The Irish dental industry in person: Seamus O’Neill

How did you become involved with the dental industry?
I started working for IDEC as a sales representative in July 1979; the company was then owned by Dr McEniff. In January 1980 I purchased IDEC from him and managed it for the next 27 years. In 2007 IDEC merged with McCormack Horner and became Dental Medical Ireland (DMI). I now manage the consumables division. 

What is it about the industry that has kept you so long?
The dental world is constantly changing, so it is always very interesting and challenging. I have always found the members of the dental profession to be very courteous, helpful and informative, especially to a young entrepreneur whose knowledge of dentistry was not extensive.

What is your favourite dental product?
The area of endodontics is fascinating and I have a great interest in it.

What is your most memorable moment in the dental industry?
One of the most comical was after an interview about IDEC with a national newspaper. They were running a series of articles on young entrepreneurs in specialist industries. During the interview we discussed that I travelled the country visiting every dentist every month in my fully stocked travelling shop. In the 1980s the potholes were a huge issue in the country and the journalist, unbeknownst to me, decided to focus on this by running with the headline ‘Teeth shattering tale – teeth broken due to potholes’. So my great interview about the dental industry in Ireland ended up focusing on the fact that acrylic teeth were falling off the wax!

Are you a good dental patient?
I’m not a bad patient, but sometimes knowledge can be a dangerous thing, especially when you understand the procedure and you know what is going to happen next.

What changes do you think will affect the industry and profession the most over the next five years?
I think digital will become the norm, and the days of dental film are numbered. From an industry point of view, I think the dental profession will insist on a high level of service and next day delivery.

In your opinion, what has been the greatest step forward in the Irish dental market since you started?
The introduction of the Identex trade show has been a major step forward for the trade. Identex has expanded over the years, getting bigger and better, and is now at a standard where it has become an essential key event for the dental profession in Ireland. We have, in essence, brought an international dental show to Ireland.

Who do you admire in dentistry?
Mr Fergus Hurley – he was 3M Dental in Ireland. He was meticulous at keeping all the depots and reps up to date with product information. He took any and every opportunity to get in front of a group of dentists, for example the post-graduate meetings – he was always there. Fergus, to me personally, was the perfect gentleman of the dental industry in Ireland at that time.

Who do you admire away from the profession?
I considered the late Frank O’Kelly to be a great mentor. He was an extraordinary man who was the driving force behind Donegal water safety. His forward thinking and ability to empower colleagues was instrumental in making water safety strong in Donegal. 

What would you like to achieve – professionally?
I would like to see Dental Medical Ireland growing to become the leading dental equipment and supply company in Ireland. 

I would like the Donegal lifeguards to win the President’s Trophy next year. This is the most prestigious award within the sport of surf lifesaving; the trophy itself was donated by President Sean T O’Kelly and has been revived for the purpose of surf lifesaving. 

Have you any regrets – professionally?
No, I wouldn’t change a thing. I am privileged to be in the business of dealing with the dental profession, a great group of people. In my new position of director of consumable sales with DMI, I have no regrets and I am enjoying the new experiences and challenges that it presents. 

I would have liked the opportunity to travel the world like a lot of young people do nowadays, but maybe I will get a chance in the future – never say never.

What makes you angry?
Having to hand money over to Tommy Maguire and David Graham when they occasionally beat me at golf.

What makes you laugh?
The classics like Only Fools & Horses and Father Ted. It doesn’t matter how many times you watch them.

How do you deal with stress?
I go for a long swim in the Atlantic Ocean, where I cannot be contacted by phone and my thoughts are not interrupted.

What three books would you want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island? 
The SAS Survival Handbook, Ulysses and, of course, the Irish Dentist magazine.

What has been your happiest moment in life?
That has to be the day I got married, followed by the births of my three children.

Where in the world would you most like to live?
I would definitely still choose Donegal, but with the climate of southern Spain!

Can you summarise yourself in 10 words?
Not quite in 10 words! A man who likes to treat people the way he would like to be treated himself.

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