Be positive and inspire those around you
In this issue we speak to David Bretton and ask why he is championing the role of the GDP, and how to remain positive in dentistry.
What made you want to get into dentistry?
It wasn’t until college that I even considered it…I guess I sort of fell into dentistry.
Nobody in my family is a dentist so it had never been an obvious career choice growing up. I was good at science at school and so inevitably I was faced with the common ‘medicine versus dentistry’ scenario when sitting my A-levels.
It seemed to me that dentistry would offer a much better work/life balance.
Recently, reading the book This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay, it seems that I made a good choice…I love dentistry!
What is it you love about dentistry?
Dentistry has never felt like ‘work’ to me. I spend my days either talking to people or doing something practical and hands-on.
Dentists have never had the greatest reputation with the public and I commonly encounter people who report that they have had negative experiences. I enjoy trying to alter this perception by creating positive experiences and outcomes for the people I meet.
Ultimately, dentistry is all about people. It is this aspect that I enjoy the most and find the most rewarding.
What are your favourite aspects of dentistry?
I find aesthetic dentistry to be the most enjoyable and rewarding – it is one of the few areas of dentistry where our patients want to be there!
Minimally invasive techniques allow more treatment to be patient-friendly, eg no drilling or injections, and this makes things even more satisfying.
Invisalign is one of the most common treatments that I provide, from simple alignment to more complex, multidisciplinary ortho-restorative cases.
Another area of dentistry I enjoy is endodontics. I enjoy having the ability to save teeth that would otherwise have required extraction.
Although orthodontics and endodontics seem worlds apart, they both provide us with the opportunity to maintain the aesthetics and function of the natural dentition.
Where do you work at the moment and what do you enjoy about it?
I currently have two positions – one full time as an associate at The Cosmetic Dental Clinic, a private practice in the north east, and the other as a part-time associate clinical lecturer at Newcastle Dental Hospital.
The Cosmetic Dental Clinic is an excellent environment to work in. We offer all new patients a long consultation, which includes a comprehensive examination, relevant X-rays and a full series of clinical photographs. I also have all the toys available, including an Itero scanner and CEREC. This environment means that I can provide the best possible care for my patients, while also having fun – win, win!
My role at Newcastle Dental Hospital involves supervising final year dental students in the restorative department. It is an extremely rewarding position to contribute to the learning and development of other young dentists. Teaching also allows us the opportunity to reflect on our own knowledge and clinical decisions…I probably learn as much from the students as they do from me – ‘when one teaches, two learn’.
You’ve recently been promoting the importance of the GDP, why is that?
‘I am just a GDP’ is one of the saddest things I hear dentists say. How can we expect the public to appreciate and value us if we don’t respect and value ourselves?
We are all highly intelligent individuals who could have been anything that we wanted to be. I love my life as a GDP and I don’t think there is a better role in dentistry.
The GDP who engages with post-graduate development can significantly enhance their skills and subsequently offers a much greater range of treatments to their patients. I believe that the GDP is best positioned to provide comprehensive, high-quality, long-term care for their patients.
Do you think it is a good time to be working in dentistry?
If we look at some of the recent developments in technology, materials and techniques, I think it’s an exciting time to be working in dentistry!
We do face many challenges, eg risk of litigation and complaints, but I feel that we are best to focus our energy on the things that we can control, such as our own education and self-development.
If I do the best I can and treat people how I would treat my family, I will sleep at night…this is the most important thing for me.
What plans do you have for the future?
Since graduation I have constantly been engaged with some form of post-graduate training and I am constantly looking at ways to continue to develop and improve both clinically and non-clinically.
I am keen to continue gaining as much clinical experience as possible as I believe that reflecting and following up our own work is one of the best ways to learn and improve.
Do you have any mentors in dentistry?
Mentors are one of the most important things for young dentists. I have mentors in every aspect of dentistry, clinicians with much greater clinical experience and knowledge who I can regularly discuss cases with.
I do however think that mentors should be selected with great care, the mentors you choose can make or break you!
Take particular care selecting mentors from social media – there is a lot of smoke and mirrors!
You mentioned ‘work/life balance’, how important do you think this is?
Dentistry should be just one aspect of our lives. I believe that our health and the relationships that we have are some of the most important things; I wouldn’t consider myself a success if I was at the top of dentistry, but divorced and overweight! Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life!
Dentistry is a fantastic career as it can provide us with a healthy work/life balance. I do believe that this is easier to achieve in private practice where you are able to increase your ‘value’, than in an NHS system where your value is determined by external factors.
The only way to earn more in this system is to either work faster or for longer hours – both of which could be detrimental to your health and relationships.
Have you got any final advice for dental students?
I believe that it is critical that we develop good self-awareness. We need to identify what it is that makes us tick and we must be brutally honest with ourselves.
I spent the first five years after qualifying gaining as much knowledge and experience in different areas of dentistry as possible. This insight means that I recognise my strengths and the things that I enjoy and my weaknesses and the things that I don’t enjoy. With this self-awareness we can develop a vision for the career and future we want.
Through persistence and hard work, I believe that all of us can make our goals a reality. Don’t settle for a mundane career, working Monday to Friday doing things that you derive no pleasure from, fulfilling UDAs and counting down the days until retirement. Find your passions, form relationships and get out there and ignore the haters. Don’t get sucked into the negativity – keep positive and focused. Try not to put others down or see them as competition, instead be positive, put yourself up and inspire and motivate those around you.