Southport-based cosmetic dentist Stephen Dodd believes self-motivation and ambition are the crucial elements to high achievement and success. Versha Miyanger finds out more about the award-winning dentist

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

SD: My dentistry career started at The University of Manchester where I graduated in 2007, before passing my MJDF Royal College of Surgeons exams in 2009. I completed my vocational training year at Southport House Dental Practice and then moved straight into private practice, becoming an associate at 10 Dental in 2008. Eight years on, I remain at 10 Dental, as well as another private practice in Cheadle Hulme called Church Road Dental.

I have a real interest in aesthetic dentistry, implantology and complex restorative dentistry which is why I was keen to train further in these areas. I have a masters degree in restorative cosmetic dentistry from The University of Central Lancashire, as well as a diploma in dental implantology from the same institution.

What or who made you choose a career in dentistry and why did you focus on cosmetic and implant dentistry?

SD: I’ve always been ambitious and self-motivated so there was no specific person who inspired me to take the route I have. I knew I wanted to be in a practical profession, always had an eye for detail and enjoy being around people. All of these characteristics are essential in dentistry, which is why I was confident it was the career for me. In terms of my interest in restorative cosmetic dentistry and implantology, I’ve had great mentors at 10 Dental and was privileged to be able to see high quality dentistry, including cosmetic and implant work, when I was still young in my career. This inspired me to want to be the best I can be in those particular areas.

I enjoy the more complex and challenging elements that this kind of dentistry brings, which also involves identifying the right treatment plan that will produce the lasting results a patient is looking for.

You have also studied dental hypnotherapy – can you tell us about that?

SD: It’s always useful to know how to treat nervous patients and put them at ease. I’ve come across many patients who have a fear of going to the dentist, so it’s not unusual. Whilst I naturally have good communication skills, I wanted to do a course that focused specifically on best-practice methods.

I often find that it’s all about that first impression, so if you can build rapport early on and deliver excellent patient care, you can put patients at ease and minimise unnecessary anxiety.

What are your views on GDPs carrying out short-term ortho?

SD: Short-term orthodontic treatments do have their place in a GDP’s offering – whether that’s to solve a patient’s mild anterior crowding concern or for pre-alignment before composite bonding or minimal/no preparation veneers.
Ultimately, dentists need to be honest with themselves and ensure they feel confident and competent with the case they are taking on. When dentists take on cases they aren’t completely comfortable with, that’s when issues start to arise. When a patient visits me wanting straighter teeth, I spend a lot of time listening to what they are looking for and considering the likely treatment to achieve the right result.

A full orthodontic assessment and special tests are vital to ensure correct diagnosis – only then can all the treatment options be discussed with the patient, one of which should be referral to an orthodontist.

Tell us about your typical working week.

SD: Working in two private practices means my working weeks are busy, but varied which is what I enjoy most. Most of my time is at 10 Dental, and having worked here for eight years, I’ve built a lot of loyal patients. It makes a difference to have that rapport with them and know they have trust in my work. I also work up to two days a week at Church Road Dental, which is another busy private practice just outside of Manchester with an excellent team.

What have been your best decisions? In hindsight, would you have done anything differently?

SD: My best decision has undoubtedly been taking the opportunity to go into private practice early in my career. I only started with a small list of private patients initially, but this has continued to grow year-on-year as my reputation and profile increased, and through word of mouth.

It has allowed me to practice dentistry alongside some of the best in the profession, as well as affording me the flexibility to work on challenging and varied cases. Both of which have made me the dentist I am today.

You won the Best Young Dentist North-West a few years ago – what does this mean to you and how has it helped you in your career?

SD: Winning this award was a huge honour for me. It’s a great feeling to be recognised in a profession I’m extremely passionate about, and see all my hard work and further training pay off.

Ultimately, awards and accolades are more of a personal thing for me. Whilst winning certainly helped to raise my profile locally, I don’t believe they instantly accelerate your career or make you a better dentist – nor should they. That’s down to me to control.

How important is patient communication to you?

SD: Patient communication is the cornerstone of great dentistry. It’s something I consider pivotal in delivering excellent care and ensuring a positive experience for every patient. However, for me first-class dentistry also needs to be a two-way communication. It’s about letting patients speak and listening to what they’re saying, before discussing all options and making the right recommendations.

How do you stay abreast of modern techniques?

SD: I use a range of methods to stay at the cutting edge of dentistry, including seminars, study groups, postgraduate study and online journals. Dentistry is always changing as new research comes to the fore, so making sure you keep up to date is essential.

Professionally, what are you most proud of?

SD: I think that has to be the moment I completed my masters in restorative cosmetic dentistry, graduating with merit. It marked the end of three challenging, yet rewarding years of study, whilst still working at two private practices. I must like spinning plates though as I enrolled on an implantology diploma shortly after gaining my masters!

Where do you get your motivation and drive from?

SD: The most rewarding part of my job is seeing patients come into my surgery self-conscious about their teeth, but leave after treatment with a smile from ear to ear. Playing a part in that transformation and watching it happen is what drives me day in, day out.

How do you relax in your spare time? How do you balance work and family life?

SD: Sport has always been a big part of my life. I played tennis nationally when I was younger, as well as hockey for England. Whilst I no longer compete at that level, I still find that playing sport and keeping active helps me unwind. I go to the gym before work and play club tennis every week with my partner.

I also took part in Tough Mudder last year for Epilepsy Action – I wouldn’t say the training for this was relaxing, but it was certainly a great achievement to battle through the mud, ice baths and obstacles to complete it!

What lessons have you learned in the course of your career so far?

SD: I think the key one for me is to never underestimate the importance of service. Dentistry is not just about fixing teeth and filling cavities, it’s about providing the best possible experience for a patient when they’re in your practice. Building rapport, listening and explaining treatment options jargon-free all help to do that and are what my patients value most.

Do you have any regrets? What has been your biggest mistake?

SD: I’m not the kind of person to think negatively. I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done or achieved in my career so far. As long as my patients keep coming back to me and continue to be happy, I have no reason to have any regrets.

What are your plans for the future?

SD: Education and learning are things I believe should never cease. I’ve invested heavily in further education in my career to date, and I have no doubt that I will continue to do so in the future. I want to develop as a dentist, both through the cases I take on and in the roles I assume. That’s why undergraduate and postgraduate teaching is something I plan to do alongside my work. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to pass on your experience and knowledge, as well as support those who, at some point, will be our dentists of the future.