Advancing dental education

Scottish Dental Show keynote speaker Dr Christopher Orr on setting up his seminar business and what it means to be opening the 2017 Glasgow event

09 December, 2016 / indepth
 Bruce Oxley  

From the UK to the US and all the way to Kazakhstan, Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, Dr Christopher Orr has plenty of experience lecturing to big audiences at major dental events. And now, the past president of both the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD) and the Odontological Section of the Royal Society of Medicine, will be opening the 2017 Scottish Dental Show in May next year. He will be presenting two one-hour lectures at the event which is returning to Braehead Arena in Glasgow on 19 and 20 May.

Dr Orr runs a multidisciplinary clinic in central London and started his own education company, Advanced Dental Seminars, with his wife and fellow dentist Zeynep in 2003. It all started, he explained, when he was a young graduate giving presentations on clinical photography and adhesive dentistry. He said: “Some of the adhesive dentistry I was doing at that time was also quite different from what was ‘normal’ by other clinicians’ standards, so I started getting invitations to speak about it at conferences in faraway places.”

He explained that, as the clinical director for a group of practices with a focus on cosmetic dentistry earlier in his career, he was asked to run the in-house training course for new dentists. While he enjoyed the teaching aspect, the scope of the training was limited to the range of treatment the group provided. Dr Orr continued: “I felt that aesthetic dentistry encompassed a lot more, so Zeynep and I devised the year-long course to make comprehensive education available to anyone who wanted to come along.”

The year course premiered in 2003 and proved so successful that it was soon expanded. Dr Orr said: “The programme we announced that first year proved to be very popular and we were soon running multiple cohorts of delegates. From year one, it became obvious that we needed to build our own venue in order to provide a better quality hands-on experience for the delegates.

“It is still fun, but we never planned that things would get so big.”

Despite his experience presenting and lecturing, Dr Orr still remembers the nerves he felt at his first major dental lecture. He said: “The first ‘big’ thing I did in the UK was a single day lecture in 2003. This combined a lot of material from other presentations to make a day’s course – probably too much. It was a bit nerve-wracking to make sure we ran on time and got through all the material. But worse was having Zeynep sit in the audience as I knew she would tell me if I was not good enough. But having some of the audience members of that first lecture sign up to our year-long programme proves that I was not bad at all.”

And he believes that, as a GDP, his emphasis on practicality has stood him in good stead. He said: “I am a general dental practitioner so I know exactly what goes on in the everyday surgery environment, therefore it is not hard to give information that is relevant to daily dental practice in the UK. People who come to listen to you should leave with information that they can put back straight in to their daily practice.”

Role models

Dr Orr revealed that there are a number of people whom he believes have had a major influence on his career. He said: “The late Sverker Toreskog was the first person to make me realise that dentistry could be very different from what I was learning at the dental school at the time. He made me see that if I understood materials science and occlusion, then I could do some very adventurous things with adhesively-retained porcelain. I have developed these concepts over the last 20 years, and they form the basis of the presentation on onlays that I will give at the Scottish Dental Show.

“My other role models would have to be: Frank Spear, who has an incredible ability to make complex topics understandable without dumbing them down; Newton Fahl, because of his outstanding artistic skills and his ability to inspire other people to provide better dentistry for their patients; and Christian Coachman, for his never-ending energy and his creativity in combining digital technology to produce new and exciting ways to work.”

Scottish Dental Show

His presentations in Glasgow in May will mark Dr Orr’s first appearance at the Scottish Dental Show since its inception
in 2012 and he said he was looking forward to travelling up to Glasgow.

He said: “I’m excited to be speaking at the Scottish Dental Show – it’s always good to be able to reach a new audience. The show seems to be a very well-established meeting in the Scottish dental calendar and it is wonderful to be asked to open the meeting.”

Dr Orr’s first lecture, at 9am on Friday 19 May, is entitled: ‘Beyond smile design: planning the whole mouth for function and aesthetics’, while his second lecture, at 10.45am, will be: ‘Inlays, onlays and endocrowns – is it time to say goodbye to traditional posterior crown preparations?’ He explained that even though the two lectures are quite different, delegates will
be able to take plenty of things back to their practices.

He said: “The two presentations are on quite different topics. From the inlays presentation, I hope that they will come away with an understanding of some new ways of working, which can be implemented the next day in the practice. And from the treatment planning lecture, I hope that they will gain an understanding of the bigger picture of planning a mouth for aesthetics and function.”

And he believes that events such as the Scottish Dental Show are vital for the profession. He said: “Events such as the Scottish Dental Show are very important for the profession as it gives everyone an opportunity to get away from the practice for a day or two and hear about what’s new, both clinically from the speakers in the CPD programme and from the industry
in the exhibition hall.

“These events also create a platform for dentists to network with the others who are all doing similar work day in day out. Dentistry can be a lonely profession when you consider working in a small room surrounded by only your team and patients. So it is good to meet others and share information.”

Looking to the future

Dr Orr believes that there has been a worrying increase in stress among the profession and he hopes that his courses can help to inject a bit of fun back into some dentists’ careers. He said: “In the future, I hope that the profession can find a balance between protection of the public and the over-regulation we seem to be in the midst of… we spend too much time doing things just to cover our backs, and too little time helping our patients. I believe this causes the most of the stress and the disillusionment from the profession.

“We meet a lot of dentists every year who have lost the joy in their profession. We have been trying to put the fun and enjoyment back to their lives for the last 14 years with our courses and I hope that we can continue to provide inspiration and value for our colleagues for many years to come.”

And finally…

When asked if he hadn’t chosen dentistry, what did he think he would be doing now? He said: “If I could do anything, I’d go for airline pilot or celebrity chef. But if it has to be a job I could actually do, I probably would have ended up following my father into his accountancy practice. But I’m terrible with numbers so I don’t think that would have been a very good idea. At least in dentistry I only have to count up to eight!”

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