Implant dentistry: this woman’s work…
Melissa Goddard discusses her journey into implant dentistry as a female dentist, how she overcame any barriers and her plans to inspire the next generation of female dentists.
From the first known woman, Lilian Lindsay (nee Murray), to qualify as a dentist in the UK in 1895, female dentists have much to celebrate in 2022 – now making up over 50% of the profession. It may have taken 125 years, but the number of female dentists has risen year-on-year since 2008/9, and since 2018/19 they’ve surpassed their male colleagues (52% to be precise).
Whilst this is undoubtedly a pioneering moment for all female dental professionals, another battle continues with the gender disparity in implant dentistry. In this article I’ll reflect on my journey into dentistry and implants and the steps I’m taking in my practice to support the next generation of female dental professionals.
Starting early can make a difference
When it came to career paths and opportunities, after qualifying from Liverpool university in 1991, I set the foundations for surgical dentistry almost immediately, holding hospital posts in oral and maxillofacial surgery and orthodontics for two years.
As a female dentist in the early 90s, this was uncommon, as most postgraduates making these career decisions were male, and I was almost always the only woman holding these types of positions and attending such courses. The benefit of this meant that not only was I used to working within a surgical environment early on in my career, but I was also fortunate to work alongside and learn from highly regarded clinicians and specialists in oral surgery and prosthodontists.
The gender disparity continued into the turn of the millennium when I joined a single surgery practice in Liverpool as the only female clinician. Practice life was very different back then, we had no email, and everything was paper based. But it was here where I was not only first introduced to implant dentistry, but where I started to lay the steppingstones to a rewarding career in this field.
Surround yourself with support
Despite the usual challenges women face for a career in implants such as balancing time, finances, and family; I chose to pursue a career in implants soon after joining the practice and attended a one-year dental implant course in London with the support of a mentorship programme.Mentorship is key for implant clinicians. The excitement (and daunt) of getting involved with implants comes hand-in-hand and having a mentor to share such experiences with to help you develop new skills, learn from mistakes, and grow in competence and confidence within a safe environment cannot be underestimated.
One change I’d like to see, is more female role models for our future implant clinicians. I believe this will help increase the conversation, training opportunities and progression of more women in implant dentistry. This is something I try to instil into my team, helping advise them on the training, techniques, and solutions, and support them in their career choices. My colleagues in the practice, Dr Paola De Rogatis and Dr Valerie Ottati have now finished their training and have begun placing and restoring their own implants in the practice.
Consider implant techniques, system and support
With patient demand for immediate functionality, shortened treatment times and natural-looking aesthetics, implant treatment needs to be supported by technological stability, versatility for complex case requirements and predictable outcomes, so that clinicians can feel confident in their performance.
Additionally, with patients well-informed on the ‘all-on’ approach, providing a solution for full-arch prosthesis is essential for the modern-day implant clinician. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the ‘all-on’ technique early on in my implant career and was one of a select group of people (still the only female) to be taught the protocol under its inventor. This experience enabled me to get the one-to-one training needed at what is now known as such a pivotal moment in dental implant history. When it comes to dentistry, I consider myself an ‘early adopter’ and carrying out my first ‘all-on’ case in 2007 is testament to this.
When it comes to choosing an implant system, I’m a great advocate of the BioHorizons Camlog Tapered Pro system. The unique design elements of the system provide a predictable solution with increased primary stability for immediate treatment, especially when working with soft bone or in challenging sites. It’s unique Laser-Lok® surface creates connective tissue attachment, which leads to more predictable management of the soft tissues. Plus, there is less bone loss over time. This means a healthier gum margin and better cosmetic appearance, which is especially important in the aesthetic zone and/or in patients with a high smile line.
In working with the BioHorizons Camlog Tapered Pro system today, I’ve been able to progress into their full-arch protocol effortlessly with the same implants through the TeethXpress® immediate load protocol. Plus, with the recent launch of the TeethXpress® Implants & components Kit (TICK) Box, I’m now equipped with the full suite of tools and components required for full-arch treatment.
Everything about the TICK Box is just great and makes perfect business sense. It gives the entire implant team everything you need for your case. It’s very efficient. Everyone knows exactly what has or hasn’t been used and there is no more unnecessary confusion with customer service around invoicing. Plus, the peace of mind knowing that everything you could need is on hand makes for much less stressful experience for all, allowing me to focus on the procedure without worries.
From a support perspective, I love the BioHorizons Camlog products, and working with them is made so much easier thanks to the friendly, ongoing support of our Territory Manager, Dan Mason-Phillips. He and the rest of the team are always on hand, be it for product support or ongoing training needs.
Words of advice for women in implant dentistry
Fast forward 20+ years from when I joined that single surgery practice, and implant dentistry is now the essential component of my career. In fact, that practice I joined in 2000, I went on to purchase three years later and spent the next 20 years developing it into Liverpool’s longest running private practice. And I couldn’t have done it without the support of family, friends, and peers as well as the inspirational and highly motivated all-female team of dental professionals that work in Apollonia Dental & Cosmetic Centre today.