Being a dental student can be stressful; there are exams, essay deadlines, not to mention the thought of your first extraction or RCT looming over you. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that is dental school and forget there is a whole world out there post-graduation, with its own unique challenges and learning curves. That’s why we’ve decided to bring you some advice and insight from someone who didn’t leave dental school too long ago herself. She has, fresh in her mind, the feeling of transitioning from dental school to general practice, but has also had the time and chance to develop her skills and experience in her chosen field. I had the chance to interview Dr Angela Ly (Best Young Dentist 2016); she graduated from Manchester Dental School in 2010, and is currently the principal dentist at Your Smile Clinic (providing mostly cosmetic work) in Manchester city centre.
‘What does an average day for you entail?’
Day in day out I do a lot of smile makeovers, so that includes some type of braces: fixed, lingual as well as Invisalign. I would usually do some tooth whitening and composite bonding/veneers. As my patient base is generally young professionals, I am reluctant to do anything too destructive, so I usually try and stick with minimally invasive dentistry. The normal process is to align the teeth, whiten and then finish it all off.
‘What pathway did you follow from graduation to present?’
So, I graduated in 2010 from the University of Manchester.
My first year VT (known as DFT now) was based in a busy, high-need NHS practice in North Manchester. There I did a lot of general dentistry – things like examinations, cleanings, dentures and lots of fillings; nothing too complex as there was limited time in NHS practice. But my trainer was always on hand if I had any questions. One day a week I shadowed an oral surgeon; he mentored me and gave me hands-on experience in OS as well as sedation.
In my DF2 year, I worked as an SHO (Senior House Officer) at North Manchester General Hospital, in the Oral Maxillofacial unit. I hated it for the first 3 months, as you feel as though you’re expected to act as a medic without the necessary training that comes with it! It is scary; you are on call and we often covered the ENT ward as well as Max Fax. Gradually, I found my feet and I began to enjoy it. It is an experience I would recommend to all undergrads as it is invaluable and helps you to think on your feet. After that my confidence increased a lot! After all, they were only teeth – what’s the worst that could go wrong!
Following that, I returned to standard restorative work in two NHS practices, again based in Manchester. I saw a huge number of patients in this time and really developed my skill set in terms of restorative dentistry as well as my ability to communicate with patients. After a while, it did become quite repetitive and I was craving more of a challenge. So to enhance my skills I decided to do the 1 year PG certified Red Square course with Dr Riaz Yar – this opened up my eyes to the standard of dentistry that was out there, and what I wanted to achieve for my own patients.
It was after this that I was hooked on doing more – I started to do loads of different courses to improve and broaden my skill set.
I did orthodontics courses amongst other specialities, as well as Dr Basil Mizrahi’s course. After this I knew I wanted to be in private practice, as I wanted to spend more time with my patients developing relationships and doing more advanced work. So I began my search for private work…
It was hard and at the start I was rejected everywhere. It was a catch 22; they didn’t look at my CV because I had no private experience. I compromised and found a job at an NHS mixed practice. I worked there for a few years until eventually I found two part-time jobs in private practice. Eventually, I decided I wanted more control in the way the practice was run – and I came across this place!
It’s an unusual set up. Dr Lance Knight owns the building, but I rent the space 4 times a week, so it’s my own patient base, staff and materials – but I get to work in a beautiful practice and use the amazing facilities here. It’s a clinic within a clinic – they do it a lot in Harley Street.
‘Do you have to be registered with any board to practice cosmetic dentistry?’
No, it’s not really a speciality; you are just working within your own competency. Anyone could call themselves a cosmetic dentist, but it is what most of my work tends to be. It’s generally elective treatment, so patients don’t necessarily need the treatment, but they want it – so they seek out our help.
‘Did you always know you wanted your career to follow this path?’
To be honest with you, no! I had very little background in dentistry in terms of any family members, so I was convinced once I graduated from Dental School that would be the end! I didn’t really know anything more than that. So when I finally did become a dentist it was amazing, but I just wanted to challenge myself further and fell into it naturally.
I do still do one day a week doing oral surgery under sedation; I deal with a lot of anxious patients and those who just want a longer appointment so they have more time to feel comfortable and to relax.
‘Which course did you do that impacted you the most?’
The Red Square course was probably the turning point for me, because I realised I could be delivering a greater standard of work.
The wired orthodontics course was important, as without it I wouldn’t be able to treat half the cases I do currently.
Lastly Dr Basil Mizrahi’s course – he is a top clinician and his work is so precise. He has a reason for doing everything, and everything is meticulously treatment planned before he picks up that hand piece. That ethos stuck with me and I try to implement his teaching to this day, especially for complex cases.
‘How did winning ‘Best Young Dentist 2016’ impact your career?’
It definitely opened up some doors. I was on BBC Breakfast before I won, but I do seem to get contacted a lot more now for things on TV. So it’s all just good exposure for the clinic and people tend to seek you out more.
There’s nothing amazing that sets me apart – except from the fact that I do try and spend time with my patients and listen to them to make them feel more understood.
‘If you could give advice to a dental student looking to follow a similar path as yourself, what would it be?’
Communication skills! Learning to listen to what the patient wants and how they feel. Only then will you know what treatment is right for them.
In terms of equipment, invest in a Digital SLR camera. Take pictures of everything to review and see how you can improve. Once you learn to critique yourself you are on the right path.
Get yourself some loupes; this will help you achieve the best quality work you can.
‘Is the MFDS qualification useful?’
I did both parts and even though it’s not required for the job I do today, if you want to keep your options open and possibly specialise in the future, it is something you must have as standard.
‘Anything else you want to add?’
The most important thing I advise to all my patients is the importance of prevention and good oral health before I carry out any procedure. Sometimes patients have unrealistic expectations and I have turned patients away in the past due to this.
Thank you so much for taking the time out to do this interview!
I found it really helpful to gain insight into how Dr Angela Ly’s career has progressed and wish her all the luck in the future! I hope you all found it as interesting to read too! If you have any ideas for any possible future blog posts please get in touch through any form of social media.
Thanks for reading!
Author: Tara Kang (4th Year BDS)