It was a stint in the States that set Adrian Watts up for life as a restorative specialist in private practice. The Bristol-based dentist spent a year studying at Harvard as part of the prestigious ITI (International Team for Implantology) scholarship programme, and still describes it – some seven years later – as a ‘fantastic experience’.
Already an experienced practitioner on his return from the USA, he established his own specialist practice and now works three days a week, while also keeping his interest in hospital work alive with a position at Cardiff dental school as consultant in restorative dentistry.
He explains: ‘I came back from the States in 2002 and I decided to go into practice at that point.
‘However, I wanted to keep my foot in the hospital door so I split my week virtually in half between the two. I’ve been working in Cardiff since 2005 mainly looking after year five undergraduates. I am also involved in teaching postgraduate students on the MClinDent diploma and implantology MSc. It was definitely a conscious decision – it is quite nice to have the clinical freedom you get working for yourself but it’s also nice not to be stuck within four walls for the whole week.’
Adrian’s recollections of time spent at Harvard suggests a sense that it was a life-changing period. As part of the ITI’s education programme, the scholarship element enables those who are interested to spend time working with leading implantologists in a variety of countries around the world. The scholarship at Harvard lasted for a year and focused on surgery with a prosthodontic element.
‘It was great. Basically, I was involved in everything the professor I was working with was day in, day out for the whole year,’ he says. However, the logistics of living and studying abroad for a long period of time were difficult at times, particularly as Adrian had to move his whole family out to Boston. ‘It was fairly tough because we had a two-year-old and a two-month-old at the time. Boston is also a very expensive city to live in and, while you receive around $30,000 to live on, it doesn’t go very far, so my wife and I ended up spending a lot of our savings.’
Now back on British soil and, having added two more children to his family, Adrian likes to achieve the right work-life balance. He admits the days start early, around 6.30am, as soon as the children get up and from then on it’s ‘pretty hectic’.
He does manage to have one afternoon a week at home spending time with the family.
As for his practice there is never an average day, as it is always dictated by the type of patients he is seeing and the treatment they need. As a restorative dentist, Adrian feels he can offer a comprehensive service.
‘Lots of people are doing implant dentistry now but that’s not the only thing that I do. Being a restorative dentist, I can give opinions on treatment plans in a very broad way. There is a danger that people who do implants think that every case should be an implant one – and that’s not always the case.
‘Most of the patients who come to see me will have implants at some point, but there will be also be all the preparatory work that leads up to that, so there might be some crown and bridge work or extractions to complete.’
With so much variety in his working week – and a wonderful experience behind him – it certainly seems as though Adrian has found his niche.