Specialist in Periodontics and Restorative Dentistry
February is Gum Disease Awareness month. Founded in 2012, this national and international day of recognition is an event designed to encourage people to check their gums, spot the signs of unhealthy gums and take better care of their oral health. At Vermilion, Dr Louise O’Dowd specialises in the management of patients with periodontal disease, a profession which brings her great satisfaction, as she explains below.
We spend a significant amount of our lives working. In fact, it has been estimated that over a lifetime we spend an average of 90,000 hours at work (Pryce-Jones, J. (2010)). If we consider that we spend at least 30% of our life sleeping, then work takes up a significant proportion of our time on Earth. Therefore, I feel incredibly fortunate to have found a vocation which I love, and which continues to bring me satisfaction and fulfilment 20 years after I first graduated as a dentist.
I knew I wanted to specialise early on in my career. Restorative dentistry, encompassing Periodontology, Prosthodontics and Endodontics felt like the most pragmatic choice for me as it allowed me to keep practicing across a broad base and I completed Restorative specialist training in 2011. Since 2012, I have been employed with the University of Edinburgh as a Senior Clinical Lecturer / Honorary Consultant in Restorative Dentistry based in the Edinburgh Dental Institute, where I am fortunate enough to be able to practise across the Restorative disciplines and treat patients with complex dental needs as part of a multidisciplinary team. My role involves education of Undergraduate and Postgraduate Dental trainees and Clinical leadership. No two days are the same and I’m challenged to develop as a clinician, teacher and leader every single day.
At Vermilion, I practice as a Specialist in Periodontology. My passion for Periodontology took me somewhat by surprise having been an avid Restorative generalist for so long. However, five years after starting as a Specialist in the discipline at Vermilion, it excites and interests me more now than ever. In writing this I asked myself why. There are many reasons, but I summarise a few below.
Vermilion is a great place to work
I work with a fabulous team of committed individuals who share my values. We work together to provide cutting edge and high-quality clinical care daily, and I am grateful that I can give my patients the time they need, with the resources I need, in a supportive environment.
Like the hospitals I trained and still work in, Vermilion promotes the benefits of continuous professional development and multidisciplinary working between specialists and our network of referring practitioners. This allows us to deliver results for patients that truly are lifechanging.
Periodontal health underpins everything
And yes, I mean everything. Without periodontal health, complex dentistry, including implants, orthodontic treatment and cosmetic treatments are less effective and can fail. Therefore, I have a key role in preparing patients for their dental journey at Vermilion and ensuring their treatment is predictable. I even have the satisfaction of prolonging ‘hopeless’ teeth and supporting patients to keep their natural teeth for as long as possible. Let’s not forget the links between general health and periodontal health. These links are now well established, and I use my position to inform and signpost patients so that they are managed holistically.
Practice of periodontology is varied and challenging
I am a strong advocate of the benefits of well performed non-surgical periodontal treatment. However, as a Periodontist I also perform surgical periodontal treatment such as soft and hard tissue regeneration and cosmetic gingival recontouring. No one patient, mouth or tooth is the same in disease presentation or response. Planning appropriate care requires a personalised approach, taking account of patient specific risk factors and personal objectives. This means that no working day is the same which keeps me engaged and driven, forever learning.
So, what is there not to love! Periodontal health provides the basis for good preventive and Restorative dentistry. I hugely enjoy my role in helping to build the ‘solid foundations’ that enable patients to retain teeth, proceed with complex dental rehabilitation and improve their general health.
And where next for me? If the estimations are correct, I have over 45,000 hours left to work. Therefore, I am grateful to be able to spend them doing a job I love, and which continues to interest, challenge and inspire me. I count myself very fortunate. I plan to spend these hours wisely by helping patients directly in the treatments I perform and indirectly through my role as an educator and leader.