Motivation, inspiration and knowledge
This is the philosophical approach that implant dentist Federico Brunner from the Brighton Implant Clinic stands by and this in turn has led him to a pathway of ultimate success and achievement. Versha Miyanger speaks to the inspirational dentist
Can you tell us a bit about your background? Why did you decide to practice in the UK?
FB: I was born in Mendoza, Argentina. When I was 15 years old I moved to Madrid, Spain, with my family where I finished my secondary education. After this, I studied medicine and then I jumped ship into dentistry and graduated in 2001. After my university education I worked for almost nine years in Madrid before moving to the UK in 2010.
There were many circumstances that made me move to the UK. All my life I wanted to learn to speak English. My parents had lived in the USA, and my brother had lived in Dublin, so I was the only one in the family who didn’t speak English. In Spain the economic crisis was starting to affect us and in the clinic where I had been working for nine years, I never had a problem with being paid. Then my boss could not pay me one month, then again the next month and so it went on. After five months of not being paid I decided it was time to leave the clinic so as not to prolong this problem. I found another job but the situation in the whole country started to change and was getting worse, so the economic crisis in Spain spurred my decision to come to UK, to learn English, and to learn new experiences. Initially I moved to London Bridge with an English friend and I started an English school in Oxford Circus where I studied full-time for nine months.
What are the biggest differences between dentistry in the UK and Spain?
FB: To be honest, I can’t tell you too much about the differences between dentistry in Spain and the UK because my last five years of continuing education has happened abroad, in the USA, Brazil, Romania, Italy and Spain. My main mentors are Italian or Spanish so it would not be objective for me to speak about UK dentistry. I am sure I can tell you that in Spain, due to the whole dentistry sector being private, the last 20 years in Spanish dentistry has evolved immensely. I don’t have any doubts in saying that today Spain is one of the leading countries in dentistry.
What or who made you choose a career in dentistry and why did you focus on implant dentistry?
FB: Since I was four years old I wanted to be a dentist. My mind has never changed, so I can say being a dentist has been my dream come true.
During my preliminary years working in Madrid, I was a general dentist doing a lot of endodontic work and much rehabilitation (crowns, dentures). I think I decided to study implant dentistry because I felt I needed something additional in my skill set to help me resolve my cases in better ways. Implants helped me to be more conservative with my treatment, less invasive and of course, help me to work on cases I couldn’t resolve without implants. Nowadays implants is another tool that helps me to provide successful solutions to my cases.
Can you tell us about your training in implant dentistry?
FB: I started my first postgraduate course in implants in Madrid in 2004, in Forum Implantológico Europeo. The director of the course is Dr Pedro Peña, a very well-known Spanish dentist. At the same time I travelled to la Habana, Cuba (CIMEQ Centro de Investigations MedicoQuirurgico), where I started my first hands-on practice. I spent five years going there once a year to improve my surgical skills. I placed more than 100 implants and I have done more than 10 sinus lifts before I started to work as an implant dentist in Madrid working in the private sector. Since then, I have never stopped educating myself in implant procedures and I have completed courses in Madrid, Seville, New York and Boston.
How important is patient communication to you and does it play a big part in your approach?
FB: I think communication is very important in every aspect of life, including family, friends, at work and of course with patients. I would say communication with patients for me has always been easy.
In Spain we say that ‘everything you say to the patient before treatment starts is an explanation, everything you say after the treatment is an excuse’, so for me good communication with my patients is essential. They need to understand what each treatment involves. I like the phrase, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, so one of the most powerful techniques I have to explain processes to my patients is to open my laptop and show my patients my work. I don’t like to explain to patients by searching for examples on the internet – if you go to a tattoo artist, you would want to see the work he does, you would like to see his drawings, and photos before you go ahead with a tattoo that going to last forever. I think in dentistry we all should show our patients our work in order to level their expectations and also allow our patients to choose if we are the best dentist for them.
Once patients come to me after the first assessments, I feel very lucky because they have chosen me because they like my work. I never try to convince any patient to stay in my clinic. I have a lot of patients that come to me with problems, but they want me to resolve their problems their way and they don’t understand my way, so in this situation I prefer not to start if they don’t accept my recommendations for treatment. I am sure they will find another dentist who can help them in their preferred way.
You’ve won quite a few awards in your career – what do you think is the secret to your success?
FB: My awards are gifts that I never expected to happen. These awards represent the last five years of working and studying hard. I think one of my secrets of my successes is that I love what I do and I love dentistry. Ninety-eight percent of my patients come to me with a problem and I like to feel that I am helping people to resolve them. Continuing my education is also very important to me in my evolution as a dentist. I have been investing a lot of time and money attending a lot of courses around the world as dentistry is changing so fast. If you don’t educate yourself with the latest, you lose track. The more I study, the more I realise that there is so much more to know and I need to continue studying to stay ahead of the game.
I think we all know what leads a person to be successful; love what you do, work hard, play hard, consistency, dedication, preparation and a very important word that has become indispensable (a mantra) in my work, is the word ‘planning’. Dentistry has changed, we are working as an architect of the mouth. You don’t build a house without a plan, so we shouldn’t build a mouth without a very accurate plan. I spend a lot more time at the brainstorming process and treatment-planning stage, thinking about every step from the beginning to the end of the treatment. You should always think about having a plan B if plan A fails (and also a plan C!).
How do you stay abreast of modern techniques?
FB: Modern dentistry is changing so fast, I would say the future is now. In my last five years I have spent a fortune going to see the people that inspire me. You have to invest a lot of time and money to a see the people you admire and respect, and then you need to implement what you have learnt into your clinic. For example, just over a year ago I met Christian Coachman at the Dental Seminars Academy. The concept of DSD blew my mind, especially because the live patient was my patient.
I now use the DSD concept more and more to design my cases when a smile change or improvement is needed. These days people are sharing a lot. There are more people and groups sharing on Facebook and all kind of social media. There are many more courses, so it is very easy to have access to amazing videos, books, magazines, articles and groups, so the knowledge is out there! It is up to you to go and get it. You need to invest in yourself and go and watch and learn from the big masters of dentistry.
Are there any products or groups of products that you have been really impressed with?
FB: In general everything in the new digital world surprises me – digital planning, digital scans, digital impressions, digital wax ups, skin concept from Florin Cofar, Digital Smile Design concept. Digital technologies is very appealing to me, we all will need to jump in at some point to this digital era. New technologies are becoming very strong and this will simplify our lives a lot.
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
FB: I would say I am proud of being dentist, because it is what I wanted to be since I was a child. I am proud because owing to my career, I have travelled immensely and visited many countries, cultures, people and made a lots of friends. I am proud and honoured when patients come back to me to start their treatment after their first assessments. They trust in me and this is a big responsibility that I take very seriously.
Where do you get your motivation and drive from?
FB: There is so much motivation and inspiration in dentistry today. We are in the most enlightening moments in dentistry because everyone is sharing more, and this is beautiful. Today, it is very easy for me find inspiration in many professionals that I follow. I think it is essential to take inspiration from the big masters, even if you will never get to their level. So as I said, motivation, inspiration, knowledge is everywhere – it is up to you to go and get it.
FB: When I am relaxing I love to disconnect from my work. To learn to relax is very important to working better. I am not married yet and I don’t have children, so I like to travel and explore new countries and new cultures. I like to kite-surf, whenever I can, I enjoy going into the sea as it allows me to clear my mind and relax.
What lessons have you learned in the course of your career?
FB: It is important to have a mentor in your professional evolution. In my case I am lucky because I don’t have only one mentor, I have many very good ones. They look after me, they want to see me grow, they always give me tips to improve my cases, my communication, my approach andthey give me different perspectives and share their experiences with me. Giullio Rasperini, Pedro Peña, Jesus Greagh, Fernando Rey, Javier Sola and Bruno Silva are some of my mentors that are always willing to help me.
In the end your mentors become your friends, and this is even better, because you don’t only share dentistry, you share life. To meet your mentor you have to invest and educate yourself. Go and meet people. You will find your mentor, or should I say, your mentor will find you.
What have been your best decisions?
FB: I think all decisions in life are good. The decision to move to the UK was not easy at all but it was one of the best decisions I took. It changed my life, taught me to speak English and gave me the opportunity to connect with new people. It also gave me the opportunity to start giving lectures in English – something that I never thought was going to happen. I would not have done anything differently so I believe things happen for a reason.
Do you have any regrets?
FB: I don’t believe in regrets and I don’t have any regrets in my life. Every situation in life teaches you something, and you need to learn from everything. How you are going to make a good decision if you have never taken a wrong decision? I live without regrets.
What are your plans for the future?
FB: One of my dreams for this year is to return to collaborate with a non-governmental organisation that operates in South and Central America, India and Africa. It provides basic dentistry services in very poor areas where people have no access to a dentist. In 2001 I spent a month working in Nicaragua, Central America and it was an enlightening and profound experience. You help people, but the circumstances help you too, and you don’t even realise it.
The more you study, the more you realise how very little you know, and how many things we have to learn. I will continue educating myself. I There is no rush however – one step at a time.
Personally, most of my family and friends are in Argentina, and my twin bother and many friends are in Madrid, so it is important for me to have a balance between my work and my personal life. To get a good ‘future’ you have to create a good ‘present’. You build your future from now, so working hard and improving everyday is my goal.
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