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This month our dentistry interview is with Paul Tipton. Paul is an internationally acclaimed Prosthodontist who has worked in private practice for more than 30 years. Paul is the founder of Tipton Training Ltd, one of the UK’s leading private dental academies, past President of the British Academy of Implant Dentistry and the author of over one 100 scientific articles for the dental press.
You started out as professional cricket player Paul. What prompted the change in career direction?
I was playing for England under-19’s when Lancashire offered me a contract, which I accepted. I was going to university to study dentistry in any case, so I delayed my start by one year. Over the next four years I had a summer contract whilst I continued my degree.
At the end of university, I decided that a career in dentistry was a better option for me. With that in mind, I joined Cheshire and represented them in the Minor Counties Championship for the next five years, until my career was prematurely ended by a back operation.
You’ve been around dentistry for many years Paul. What are the main changes you have seen?
I’d say the demise dentistry in the National Health Service and all the bureaucracy and paperwork together with the decline in the teaching at undergraduate level. Many of our young dentists no longer have the skills to treat patients in a comprehensive manner and too much emphasis is placed on the foundation training and trainers to teach what should have been taught at university.
In terms of treatment, the main change I’ve witnessed is the increased use of dental implants which have progressed lots. The main improvements have been in surface treatments, immediate loading, restorative techniques and Aesthetics using Zirconia instead of metal based abutments and crowns.
What prompted you to set up Tipton Training? What are the most popular courses at the moment?
When I studied for my master’s degree from the Eastman, I realised there was a different type of dentistry that someone could perform, rather than the NHS dentistry I was taught at university.
At that time most of the profession, including myself, had not been exposed to occlusion. Its principles were never explained and were only spoken in whispers in case someone questioned it. Todays graduates have little understanding of the most important part of dentistry – how the mouth functions.
I then made it my life’s ambition to train as many dentists as I could in occlusion and comprehensive dentistry. At Tipton Training, we run four different one year courses specialising in: restorative dentistry, implant dentistry, aesthetic dentistry and tooth preparation. My favourite is the restorative course, in which I teach occlusion.
What have been the main changes in dental training in recent years?
Phantom head training dramatically improved about 10 years ago, while everyone’s tooth preparation techniques have also become considerably better. Phantom head training allows dentists to perform the treatments and familiarise themselves with preparation techniques before they treat the patient. New dentists don’t have the experience of treating many patients so they absolutely need great PH training to simulate what will happen on a ‘live’ patient.
Do you see dental training moving online in the future?
As with all forms of education more dental training is going online and this something we cater for Tipton. However Dentistry is different as its practical and so the pendulum cannot swing too far one way, otherwise there will be no practical training. For example you can’t study occlusion and tooth preparation online. The best teaching is still eye to eye so the teacher can see how much the student understands and then say the same thing in a different way if required. This can’t be done online is Tipton’s USP.
You were involved in setting up the BARD. What were the goals behind this? How has it grown?
BARD was set up as a life-long challenge to improve the restorative dentistry and occlusion knowledge and ability of UK dentists and also the dental health of the UK population. We have our very first conference at the Belfry on May 16 and 17 this year, which I would encourage all of your readers to attend.
More recently, BARD has embarked on an overseas expansion to teach restorative dentistry to the rest of the world. We are setting up courses in India, Dubai and Sudan at the moment to go with the course we already run in Egypt, Greece, Poland and Cyprus.
Is there much difference in training for dental students internationally?
There are much better trained dentists in some of the other areas and countries where BARD operates. For instance in Poland the quality of the young dentists I have seen in the BARD courses is higher than the UK dentists , especially in practical skills where they see more ‘live’ patients during their undergraduate course.
This is what BARD is about , trying to teach the young dentists in the UK the basics of practical restorative dentistry , like Occlusion , Bridge Design , Tooth Preparation Techniques , Gold Restorations , all of which don’t seem to be taught any more to our undergraduates.
How has the market for dental implants in the UK changed over the years? Is this comparable to other European markets?
I started in implantology in 1986 thought at the Branemark clinic in Sweden. Implant demand has risen steadily
during the years since my training due to an increase in the number of dentists offering implants and cheaper implant options such as the all on four developed by Paulo Malo. I was the first in the UK to do immediate loading of full arch restorations in 1999 using Nobel Biocare.
In the UK, we are very far behind the other EU countries with regard to number of implants placed per head of the population. This is because of the unavailability of implants on the NHS; dentists generally not referring patients as readily as in other countries, and the costs.
How many cases of NHS funded implants have you seen? Do you think implants will become more widely available on the NHS?
The only NHS funded implants I have seen have been as a result of medical problems or accidents. I don’t think implants will ever be widely available on the NHS, as it seems we can’t really afford a dental NHS anymore. Some of the rumours I hear about the university curriculum being cut to three years and putting all NHS dentists into either band A, B and C does not fill me with much confidence either for the future of NHS dentistry in the UK.