International Women’s Day – what does it mean for women in dentistry?

International Women's Day – what does it mean to women in dentistry?We hear from three female clinicians about what it means to be in dentistry on International Women’s Day.

Around 60% of Mydentist’s clinicians are female, following the national trend of dentistry becoming a career choice for everyone with more undergraduate students than ever identifying as female.

Dr Christine Battison –  Mydentist clinical director for clinical development and attraction

What is an average week like for you?

No day is ever really the same. Being based at home I can spend many hours participating in meetings, a lot of which are now conducted over Teams.

If I am not at home then I may be attending face to face meetings, delivering training sessions or visiting clinicians in practice.

The work I do can be challenging trying to find new and better ways we can support our clinicians in their careers but there is a great deal of satisfaction knowing that what we decide to do can make a difference to the working lives and future careers of the dentists that choose to work with us.

One of the aspects I enjoy a lot is finding ways to support our young dentists and those who come from overseas. I love to see how their careers develop over time and how having the right support and resources in place can make a real difference to their successes.

As part of this I train some of our more experienced clinicians in how to be mentors and clinical supervisors for our overseas dentists. This also enhances their own careers as well as the satisfaction they get from helping someone else get their career off to a great start.

Everyone’s route into dentistry is different. What was your route into this role?

The first memory I have of wanting to be a dentist was when I did some work experience at my own dentist (I was probably about 15 years old!) I had the best time and from then on it was always going to be a place at dental school that I set my sights on.

After qualifying and working as an associate I applied for a position in the Community Dental Service where I could do further training in oral surgery and sedation. During this time, I became more involved in dental education, being an educational supervisor for foundation dentists and then a training programme director for dental foundation training. I completed a PGCert in clinical education and another in mentoring, coaching and clinical leadership

In 2018, I joined Mydentist. I loved my clinical dentistry and treating my patients throughout 18 years.

But it was time for a new challenge as a clinical director. I do sometimes miss the practice environment and working closely with your nurse and other team members as well as the relationships you build with patients.

However, being a clinical director has given me lots of new challenges and I now get my satisfaction from helping other clinicians fulfil their career aspirations.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in dentistry this International Women’s Day?

A long time ago, dentistry was a male occupation. But today there are just as many female dentists as males and just as many applying for dental school. Never have I felt as if I have had to prove myself in my career just because I am a woman and certainly throughout my career I have seen and been part of organisations where women hold very senior positions.

I am proud of the career I have had so far. I have no regrets about choosing dentistry or any of the decisions I have made along the way.

There are no limits for women in dentistry. Take your career where you want it to go and never let anyone tell you something is not possible.

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Dr Shivani Abrol Sharma – associate dentist, Mydentist Keighley

Everyone’s route into dentistry is different. What was your route into this role?

I started off wanting to do medicine but after various work experiences and shadowing a cosmetic dentist I quickly realised that I wanted to do dentistry. I went to the University of Leeds where I received my bachelor of dental surgery degree.

After this, I worked in the NHS, which helped me to get a solid foundation in general dentistry. In the meantime, I did various courses. This included a year-long course called Cosmetic Dental Seminars, Mini Smile Makeover, Bespoke Smile and Invisalign. From 2018 I started to gradually reduce my NHS and became fully private in 2021. I am now an Elite Apex, top 1% in Europe, Invisalign provider.

I am also currently working towards a post graduate diploma in clear aligner therapy and an MSc in restorative and aesthetic dentistry. You are always learning, and I’d say it takes hard work, teamwork and persistence to help achieve your goals.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in dentistry this International Women’s Day?

In a traditionally male-dominated profession, it means a lot to me to be a woman progressing in dentistry. Hopefully my pathway can empower other women to do the same.

Dr Mukul Dahake – associate dentist, Mydentist Burnley

What does your role involve and which practice do you work in?

I have been working in this practice for nine years now, focusing my skills mostly on dentistry. However, in recent years, I have taken up opportunities to venture into facial aesthetics.

Most days consist of the usual check-ups, denture work and fillings. But every so often I also get to put my newly acquired skills in facial aesthetics into practise with new clients approaching me more often as I am focusing more of my energy in advertising the new services I have to offer.

It can get quite busy during the day with lots of patients needing urgent treatment – including children and adults – which can cause staff to become overwhelmed with the high demand of appointments and fitting these in our already jam-packed schedule. Although things can get stressful at times, I appreciate the lovely team in Burnley that overcomes these challenges and obstacles that we face daily and make work life easier for each other.

I always look forward to seeing my lovely nurse, Jill, who has stuck with and always supported me since the start of my dental career at the Mydentist practice. All the staff members are like a family together.

Everyone’s route into dentistry is different and unique. What was your route into this role?

I qualified as a dentist in India and then moved to the UK and sat the ORE. I used to attend study groups where I met other dentists from different countries who were also preparing for the ORE exam whilst also having an eight-month-old baby and a four-year-old (my son and daughter) to take care of.

It was challenging. But attending the study groups helped as we motivated each other to work and keep a positive mindset in spite of the intensive studying.

After passing the exam I applied for a VTE position with IDH and got selected for an interview in Burnley. I was very lucky to get the job at Burnley and be trained under Dr Ruth Patefield. She is one of the best trainers I have ever worked/trained with as she inspires me to be better in my own work.

I will always be grateful for Dr Ruth Patefield acting as a strong female role model I had to guide me in my early stages of my dentistry career.

When was the moment in your life that you realised you wanted to start a career in dentistry?

I have always been passionate about working within the healthcare industry and feel a sense of satisfaction in the fact that I am able to relieve people from some of their pain as well as help them achieve a better quality of life through my work.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in dentistry this International Women’s Day?

I am very proud to say that I have always received appreciation from my patients. Luckily for me I have not experienced much bias or stigma during my work. I do think that some people do have their reservations and hesitations to be treated by a female dentist as this role was traditionally a male one.

I don’t have any hard feelings for them, and I would like to focus and cherish on the patients who like me for my work rather than make judgements based on my gender.

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