The Road to Harley Street
Pursuing my passion of cosmetic dentistry.
The growth of cosmetic dentistry has been phenomenal over the past few years. This increased demand can be attributed to a number of factors, including social media, celebrity influencers and a general rise in patients’ awareness of the various procedures that can be offered. Cosmetic dentistry can be defined as ‘changes or treatment intended to restore or improve a person’s appearance’ (Morley et al, 1999). The provision of such treatment ties in with the increased demand for facial aesthetics and other cosmetic procedures. Another possible reason is the advancement in minimally invasive and pain free dentistry, which has opened up a larger pool of eligible patients. To put it simply, dentistry isn’t as scary as it used to be!
After graduating from dental school, I quickly realised that there was a lot to learn. Cosmetic dentistry is not something that is extensively covered at Undergraduate level. As a result, I discovered an entirely new field which I felt warranted further exploration. What interested me most was the technical and artistic side involved with cosmetic treatments. For the past two years I have been fortunate enough to be working at the prestigious Harley Street Dental Studio (HSDS). This has provided me with the opportunity to encounter more complex cases, which in turn has accelerated my development in this field. I’d like to share some of my experiences and advice with you and hope that I can inspire other dentists who are passionate about pursuing a similar career pathway.
Attend as many courses and lectures as possible!
One thing’s for certain… post graduate education has kept me deep in my overdraft ever since I graduated in 2011. Just as soon as I think I’m done, another lecture or course pops up and I just can’t seem to resist. Whether it’s a composite course by the world-renowned Newton Fahl or a Diploma in Implantology I can assure you that nothing comes cheap in dentistry. However, I have very few regrets! Without attending these courses, it wouldn’t be possible to provide dental work that meets the standards of such a high-end dental practice like Harley Street Dental Studio.
As a Dental Foundation Trainer for the London Deanery I find that almost all new dentists struggle with treatment planning. A practice like HSDS differs greatly from a general dental practice. The majority of patients are attending for a specific consultation. For most assessments you are required to deal with many different aspects of dentistry for which at least a moderate knowledge of each specialty is important. For this reason, it is worthwhile attending courses in as many fields as possible to ensure you are up to date. Now of course, one cannot deny the role of experience! However, you can shorten the time it takes to learn different skills by seeing other people’s successes and failures.
Courses and conferences serve a second purpose. They are one of the only times that you will get to meet and network with dentists outside of your day to day circle of friends and colleagues. This allows you to extend your network and to learn from other like-minded individuals.
To save yourself money try to identify the latest trends in dentistry. Envisage the dentistry of the future and further your education in these fields. Current hot topics for example include digital dentistry and composite bonding. Practices like HSDS are quick to invest in new state of the art 3D scanners and target their marketing towards growing trends. It’s important you keep up to date with this movement. There is little value attending a course on complete dentures when you could use that same money to attend a course on digital scanning.
This brings me swiftly onto…
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!
It is vital to network with other colleagues, technicians and dentists in order to succeed. My first job on Harley Street was through recommendation. Whereas my current job on Harley Street came from keeping in contact with the right people. My advice would be to surround yourself with the people who you would like to emulate. This could be through keeping in touch with old classmates, attending dental events and conferences or getting to know people through social media.
Social Media and Marketing – If you don’t have Instagram account you don’t exist…?
I say this cautiously as I know there are many successful dentists who have never posted on Instagram! Personally, I have been working on my Instagram page for a couple of years. If you have an account, you’ll know how hard it is to grow your following. I am still trying to master this field myself. Social media gurus such as Michael Apa have proven how powerful this marketing tool can be, however social media needs a lot of commitment. Posting on the Internet comes less naturally to me but I have been forced to embrace the culture nevertheless (although I could post slightly more frequently).
Only last week I saw two new patients, both of which had already researched me on Google and had come across my Instagram page. When I asked her to check my work on Instagram she replied ‘I already have, and that’s why I decided to come and see you’. There is no doubt about it, Instagram has become a form of online portfolio. I routinely ask patients at consultation appointments to follow me and look at my work, it’s a great way of getting a patient to know you before returning for their next dental appointment.
Marketing is a skill that is seldom covered at dental school and is something that I have been introduced to while working on Harley Street. There is no doubt that good marketing can make a company grow but without having a good product, experienced professionals and a team ethos there will be little progression. Successful dental practices are based upon effective marketing. When do you ever scroll beyond the first few Google searches? If you have a particular field you enjoy you should consider talking to your employer about having a page on this on your website. Most patients I see at HSDS have browsed the gallery of images on our website and are aware of the services we provide. If your practice doesn’t have a website I would strongly recommend you set up your own. Recently I was speaking to one of the leading dental website designers who informed me that they have seen a surge in interest from associate dentists.
In addition to all of the above I have found that employers are now looking for dentists who are tech savvy and who have a social media presence. After all, which employer wouldn’t want a bit of free marketing and extra online presence?
Here are my top tips for anybody starting out:
- Spend a few weeks or months collating a number of cases to post
- Try to maintain a fairly steady stream of posts
- # A LOT!
- Consider hiring someone to manage your account
- Attend a photography course
It is important to make the most of free marketing and be opportunistic where possible. I recall when the team from Enlighten came to HSDS to do some filming for their promotional content. I was desperate to get in on the action! I popped my head into the surgery where the filming was taking place and to my delight, they asked me whether I wanted to get involved. Since this initial meeting I have had the pleasure of further marketing opportunities and blogging for the company.
As a young dentist, don’t be afraid to do some dentistry!
As a dentist’s practicing in the UK I am fully aware of the risk of litigation, particularly when performing elective cosmetic procedures. However, we cannot ignore the emerging desire for whiter and more uniform teeth, which is why “ethical cosmetic dentistry” is a hot topic. Now I must stress that you should always practice within your clinical competency. However sometimes you will inevitably have to venture slightly past your comfort zone in order to excel. This is NOT a crime! I have found mentoring to be particularly helpful. I remember using the services of a mentor when I placed my first anterior implant. The amount of confidence this gave me surpassed any lecture or course and really helped me on my way to placing more dental implants.
There is no greater feeling than that of exceed your own expectations. I will never forget my first ten-unit veneer case. I had been treating the patient for a number of years and we had established a very good relationship. I had often seen her for emergency dental work to repair broken teeth and fillings but unfortunately the dentistry on her teeth had been completed over many years with an array of dentists and quite frankly every tooth appeared to be a different colour. Having attending the Advanced Dental Seminars one-year Aesthetic and Restorative course, I was full of confidence! I advised the patient removing all of the old stained and leaking fillings as well as broken teeth and fixing them with a set of porcelain teeth would not only improve the smile but it would also improve her dental health drastically.
The patient went away to think about it. Two days later she contacted me and said she wanted to go ahead and wanted it done before her wedding which was a few weeks away. To make matters worse we had Christmas looming which meant there was no room for error. Remaking the work would have meant the teeth would not have been ready in time for the big day.
After a run of sleepless nights, the case was completed to perfection. There was no better feeling than receiving a thank you email form the patient and seeing her wedding photos.
Dentistry is an ever-evolving profession. With advances in technology and platforms such as Facebook and Instagram the young generation of dentists need to find stay on top of their game to stay ahead of the competition and make themselves stand out.
- Morley, J., 1999. The role of cosmetic dentistry in restoring a youthful appearance. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 130(8), pp.1166-1172.