Guest Blog – Why choose dentistry: A personal view

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Today on the MDS Outreach blog we have a post, from Steve  Clements, a general dental practitioner, talking about his life in dentistry.

Why Choose Dentistry – A Personal View

I was the first person from my family to go to university. My maternal grandfather had been offered a place at university but being the son of a barber between the 2 wars could not afford to take up his place. He always vowed that if I was able to go, he would try to support me. I was, therefore, encouraged to aspire to go to university but to do what?

At school I enjoyed sciences and maths but was not a natural at languages and English and had to work hard to get acceptable grades. I did not really know what I wanted to do at university and looked at a lot of subjects and came to realise I liked doing practical things and I liked working with people. There was an acquaintance who I knew thru sport who was 10 years older than me. A fantastic sportsman, great guy and a dentist so I went to watch him work. I supposed he inspired me although whether I wished I was as good a sportsman or dentist I am not sure.

So off I went to Leeds University for 5 great years  I wanted to go away from home not because I needed to get away but to try to experience looking after myself. I had always worked a hotel at weekends and holidays to earn money, so I was quite independent. I still kept good contact with all my home friends and carried on playing football and tennis with them when I came back. In fact after qualifying I did return home and have carried on playing football and tennis with the friends I made in my school years  to this day.

I was glad dentistry was not a 3 year but 5 year course as I was not ready to leave after 3, I was enjoying myself too much and not ready for full time work. The friends I made on the course are still good friends today and even more importantly I met my wife, on the dentistry course.

I started my career in a Dental Practice in a shopping centre on what is best described as a 1960’s high rise disaster built on a world war 2 airfield. I fairly quickly became partner to the original owner and eventually my wife and I became partners in the practice. We opened another practice a few miles away and eventually added a third. I always enjoyed treating patients, being able to help people and the social interaction. The ability to run your own business added a new dimension. It is good to be your own boss, but it is difficult to leave it behind. I learnt about employing people, developing a team, finance, tax and sometimes how to make difficult decisions. I learnt about practice design, building, working with the local communities to deliver better care but above all that you develop respect from your team and patients not by your position but what you do and say.

Early on I got involved with training for newly qualified dentists and this is something that has now become the major part of my dental career. I was lucky enough, in 2000 to be awarded an MBE for my Services to dentistry, I still feel a little overwhelmed by this because so many people do amazing things that are not recognised, and I was just doing what I enjoyed. Still it was a great day.

I still get the greatest job satisfaction from treating patients. It is a huge privilege to treat people over a number of years. To see their families grow, for them to share their joys and sadness and yes, sometimes to shed a tear with them. We are a profession but a Health CARE profession and with that comes responsibilities but also the trust of our patients.

The job can be so varied and you can be involved with so many different aspects that there should not be a typical day.

I would encourage anyone interested to consider Dentistry as a career. It has given my wife and I a good lifestyle but if money is your driver then look elsewhere. If you like people, want to do something practical and enjoy working in a team then please consider it.

 I have been a clinician, business owner, post grad and undergrad teacher, designer, project manager, mentor and been involved politically for the profession. Its difficult to think if another career that could have offered me all that.

By Steve Clements

A huge thanks to Steve for all the time and effort he put into writing this blog.

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Author: Clare Ray

Clare Ray is the College of Medical and Dental Sciences lead for Outreach and Widening Participation.