away ready to begin expanding their dental practice to do simple implant restorations.
I understand your wife also works at the practice, any other dental professionals in the family?
My wife, Lisette, has worked for me for a number of years, and when Lumino purchased our practice in 2017 she continued as practice manager, and finally got properly acknowledged! We have three children, one is an architect, one is a student in health sciences, and our eldest son has significant disabilities and ‘one cruisey life of fun activities’, according to our daughters.
What do you MOST love about your job?
As I have said before, the aspect that I love about my work is making peoples’ lives better. A number of patients say to us when completing treatment, (often extensive reconstructions), that we have changed their lives. I am humbled by that comment, but it’s also very heart-warming and rewarding to know that you have improved someone’s daily life.
What makes you smile?
Carrying on from the previous question, I get the biggest kick from treating patients at the hospital, especially those who have suffered through the process of diagnosis, surgery and then reconstruction following oral cancers. These people have been through a lot, and many of them have ‘faced down’ a possible early death. However, they exhibit a resilience, a joy for living and an appreciation for anything that can be done to help them that is a characteristic of folk who have been through the difficulties that they have been through. Consequently, when we can achieve things such as providing teeth for them that allow them to function, comfortably appear in public again, and continue on with effectively a normal daily life is probably the most rewarding thing for me in all I do.