Hairdresser or dentist: did Beth Bradley choose well?

Beth Bradley dentistry Beth Bradley describes the setbacks and trials she experienced on the way to qualifying.

What made you want to get into dentistry?

My path to dentistry wasn’t exactly a simple or straightforward one.

I had a dream that I would be a dentist, but similar to every young person with a dream, the journey to achieving this had setbacks and trials.

I have incredible parents who always encouraged me. They brought me up believing that you could achieve anything you put your heart into.

However, they also emphasised the importance of realising that ‘nothing worth having comes easy’. This made me persevere when the times got tough!

There were no dentists in my family but I was surrounded by an inspirational circle of mentors.

With a new sense of purpose, I wholeheartedly dived into my studies and began work experience in my local practice.

‘Magic Mark’ was my dentist since I was a child and I had looked up to him for as long as I can remember. I was then, and still am, in awe of his skills.

Mark’s wife Oonagh (who is also a dentist) played a huge role in making me want to go into dentistry. Her advice and encouragement came at a time when things didn’t go to plan.

After completing my A Levels and receiving the news that I didn’t quite get the chemistry grade I needed, it was Oonagh that offered very practical words of wisdom to a very confused and upset teenager that believed her dream was over.

I’ve realised not getting what you want is sometimes the most powerful thing to make you realise just how much you want it in the first place. It wasn’t a rejection but a redirection.

I put my head down, worked hard and kept going, in the knowledge that I didn’t know how I would get to be a dentist, but somehow I would!

Every day when I go into practice I just think back and reflect on this quote: ‘Remember that you once dreamed of being where you are now!’

What is it you love about dentistry?

I love the people; my patients, my colleagues and my peers. I love the variety, diversity and the processes.

Every person that comes into the practice has a story and I get the opportunity to nurture relationships with each patient. A key piece of advice that stands by me every day is that a smile goes a long way.

I love the variety dentistry offers and I know I will never stop learning. As my twin sister (who’s a teacher) would say: ‘Every day is a learning day’.

I love the supportive dental community and the incredible network of talented dentists who are so willing to share their knowledge with younger dentists. I have been blessed with supportive mentors who have always guided me to reach my full potential.

Whether working in practice, hospital or within research or teaching, each job is like a cog in a wheel. Without one we cannot keep moving forward and it is this diversity of opportunities that I love.

Where do you work at the moment and what about it do you enjoy?

I am currently a foundation dentist at Eccleshill Dental Practice in Bradford. It has provided me with an excellent environment to launch my clinical dental career.

The team are so friendly and supportive and my supervisor is always there with helpful advice or even just a chat.

The lessons I’ve learned here will stand by me for years to come. I know I will still be ringing my mentor Karan up for advice throughout my career!

I enjoy the freedom of my training year to work on improving every day and to focus on getting better at every single treatment.

The most important thing I’ve learned is to care passionately for every single patient. If you are ways looking after your patients and putting their interests first you can’t go far wrong. From every surgery at the practice I always hear our dentists telling patients: ‘We’re here to look after you.’

What would you have done if dentistry did not happen?

I always had a soft spot for hairdressing. At one point I had big aspirations of following in my mother’s footsteps and becoming a hairdresser.

After completing my GCSEs and after many discussions weighing up the pros and cons, it was in fact her best friend (Damian, also a hairdresser) that encouraged me to go onto the next step and complete my A Levels ‘just in case’ the hairdressing didn’t work out.

It’s a decision that I’ll be forever grateful he convinced me to make!

What plans do you have for the future? 

To continue learning! I have a keen interest in orthodontics and may look into specialising.

For now I am focused on securing a dental core training post, back home in Northern Ireland. The hope is to focus more on writing for dental magazines and journals as it’s something I really enjoy.

I am looking forward to being back in Ireland after living in England for the last six years and I look forward to being near my family. I can’t wait to see what the next step holds. 

How do you unwind outside of dentistry?

Being outdoors is what brings me joy, especially as I write this during the COVID-19 lockdown! I have never been more appreciative of being able to step out of my front door and walk in nature.

I’m quite active, love walking, yoga and have a love/hate relationship with running!

Another pastime that really helps me relax is sitting in my favourite coffee shop and just watching the world go by. It is in these moments that I truly feel calm.

Have you got any advice for dental students?

Be yourself! Find what makes you tick; for me that was writing, but for you it could be research or clinical skills. Step outside your comfort zone, go for things that scare you a little. Always ask for help and offer to get involved.

In the world of dentistry it’s surprising just how many people want to help you go far.

Encourage your peers. It can be all-consuming to get competitive with colleagues. Don’t let that be the case, aim to lift each other up. There is more than enough space for everyone to succeed! I can assure you I have always felt 10 times better about friends’ achievements than my own.

Be careful with how you use social media. Whilst it can be an amazing resource, always remember it is a highlight reel as, for every perfectly built composite, there were hundreds more beforehand. Don’t feel pressured into portraying a social media presence to succeed. There are so many other ways to share your talents.

Lastly nurture your friendships, family and relationships, they make each day and each achievement worthwhile!

What are you most passionate about in dentistry?

At the moment it’s writing! Writing about anything, whether it’s a case report, an opinion piece or a research paper, I’m loving every opportunity that comes my way.

I was so fortunate to be mentored by David Westgarth at the British Dental Journal during my final year of university. As student editor of both BDJ Student and DentaltownUK, I was fortunate to have so many  opportunities to learn about this field of dentistry and I want to see where this path may lead.

Writing allows me to expand my knowledge, to network and to learn. This benefits my patients as it ensures I provide the best evidence-based care I can.

I’m a very reflective practitioner. If I haven’t completed something absolutely perfectly, I tend to feel like it is all wrong. So, I’m constantly trying ‘to be the best that I can be’ for my patients.

What keeps you awake at night

Actually, very little! Of course I worry, but after a busy day, I’m pretty tired and often out for the count!

I always try and wind down in the evenings. I try to keep scrolling to a minimum and I think that really helps.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

I’ve not been in the ‘real world’ of dentistry for very long. Yet, my experience so far is setting me up for a promising career that I look forward to experiencing.

However, this year I have recognised the importance of life beyond work. There is so much more to life than teeth!

Reach out and give back where you can. I just have to look at the network of people who’ve always supported me to know I want to do the same for others.

I always try to look for the simple pleasures in life maybe within my family or friends. It’s these memories and relationships that truly make everything worthwhile.


This article first appeared in Young Dentist magazine. Read more from Young Dentist magazine at magazine.youngdentist.co.uk.

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