Life as a regional dentist, told by Fiona Lowther

I have had a lovely job working for mydentist as a regional dentist for the last two years. My role is to provide clinical dentist support for our practices along the south coast of England. I qualified in 1983 and began my career in the Community Dental Service. From there I took as job as an associate, and ultimately, I owned that practice with two other partners. The practice grew to a successful busy five surgery practice in the Surrey commuter belt with visiting endo, perio and ortho specialists. I have worked in the NHS and private sectors, and I converted my own part of the practice from NHS to predominately private in the mid 1990’s. We had worked with coaches to help run this business, learning about ‘the patient journey’, smart diaries, KPI’s and theory and practice of business management (all the things we weren’t taught at dental school!)

Two years ago, bored of looking at the same four walls, I looked for a new challenge where I felt I could use some of the knowledge and experience that I had gained along the way. Hence, I applied for and was offered the post of Regional dentist for mydentist working with my area development manager, Natalie Tucker. I certainly don’t look at the same four walls; I cover 12 practices from Bexhill in East Sussex to Portsmouth in Hampshire, each with different needs. I only work 3 days a week and have complete flexibility to the days I work, which can be of benefit to the company and my social life. I can be covering a fixed term leave in one practice for three months, or I can be two days in one place, the other day in another. I have covered emergency back up where a surgery has no dentist at a day’s notice and I am soon to start covering a domiciliary contract one day a month to look after the more mature members of society around Bexhill.

I have lots of variety, which I really enjoy together with the many challenges it brings. I meet different staff, colleagues, in different practice and surgery setups. I do what I love best, treating patients. The regular attenders will normally want to see their usual dentist, so I tend to often be seeing the emergencies, the infrequent attendees and people with anxieties; I am able to get them out of pain and offer solutions to their dental problems. My salary is a fixed minimum amount, so this affords me a little more time with patients who can be time consuming as I have less time pressure to complete UDAs.

I have learnt so much in these two years working alongside 30 plus different colleagues, reading their notes and seeing their treatment plans; having discussions with them about patients for whom I may not be able to complete treatment as I have been posted elsewhere. I have shared some of my experience and my ‘tricks of the trade’ learnt along the way – all of which helps to improve treatment and care for the patients. It is great to work alongside some foundation dentists just starting out on their career; I try to encourage them to share any worries they may have with me.

My benefits include a fixed minimum income, plus a bonus of any UDAs over the minimum number allocated to me. I don’t have to pay any proportion of my lab bills and my GDC and indemnity costs are covered mydentist pays me a car allowance and petrol mileage to cover all travelling expenses; I have use of the in-house academy which allows me to complete all compulsory CPD – and most of the courses are free for me. There really are great opportunities to increase your knowledge, I have just completed a 6-month smile course, on which all my travel and accommodation was covered. I am hoping to complete the SAADs course so I can provide treatment under sedation because two of my practices offer this.

The Regional Dentist role is great opportunity for a more experienced dentist who wants the flexibility and opportunity to share past experiences to help other dentists enjoy our rather challenging profession.

It would be also great for a dentist just starting out but not sure where they want to settle, allowing the chance to treat people from many backgrounds and age groups. The academy, mentor and clinical support managers can offer all the help and support new dentists need; those first few weeks in surgery can be very daunting having to complete an appointment in 15 minutes.

In summary, I love my new role and have a new-found enthusiasm for helping people – The variety and challenges of my role makes me look forward to my work every day.