Sophie Hatton speaks to award-wining entrepreneurial dentist Gina Vega about relocating to the UK from Mexico and becoming Mexican Entrepreneur of the Year
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I am originally from Mexico City and I have been in the UK for 17 years; I am very much half British now, so please do not ask me to go through life without English breakfast tea or mince pies! I decided to move to London after meeting Mike, my now husband of 14 years. So, you can say that love brought me here.
My start in dentistry in the UK was not easy, as I had to re-qualify in order to be able to practise dentistry again. I re-qualified through the demanding International Qualifying Examination (IQE) back in 2004. Whilst I was studying for the IQE, I could not stay away from dentistry, I missed it too much, so I worked as a dental nurse for three years at Whitecross in Farringdon.
I really could not see my live without dentistry. I was only eight years old when I told my parents that I wanted to be a dentist – don’t ask me why, as there are no other dentists in the family. I just loved the smell of the dental practice my mum used to take me to when I was a little girl. Now I know that that smell was eugenol!
Congratulations on winning Mexican Entrepreneur of the Year 2017 at the Mexican Chamber of Commerce Gala Dinner and Awards. Explain the awards, and why you think you won
Thank you, I feel very honoured to have received this award. The Mexican Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain (MexCC) represents the Mexican private sector in the UK, to support Mexican investors, businesspeople and traders enter the UK market, and UK investors, businesspeople and traders interested in doing business in Mexico. It also serves to raise Mexico’s profile as a business partner, promoting Mexico as an investment and trade destination.
MexCC’s Annual Gala Dinner and Awards has become the most relevant social event for the Brit-Mex business community in London. During the celebration, awards are given to a Mexican and British company in two categories – entrepreneurs and international leaders – to acknowledge and recognise the success of an entrepreneurial Mexican business in the UK and vice versa, and a Mexican international leader doing business in the UK and vice versa.
I have been a member of the MexCC for six years and during this time Bishopsgate Dental Care has sponsored Mexican events in the UK and supported numerous charities in Mexico and Latin America.
When I took over Bishopsgate Dental Care, the practice had deep financial problems. Like many of my colleagues, I knew nothing about running a business, so it was a real challenge to make it work. At that time, I had a couple of months to prepare to be compliant with the Care Quality Commission. By the end of December 2010, my son had just started reception class and I had a one-year-old baby girl – how I managed it I really do not know!
Maybe the MexCC saw my struggles and determination to become a businesswoman. I had never considered myself an entrepreneur, but I guess that increasing the value of a business four-fold, going from three staff to 12, from two surgeries working half the time to three full-time, and expanding to four surgeries this summer, all in eight years, makes me one.
What are the differences between dentistry in the UK and Mexico?
Dentistry in Mexico is very similar to here in the UK – the main difference is that we do not have NHS as such, so the majority of dentistry is private and it is very Americanised. There is a big influence from America, as a lot of the lectures at university would have had a postgraduate degree from an American university and would teach the latest techniques and materials to be used.
I felt very well prepared when I came to the UK; the reality is that the human body is the same all over the world and there are not many dental materials in the market, so I was familiar with everything.
My main challenge was to understand how the NHS worked; I have to be honest and say that initially I felt disappointed as, in my experience, I witnessed dentists cutting corners in order to treat as many patients as possible within the day and that put me off working in the NHS.
I was very fortunate that from the beginning I was able to practise dentistry in a mixed practice and for the last 12 years I have been working in private dentistry, so I have been able to practise the dentistry that I love with freedom.
What cosmetic treatments do you offer at Bishopsgate Dental Care?
We offer all dental services including a series of cosmetic treatments to our patients. My favourite treatments are Invisalign, whitening, and bonding. I am a Platinum Elite II Invisalign provider with close to 450 cases under my belt.
At Bishopsgate Dental Care, we believe in minimally invasive dentistry so we aim to maintain healthy smiles with as minimal intervention as possible. I guess that is why I believe so strongly in Invisalign, as with it I can use the natural, healthy teeth of my patients and move them into a better more beautiful position.
I normally follow my Invisalign treatments with tooth whitening and, if needed, some bonding.
How important is aesthetics in restorative dentistry?
In my opinion, it is very important. Of course, function is the principal objective of restorative dentistry, but if you can deliver function with an aesthetic finish then you have the perfect combination.
Your practice offers facial aesthetic treatments. Why did you decide to branch out into this field?
We have been offering facial aesthetics for the last two-and-a-half years. I decided to venture into facial aesthetics as part of my business plan to increase the revenue of the practice. Because of our location, I was not sure how patients would react to this service, so it was a gamble. I have Dr Alexandra Day working with me at Bishopsgate Dental Care and together we have worked very hard to build up her book, and it has paid off.
Who or what is your inspiration?
I have always been a very positive woman – I am the kind of person that wakes up in the morning with a smile on my face, happy to face the day ahead. I love dentistry and I am thankful to be able to do the job that I love.
My real inspiration and drive in life are my parents. Both worked very hard to provide me and my siblings with a good education, and show us what hard work can give you in life. I owe them what I am now and will be thankful for their efforts all my life.
What’s the key to being a successful aesthetic dentist?
In my opinion, training and experience are the keys. The more you do a treatment the more you can perfect your technique. I believe that you have to become an expert in a field; it is important to have passion for something and perfect it. I do not believe in being good at everything, that is not possible and the dentists that claim to be one are fooling themselves. If you want to be successful in life you need to focus and enjoy what you do; the same thing applies in dentistry.
Also, you need to try different techniques as not all techniques work in all hands. A dentist is like an artist, you have to put a personal touch in your work so do not be afraid of mixing techniques until you create your own and find the one that suits you.
What are your hobbies outside of dentistry?
Like a good Mexican, I love dancing salsa and any Latin American music. I practise body balance and Zumba at the gym, and enjoy good dining.
Very soon we will be adopting a puppy at home, so I look forward to walks with the new member of the family.
What’s next for you professionally, and for Bishopsgate Dental Care?
Professionally, I would like to become a Diamond Invisalign provider and reach 500 cases by the end of this year.
At Bishopsgate Dental Care we are expanding by opening our fourth surgery this summer, and so hopefully soon we will be welcoming a couple of new members of staff.
Dr Gina Vega graduated as a dental surgeon in 1998 in Mexico City from the Universidad Tecnológica de México. She has been practicing dentistry in the UK since 2004 after re-qualifying through the International Qualifying Examination. Gina is the owner and clinical director of Bishopsgate Dental Care, a private dental practice in central London. Gina is a GDP and a Platinum Elite II Invisalign provider, putting her in the top 10% of Invisalign providers in London.
This article was originally published in the August 2018 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.