We caught up with Dental Consultant, Michael Bentley, to discuss his varied career path, how he came to fall in love with dentistry, and why it is never too late to learn new skills…
PP: Can you tell us a bit about how you got into the profession and what your career path has been like?
MB: Well, before I worked in dentistry I worked as a practice manager at an opticians, and this was a role that I really, really enjoyed. Then, one day I was made aware that Boots Dental Care were looking for a practice manager based in Birmingham, and it was something that really interested me.
I fancied a change and a new challenge, so I decided to apply for it, and I was given the job. It was quite a difficult start because we were launching as a brand-new practice, and we had absolutely no patients, so we really did have a lot of work to do. Despite working as a practice manager before, I hadn’t worked in the dental sector, so straight away I made sure I went on as many courses as I could to get up to speed.
This was hugely beneficial for both me and the practice, and we had a very successful five years there. We went from no patients to being a really busy practice, which I was very proud of.
Then, it was again time for a change and this time I was recommended for a job as a business manager at JM Dental Care, where I went on to run a mixed practice for 12 years and I absolutely loved it. I met some great people, and again the team there worked together to grow the practice.
I really wanted to continue growing my skillset, so I sat down and looked at what else I could do. From a management point of view, I had already done quite a lot in the profession, and I thought it would be a good time to train on the clinical side of things.
It was at this point that I became a patient co-ordinator, and I went back to school to qualify as a dental nurse. It was such a rewarding thing to do and added another string to my bow that could potentially open doors for me.
Then in 2012, part of my career moved in a different direction when I became a business consultant and since then I have been working very closely with Practice Plan from both a dental and a business perspective. I have helped a host of practices with all aspects of practice management, and this is a job that I have really, really enjoyed.
I absolutely love dentistry so to be able to pass over my knowledge and experience to others has been fantastic. In 2021, I launched my own Dental Consultancy and Practice Training business called New Beginnings, and alongside this I’ve been back in practice working as a patient experience co-ordinator. So, it’s safe to say I have had a mixed and varied career path!
PP: You speak about falling in love with dentistry. How and why did you fall in love with the profession?
MB: That is a great question and I say that because I didn’t grow up thinking I wanted to go into dentistry never mind thinking that I am going to fall in love with this profession. What I fell in love with the most was the people within the profession, as well as how much you can change a patient’s life.
I don’t do that from a clinical point of view, but as a practice manager and in other roles, I was involved in the patient experience and making that experience as good as it can possibly be. So that is what I love, the whole experience with the patients, but also everything that I have done over the last nine or so years with my consultancy work.
In practice I was working to help the patients, now I am sharing my experiences and expertise with practice managers, to help them improve the experience for their patients, so it has come full circle, and I now see myself as a bit of an ambassador for the dental profession.
PP: Through your varied career, what lessons have you learned and what advice would you give to other people in the dental profession?
MB: That’s a tough question because you are always learning, however, the main lesson I’ve learned is that having good relationships with your colleagues is really important, if not crucial to the success of your practice. As a practice manager, you need to have good relationships with your team and all your staff, however, it is especially important to have a good relationship with the dentist. If you have, then it will make life a whole lot easier.
And another key lesson for me, and this is something that is continuous, is to carry on learning. Certain people get to a point in their careers, in a lot of industries, where they think, ‘I don’t want to do any more training’, and for some people that is what they want.
However, by continuing to learn you can continue to grow and it will help you develop your knowledge of the industry, and it could lead to a brilliant new opportunity emerging for you. And that rolls in well to my final point on what advice I would give to others in dentistry.
People commonly think, ‘I’m too old to retrain and learn new things’, and that simply isn’t true, you’re never too old. If you have a passion to do something else in the industry, then don’t let age hold you back.
If you want to learn new things, it is never too late to do so, and by continuing to pick up new qualifications, you not only improve as an individual in that role, but you also grow your credibility which again, could lead to other opportunities.
Michael has more than 20 years of experience in the dental profession having become a practice manager in 2000. He has also been a treatment co-ordinator and is now a Dental and Business Consultant with his business, New Beginnings.