An obituary to Colin Hall Dexter

DH&T is sad to report that Colin Hall Dexter passed away on 6 July 2014

Colin was one of the most influential figures in the concept of preventive dentistry and was and instrumental in the formation of the British Dental Health Foundation. He was extremely well thought of, respected and loved by many people involved in dentistry.

Colin’s familly has shared the details for the funeral, and all are very welcome to attend. The funeral will be held at St Marylebone Parish Church, NW1 5LT on 25 July, at 2pm.

Here are a few tributes from those who worked with Colin over the years…

Sally Goss: Sometimes in life you get lucky – and my luck was in meeting Colin Hall Dexter.  I’d been to his lectures and marvelled at how someone could be so amusing and yet get across his very serious message about prevention.  And then I started work as the hygienist in his practice in Harley Street – it quite literally changed my life. His support and admiration for the work of dental hygienists knew no bounds. And he was a man so far ahead of his time with his skill in getting the preventive message over to patients. Co-diagnosis? We did it 30 years ago in Colin’s practice. Helping patients to understand their own role in controlling dental disease? We did it 30 years ago. Hygienists having an assistant to enable them to work more efficiently and effectively? We did it 30 years ago. I could go on and on.

I feel enormously privileged to have known Colin. He was a funny, kind and most generous man. The last of the truly great characters in dentistry has gone. We will all miss him.


Jocelyn Sampson: Colin Hall Dexter was probably the best friend I ever had, and he had the most incredible influence on my life. While wanting to cry because he has died, remembering him is actually making me laugh.  He made people happy just by being with them, but once he started telling stories the laughter usually became uncontrollable.

Until I met him I had only had experience of hospital and conventional practices, but he opened my eyes to the joys preventive dentistry and how a practice could be different. Being different was so important to him – we had to be nicer, kinder, better, and go two extra miles for our patients.  All the treatment was based on prevention – dentist, hygienist and patient all working together. His patients genuinely loved him for his kindness and gentleness, and of course his superb clinical skills.

We agreed on everything except music.  It was not wise to speak the name Shostakovitch in his hearing.

I loved him for so many reasons: for regularly asking me if he paid me enough (he did) but mostly for having confidence in me.  In those long-distant, pre-CQC days I once did a temporary Kalzinol restoration for a patient while Colin was away from the practice. When the patient returned a few days later, Colin checked the tooth and told him: ‘I couldn’t have done it better myself, we’ll leave it as it is’.  For that I am still grateful to this day.

He was a rare and wonderful man.


Nigel Carter: It is a great shame that Colin did not live to see some of his ideas on a preventive approach to dentistry being implemented in the health service with the new dental contract. Colin was a pioneer of the preventive approach but had to leave the health service to implement it. He would be delighted that this approach is now being mainstreamed into patient care.

Colin was influential in establishing the British Dental Health Foundation with the mission of getting the message to the public that tooth loss was not inevitable and that teeth could be for life. He served two terms as chairman of the Foundation and I was privileged to work with him during that period.   His passion and enthusiasm inspired me as to the value of the Foundation in spreading the method of oral health, which has remained my lifelong interest.

Colin was larger than life character and will be missed by many but his legacy will live on as the Foundation takes his principles and tries to implement them across the world.


Bruce Mayhew: Colin Hall Dexter was an amazing man and many dentists changed their whole philosophy on dentistry after listening to him – as a result he changed hundreds of dentists’ lives.

He was instrumental in introducing me to prevention in the late 1960s, when the words plaque and private dentistry were rarely, if ever, heard. We were all too busy tackling the mountain of decay that existed then, no fluoride in toothpaste, so doing quadrant dentistry was commonplace, rows of MODs and F/Fs. Thank goodness things have changed.

Basically his teaching was this: educate your patients to understand that dental disease is totally preventable and to do good dentistry under the NHS is impossible.

Colin you really changed my life. Thank you.


Graham Barnby: Colin Hall Dexter often described dentistry as a 40-year interruption in his chosen profession to be a musician. This interruption allowed us the privilege of knowing and learning from probably the finest raconteur, mimic and lecturer in the UK. An abiding memory is his speech at the Leeds Castle BPS meeting that included a rewritten version of the George Formby ‘with my little all point probe in my hand’ and accompanied himself on his ukulele.

Always a preventive dentist he led the way to get patients to look after themselves with the help of a hygienist and enthusiastic practice manager by bringing the patient into the preventive team.

After retiring, Colin went to live in Normandy where he had his own studio and where he produced two CDs using young musicians from Trinity College.


Lynn Walters: Colin Hall Dexter had a delightful sense of humour and lit up any room he entered. He loved a party, and those he held in his rooms in Harley Street each Christmas were not to be missed under any circumstances. His 80th birthday party at Chandos House in London was a grand gesture of generosity to all who attended. It had to be an emotional occasion, and did not disappoint.

I remember Colin as a mentor of unbounded enthusiasm in all that he did; a cultured man, and a true friend.  He touched many lives, and it was a privilege to have known him.

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