You have practiced dentistry for over 35 years, in your eyes, what are the main changes you have seen in dentistry during this time?
There have been so many changes. We started with only one assistant, and over time have added receptionists, practice managers, and hygienists. Paper notes and appointment books have been replaced with computers; dark rooms with x-ray scanners; amalgam restorations with composite; and boil up sterilisers with autoclaves. In the 1980’s nobody wore gloves, masks or loupes. Patient notes were extremely brief, there was no GST to worry about, and there were no corporates owning dental practices. In fact, a dental practice could only be owned by a dentist.
If you could give a patient ONE piece of advice on how best to look after their oral health, what would it be?
See their dentist and hygienist regularly!
You purchased the Shearer Dental practice from your father in 1989, could we say dentistry runs in your blood?
You can certainly say dentistry runs in the family. My father was a dentist; my wife, two brothers-in-law, and a cousin are dentists; my sister is a practice manager, and I have a sister-in-law and niece who are dental assistants.
And you’ve continued working in the same practice for almost 30 years – I think you’re more than qualified to answer this – what exactly makes a great practice? A practice where staff want to work and one in which patients want to be treated at?
My staff want to me say that a great practice is made by great staff! That’s true, and our practice has both a loyal hard-working staff and many loyal long-term patients. I suppose I should say a reasonable dentist helps as well. We all get along well at work, know each other’s families, and make hours flexible enough to ensure family and personal life retain a high priority. Patients enjoy seeing the same staff, hygienist and dentist over the many years they attend. We try to be kind to each other and patients and listen to people to find out what they want.
I imagine you are in quite a unique situation, knowing some of patients for many, many years?
I first did a locum in the practice in 1981/1982, and many of the young school kids I saw then still attend as adults. I have often treated their parents, and now treat their children. It is wonderful to see the huge decline in treatment required each generation, due to a fall in caries rates and periodontal disease. When I first started, we made several sets of full dentures a week, now I don’t make any. It has been very interesting and often humbling to see how your early restorative treatment lasts over the decades. Durability doesn’t always depend so much on the material, but more on the care taken with design and preparation, and home care.
Where would we find you when not in the practice?
If the weather is good out on my bike, or in the garden, on the river, or in the mountains. I also enjoy travelling, reading and movies.
What do you MOST enjoy about dentistry?
I find the social interactions with patients and staff most rewarding. On a day to day basis I enjoy solving people’s problems with help from new technology, while trying to ensure they keep their teeth and good oral health for life.
Lastly, what makes you smile?
Finishing work on Friday afternoon and heading off for a weekend adventure with family and friends! At work, happy staff and patients make me smile. Today I got a hug from a grateful old lady.