The art of dentistry – with Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson, previous winner of Best Young Dentist – London at  the Private Dentistry Awards, talks us through his career so far. As well as his two online projects, The Online Dentist and The Art of Dentistry, which he is using to share information and ideas.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

My family are from Yorkshire but we moved to Devon for my Dad’s job when I was very young. I grew up in Torbay by the sea. It’s very different from where I live now in London so it’s always nice to go back and visit. Although I don’t go as often as my mum would like.

What or who made you choose a career in dentistry?

My dad was an engineer and my mum was a German teacher. There wasn’t anyone medical in the family but it was my mum’s idea to choose dentistry. At the time, I went along with it because I didn’t have any better ideas and five years of dental school seemed like a lifetime. I couldn’t ever imagine actually being a dentist. Now, I feel so lucky to have done it.

Tell us about your practice, the sort of patients you see and the main types of dentistry you carry out.

I work in a lovely, little practice in central London. We’re opposite the law courts so we mainly see barristers and lawyers. I have a great group of patients. On the whole, they don’t want anything fancy. They want high quality, general dentistry done well, restoring and saving teeth. That’s what we aim to provide.

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your work?

I love the relationships that you can build with patients. For me, that’s when the job becomes truly rewarding. Providing care to people that you know and care about makes the work meaningful. Least enjoyable aspects? I’m not sure. I do worry about the physical aspects of being a dentist and the impact on your body of being stooped over patients all day.

What have been the major influences and turning points in your career?

Undoubtedly, the major turning point in my career so far was my wife, Lydia, moving to London. She’s a dentist too and she moved to London to train as an orthodontist. I had serious doubts about moving away from Bristol, where we were at university, but I have loved it.

You won Best Young Dentist – London, at the 2017 Private Dentistry Awards, how did it feel to win and what have been the benefits over the past year?

It felt a real privilege to be there and I was delighted to win. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work so I was very proud to be acknowledged. My patients think it’s great and I hope that it gives them even more confidence in the care that we provide. We don’t advertise; all of our patients come to us through word of mouth and so the award has given the practice a real boost.

What was your motivation to set up The Online Dentist website, and how did you go about it?

I wanted to see what I could create. I had no idea what I was doing other than it had to be an ambitious project that had the potential to impact lots of people. Initially, I was focused on the problem of child tooth decay and how that could be tackled. I started writing and then just made it up as I went along. What I have created in ‘The Online Dentist’ is a free resource for the general public that can spread positive health messages. The Online Dentist now reaches thousands of people a month, providing them with honest, evidence-based advice that they can trust. I believe that it has the potential to truly empower families to take control of their dental health and prevent dental disease.

What do you think has been its main achievements and what does the future hold for the project?

The launch of The Online Dentist school resources was featured on BBC Breakfast last year. That was a proud moment and if anyone is looking for educational resources to teach about dental health, take a look at the website. ‘The Online Dentist’ being certified by NHS England was satisfying as well. In terms of the future of the project, after a whirlwind two years, it’s time to start fine tuning the site. The building blocks are there for something great but I now need to make sure that I’m steadily improving it every month so that it helps as many people as possible.

Professionally, what are you most proud of?

I’m extremely proud of ‘The Art of Dentistry’ ( website for dentists – that I started this year. With so much negativity surrounding the profession at the moment, I wanted to share my outlook with colleagues. On ‘The Art of Dentistry’, I write about understanding your personal value as a professional and how to communicate that value to your patients. I also discuss how we can all offer a higher standard of care by focusing on what’s important to our patients. Last summer, I was invited to put all of these ideas together into a day course for dentists which I taught to a couple of groups of foundation dentists. I was really proud because it was the first time that I had created something that I believed was really valuable to other dentists.

Where do you get your motivation and drive from?

It’s hard to know. Sometimes I think I’ve just gone crazy. But I’m so excited by the different things that I’m building and creating that I cannot stop.

How do you relax in your spare time?

If I’m honest with myself, I don’t relax enough. I get so excited about the different projects I’m working on that I rarely give myself a break. However, Lydia and I are about to take some time off and spend six weeks in Australia and New Zealand. I’ve never been to that part of the world and cannot wait to explore. I’m hoping that we’ll both get the chance to properly relax and come back ready to take on the new year.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to keep steadily improving The Online Dentist, reaching more and more people. Spreading positive health messages and having a broader impact. Teaching dentists last summer was really rewarding and I’d like to do more of that. For me, the most exciting thing is sharing ideas with other dentists and seeing what comes back. So I’ll continue to do that through ‘The Art of Dentistry’ blog and see where it takes me.

I’d like to be a role model and prove to everyone that, despite the current climate within the profession, it is a great time to be a young dentist.

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