My life as an overseas trainer – Raj Ahlowalia explains how he has travelled around the world teaching dentistry

My journey as an overseas trainer began in 1995, when I decided to leave the NHS. Back then, I thought private dentistry meant ‘cosmetic dentistry’, so I started to learn what I could from the best trainers. I found myself drawn to American leaders in cosmetic dentistry, including Dr Larry Rosenthal.

I went to an event where I met Dr John Cranham. He advised me that I needed to visit either The Pankey Institute or The Dawson Academy to continue my cosmetic dentistry education. Being quite awestruck and overloaded with information that day, it was only the Pankey name that stuck in my mind – ‘hanky pankey’.

Soon after completing Dr Rosenthal’s cosmetic dentistry continuum, I was invited to be an instructor for his UK courses, which was a great honour. Then, along with some peers from the Rosenthal courses, I was invited to appear on Extreme Makeover UK, which I did for two years.

It was during this time that I realised I needed to focus more on building stability if I was to produce the very best clinical outcomes, and so I began my journey through The Pankey Institute’s ‘continuum’.

Stateside learning

I did these courses in one year, implementing the techniques and investing in the technology without hesitation to benefit my patients. 

Shortly after completing the courses, The Pankey Institute invited me to become a mentor and adviser to other UK-based dentists. I then received the immense honour of being invited to become a visiting faculty member. As a faculty instructor at Pankey, the opportunity to attend courses with masters of dentistry such as the Magne brothers and Dr Frank Spear opened up.

Soon after Dr Spear opened his institute in Arizona, he asked me if I would be interested in helping him to teach at his new centre of excellence. 

Branching out into Europe

While I was teaching a dentist in Arizona, Dr Spear had a visiting dental student from Romania in his practice. I soon followed an invitation to lecture in Romania at a dental school to an audience of 300 dental students and their tutors. Within a year I had four study groups and had been invited to teach in a number of Romanian cities.

What happened next was just another example of the wonderful way in which fate works. Dr Nancy Ward, chairwoman at The Pankey Institute at the time, and I met at the end of 2012. Nancy was particularly interested in the Romanian aspect of my story, as she was working with a voluntary group that had just built a medical and dental facility with a training centre two hours from Bucharest. However, they had no students and not many contacts in the profession in Romania. It seemed like a match made in heaven, as I had more than 40 students but nowhere to teach them other than their own practices or hired hotel facilitates. 

So, last summer I brought together 20 students and three Pankey colleagues, and we ran one of my courses in the new clinic. My students, after the course, volunteered to treat locals free of charge. That was a fabulous way to give something back and we’re returning mid-August to do the same again.

Bringing the message home

Nowadays, I want to share what I’ve learned with like-minded dentists in the UK.  With all of this in mind, I have created a modular course that I hope, in the space of four weekends, can provide delegates with learning and tools they can immediately use to help their patients, to achieve aesthetic and functional longevity.

For more information on Raj Ahlowalia’s courses, contact [email protected] or visit

Dr Raj Ahlowalia, BDS LDS, RCS, graduated from Guy’s Hospital in 1991. In 2007, Dr Ahlowalia was selected to appear on the Extreme Makeover UK television show. Dr Ahlowalia now divides his time between treating patients at his private practice in rural Bedfordshire and teaching colleagues his system for achieving predictable and long-lasting dentistry.

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