In conversation with: BAAD president Rob Orettion 8th May 2018
Sophie Hatton chats to Rob Oretti, president of the British Academy of Aesthetic Dentistry, about his motivations and aspirations
Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get into dentistry?
Dentistry was never something I thought I would get into. My father was a hotel manager and to earn some pocket money I used to work in the hotel kitchens doing very basic prep of foods. When I was 16, I started to spend a lot of evenings and all my summer holidays working in the kitchen, and I worked my way up from commis chef to second chef.
Although I loved cooking and became quite proficient at it, the hours were very long and the heat and the pressure in the kitchens on a busy night were high – borderline madness. There were not any ‘celebrity chefs’ at the time (not even Keith Floyd) and I saw this career as a long, hard slog. I can’t say I went into dentistry because I was good with my hands; it was more because my father said it would be a good profession to enter!
Why did you decide to focus on dental implants and smile makeovers?
I recognised when I qualified that my overall skill set and diagnostic abilities were poor and I did not even think about dental implants or advanced restorative work until I had worked for 10 years learning the core GDP skills, and the confidence and maturity to interact with patients properly.
The cosmetic and implant side was simply an evolution of my learning pathway when I felt the time was right. I began this type of work in 1998, and although the learning curve was steep, it was also a new challenge for me, which was exciting. As this type of dentistry became more popular over the next 10 years, I found myself in the unexpected position of being seen as ‘experienced’ and began to receive referrals for implant and cosmetic dentistry. I did not make a conscious decision to become an implant dentist, it simply developed that way organically.
You’re a well-respected mentor and educator in implant dentistry. What’s the importance of mentorships?
I think for the majority of us, the dentists that you interact with in the first five years or so after qualifying can often play a profound role in the way you think and work, and these more experienced dentists may not even be aware of their importance.
My first job was with an orthodontist, Mike Fennel, who really taught me the importance of tooth position, the temporomandibular joint, and occlusion. The knowledge I gained with him has influenced and guided me right up to the present day.
Mentorship starts right at the beginning, although we do not see it as a formal entity at the time. For me, the first 10 years of my career were filled with highly motivated dentists who literally changed my concepts of dentistry and made me question every result I achieved, and how the outcome could be improved. I look back now and cannot thank them enough.
‘The first 10 years of my career were filled with highly motivated dentists who literally changed my concepts of dentistry and made me question every result I achieved’
It’s a big topic, but mentors have a huge responsibility and probably more so in implant dentistry than other fields, as there are so many varying skills to attain just for one case.
I think in the current litigious climate, finding a good mentor is not just beneficial but should be considered mandatory. The old saying that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ is so true, and a poor implant outcome early in your career can really knock your confidence. Mentors can help in saving you from this type of heartache, and guide you through the cases you should and should not tackle.
Congratulations on becoming president of the British Academy of Aesthetic Dentistry. What do you hope to achieve in this position?
The first British Academy of Aesthetic Dentistry (BAAD) meeting I attended was in 1999. I was looking for something in dentistry at that time that was missing – higher skills, passion, inspiration – I could not put my finger on it precisely, but I knew after that first meeting that I had found it.
The calibre of the speakers and what they were showing just blew me away, and was so far above me that I wondered what had I been doing before then. But the real gem was that I met so many like-minded dentists there, all struggling like me to be better. From those early years, many of us have gone on a journey together seeking out the dental courses and conferences we needed to attend. Many of them are my best friends now, and we have spent many memorable times together.
My remit as president is quite simple: to provide a platform and environment of dental excellence for those who are looking for something in their dental journey that is missing. It was one of the best things I ever did, and I hope the BAAD meetings can ignite or rekindle this passion in others.
What is your proudest career achievement so far?
Obviously becoming president of the BAAD is a great honour, and I recognise the importance of this role and the responsibility it entails. However, from a personal perspective, creating our referral practice, Pentangle Dental, with my partner Steve Jones 11 years ago, has brought more joy (and tears) than anything else in my career.
From very close to bankruptcy to achieving major success, it has been a rollercoaster ride, but full of fun. It has allowed me to really train and hone my skills and help others along the way and has defined who I am today.
Who or what inspires you?
This is the easiest question of all to answer. Those who understand that hard work and graft is what ultimately brings success, coupled with a fairly large helping of humility and the ability not to take it all too seriously. I know lots of dentists who have all of these attributes, and it is no wonder they are extremely successful and inspirational today. I owe a few of them a Guinness or two!
What are some of the biggest changes in cosmetic dentistry you have witnessed over the years?
If you spend time reading dental journals and going to conferences, then you will appreciate that there is nothing really new in cosmetic dentistry. All the protocols and procedures for whitening, periodontal surgery, orthodontics, veneers, implants, are virtually the same over the last 10 years and all work well in the right hands.
I think what has changed is the landscape in which we work, where you have to question what you are doing in the knowledge that ‘getting it wrong’ can be punitive with regards to litigation and General Dental Council involvement. Thinking twice before you do any treatment is a good thing, but being fearful of doing anything is a backward step and ultimately will harm the patient. I have never sensed this as keenly with younger dentists than the present time.
How do you see the landscape of cosmetic and aesthetic dentistry changing over the next 10 years?
That will depend on the above factors. For those who have attained the skills already, this is an exciting time. The older generation in particular have disposable income and are prepared to spend it on missing teeth and their dental appearance, and I see no shortage of work for the next 10 years. Periodontal, soft tissue and restorative/orthodontic skills are needed now as much as ever, and I think this is the place to be right now.
‘Periodontal, soft tissue and restorative/orthodontic skills are needed now as much as ever, and I think this is the place to be right now’
For those who are learning the skills, this is a time to go slow and learn one aspect of dentistry before moving onto another. A more conservative approach fits within the current landscape and, in reality, it should have always been this way anyway.
What are your passions outside of dentistry? How do you maintain a good work-life balance?
I fail miserably here being generally far too busy when in work and far too busy when not working. Work can be all encompassing and when I was younger it needed to be to gain the skills I wanted. Today I am probably busier than I have ever been, but I balance this with my other passions: cooking, travelling, and socialising.
Cooking (and eating) is my switch-off button and enjoying good food and wine with family and friends is a great stress-breaker. Meeting up with old friends often as well as playing bad golf keeps things in perspective.
Do you have any words of advice for dentists looking to become successful in aesthetic and cosmetic dentistry?
Work hard and have self-belief. The best advice I could give is to learn how to perform the treatments you would want for yourself if ever you needed treatment. It’s a long journey, so take your time and expect after 10 years to be half as good as you think you will be.
Failure is normal and you’ll learn much more from it than success. Surround yourself with the right people and listen a lot. Seek out those who are at the top of their game and learn from them – they will give you far more education than any conference ever will.
Strive for perfectionism, even though you won’t achieve it and most importantly, have fun along the way – you might start liking dentistry again!
Robert Oretti BDS MGDS MFDS qualified at King’s College, London in 1987. After working in an orthodontic practice in Colchester for four years, he spent the next 14 years working in a busy private practice treating complex cases involving cosmetic, implant and orthodontic treatments. Rob also became involved in teaching and mentoring and has taught many dentists on all aspects of cosmetic and dental implant therapies. In 2006, Rob moved to Pentangle Dental Transformations – a purpose built centre for dentists to send their patients for cosmetic and complex treatments. Rob is currently a postgraduate tutor for the Thames Valley deanery, a mentor and faculty educator for the Association of Dental Implantology, a mentor and international speaker for the International Team of Implantologists, a Royal College of Surgeons examiner for the implant diploma (RCS Edin), and scientific director and president elect of the British Academy of Aesthetic Dentistry.
This is an abridged version of an article originally published in the August 2017 issue of Aesthetic Dentistry Today. Read more articles like this in Aesthetic Dentistry Today and gain three hours’ verifiable CPD with every issue. Click here to subscribe or call 01923 851 777. Get in touch via Twitter @AesDenToday or facebook.com/AesDenToday