Should dentists be considered an entrepreneur or an artisan?Artisan or entrepreneur – what are modern-day dentists, Alun Rees questions.

I enjoyed two thought-provoking conversations with dental technicians recently.

In the first one, ‘A’ updated me on his progress since he and his business partner had gone their separate ways after 29 years working together.

In the other, ‘B’ told me about the huge steps he and his business partner had made and were continuing to make.

During the long drive to my next ‘gig’, I pondered the nature of artisans and entrepreneurs.

Are those two roles mutually exclusive and where is the balance as dentistry becomes increasingly industrialised?

What is an artisan?

Artisan describes someone who is a skilled craft worker who makes or creates material objects partly or entirely by hand.

Artisans practise a craft and may through experience and aptitude, reach the expressive levels of an artist.

No doubt ‘A’ is an instinctive artisan, he has become a clinical dental technician, works in a dental practice and provides full and partial dentures.

The enthusiasm he feels for providing every stage of denture construction shone through our talk.

All he does is what only he can do.

‘B’ on the other hand is an instinctive entrepreneur; he owns a business that by risk and initiative makes profits.

Furthermore he and his partner have embraced cutting-edge technology, employ 60 people and continue to expand.

In the middle ages artisans came in two types, business owners were called ‘masters’, those who did not were ‘journeymen’.

Dentistry used to be similar, where there was transition from apprentice to journeyman (associate) to master (owner).

With the industrialisation of dental practice there are fewer owners.

The resultant increase in journeymen, whether by choice or evolution, could result in a loss of energy, a reduction in disruption and a homogenised workforce.

But perhaps if you are one of the new breed of owners that’s what you want.