Dr Paula Mann BDS.MFDS.MFGDP featured in this months Dentistry magazine, sharing her journey from dentistry to aesthetic medicine.
Introducing aesthetic practitioner and trainer, Dr Paula Mann
Paula shares her journey in aesthetic medicine, from her beginnings as a dental surgeon and joining the multi-award-winning team at Clinetix, Glasgow, to becoming a Merz Innovation Partner and winning the Rising Star award 2019.
I absolutely love going to work in the morning and I know that is not something that everybody can say. Sometimes I can’t believe that 20 years have passed since I left university and started out my life as a dentist. Time flies, as they say, when you are enjoying yourself, and I really have.
Perhaps this is inspiring to some, and hopefully in particular to other dental surgeons who I believe are in an excellent position to experience the enjoyment and satisfaction that incorporating aesthetics can bring to both you and your patients.
The early days
After completing a degree in Dental Surgery at Glasgow University in 2000, I worked as a house officer in maxillofacial surgery, passing my MFDS RCPS exams to ensure I was making the correct steps in my post-graduate training.
After two years, I decided to focus on restorative dentistry in general practice and began work as an NHS dental associate. I sat further exams, this time the MFGDP RCPS, which I felt was more useful for progression in a practice setting.
To be suddenly under pressure in a busy NHS practice after the slower pace of vocational training was a very steep learning curve, and, of course, part of my learning came through my mistakes. As any young professional knows, some days are hard. But I took what I could from my bad days and tried to turn them into positives.
Being my own boss
I wanted more choice and freedom to do things my way, from the hours that I worked, to the materials that I used and the treatments I could offer my patients.
After eight years, one marriage, two dogs (very drooly boxers), twins (one of each) and a huge bank loan, I purchased my own private practice. With hard work, some tears and lots of support from my fantastic family and team, we went from strength to strength.
I had to quickly learn a whole new set of skills – staff management, business, marketing and accounts, to name just a few. I enjoyed being my own boss and the patients really noticed the difference in their care. However, I did not enjoy a lot of the administrative and compliance tasks that came with it. I quickly learned to delegate and hire support staff who not only did these jobs a lot better than I did but allowed me to regain a little balance in my home life.
It was at this time that I became interested in facial aesthetic treatments. I felt, and still do, that the skills that dental surgeons have, from communication, examination and treatment planning, to carrying out practical procedures, are a solid base from which to hone further complementary skills and techniques.
I had a cohort of established patients who were looking for maximum results.
I could see that being able to improve and balance, in particular the facial zones, would be extremely satisfying to myself and my patients when combined with dental rehabilitation.
The first step was a foundation course. I was nervous about offering my patients a completely new treatment. After carrying out thousands of dental procedures, I had settled into a comfort zone. I started slowly and carefully, not trying to make a profit, just trying to do it well. I took my time getting to know products and techniques and immediately noticed how much my patients wanted to attend for these treatments. It is lovely to treat patients who really want to be there!
At first, I ordered in products as I needed them. I could consult my patients, order by prescription from the pharmacy, and it was there in 24 hours for the treatment. I also kept a little product in stock for any unplanned changes. In the early days, I separated my aesthetic time from my dental time, starting just one morning a week. This meant I could focus on one discipline at a time and maintain flow in my thoughts. Over time this bothered me less and I was happy to mix up my clinical day, making the time in clinic varied and enjoyable.
Demand increased and I attended more courses and as many conferences as I could. But something surprising happened. The more I learned, the more evidence I gathered with respect to complications, the more fillers appeared on the market, the more apprehensive I became. I also had a couple of difficult patients and that led to a crisis of confidence.
I have spoken to many practitioners over the years who have similar stories. Often aesthetic practise can be isolating. Many practitioners work alone or with others without the same expertise. My advice would be to seek support from respected, successful, ethical practitioners. In my case, I felt that if I could ensure I was as knowledgeable and skilled as possible I would be doing the absolute best for my patients. I wanted to consolidate my existing knowledge and further invest in my own training.
I found this support in my friends Emma and Simon Ravichandran. We had all gone to university together and over the years they had established the renowned Clinetix Facial Rejuvenation Clinic and Aesthetic Training Academy in Glasgow. Spending time with knowledgeable, innovative and highly motivated practitioners reaffirmed my interest in aesthetics. I repeated all of my training from basic through to advance with their training academy. My resilience and confidence were restored. I had many new contacts and learning sources where I could continue my development. I have not looked back since.
Over the course of the next 10 years, my clinical work became more focused on non-surgical aesthetic treatments. My dental practice was growing and I was able to employ another dentist to free up some time. This allowed me to accept an opportunity to join the team one day a week with Clinetix. Being in a multidisciplinary clinic with an expert team opened my eyes to many more aspects of aesthetic medicine and I was able to offer my patients a much more holistic approach to ageing and facial rejuvenation.
Around the same time, I worked as a clinical teacher in Glasgow dental hospital and school giving me some experience in teaching. Therefore, when I was asked to join the faculty at the Aesthetic Training Academy where I myself had learned so much, I jumped at the chance.
At first, I was nervous, the academy has set very high standards, however, one of the best ways to learn is to teach! I thoroughly enjoy interacting with the delegates. I remember exactly how it feels to start on an aesthetic career and can support and mentor those on their journey.
Leaving dentistry behind
Life was now becoming a little too busy and I felt the time was right to sell the practice. In 2018 I took the plunge and moved solely into aesthetic medicine. It was the busiest and brilliantly challenging year yet. With the support of the team at Clinetix, I quickly increased clinical hours and with monthly teaching sessions at the aesthetic training academy, there was no looking back.
Interesting and exciting opportunities came my way and my presence within the aesthetic industry grew. I appeared on stage presenting and injecting in London and at home in Glasgow and attended conferences all over Europe – a complete change from my days extracting teeth!
Having used Merz products for many years, I was Introduced to the Merz Pharma education development team and was given the opportunity to work with this company as a Merz Innovation Partner (MIP). I had made an independent choice to use Merz products based on their science, ethics and clinician support and I was delighted to be part of their team.
Merz Innovation Partners (MIPs) support clinicians by teaching the science
and clinical techniques giving users confidence while encouraging natural and anatomically respectful results.
A big change has been moving Merz teaching to online webinars. The team worked really quickly creating fantastic slides and educational videos and along with the other MIPs all over the UK, we presented these all through the lockdown. I was surprised to find I was more nervous online that in front of a live audience, the worry of WiFi and my colleagues being so far away added extra stress, however, everyone embraced it and with the need for continued education and support, we are ready to do more in 2021.
At the end of a busy year, the icing on the cake was to be awarded the My Face My Body award of Rising Star 2019. The presentation was virtual, so there was no glamorous award ceremony to attend but it was amazing to receive an award in recognition of the work I had done to this point and it gave me the confidence to keep moving forward. Of course, these accolades are not just personal. Without the support of the dedicated team, it would just not be possible.
Currently, my days are busy and enjoyable. My time is split between the clinic and the Aesthetic Training Academy. After the last lockdown, it was great to get back to seeing patients and getting started again and I look forward to that again this year.
I tend to spend longer on discussing and planning than the treatment itself. It is time well spent, allowing the patient to make the right decision, understand their unique needs and appreciate the need for maintenance going forward. Being as prepared as possible helps prevent future problems and sleepless nights.
Aesthetics to me is patient-centred, natural, appropriate treatments. Not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate the fact that each patient has chosen to see me. No matter how simple a procedure may seem, I try to do it as well as possible. Knowing my patients really well, making them feel more confident while remaining true to themselves is so important. If I had to pick a favourite treatment, I would choose mid-face volume replacement using a combination of products at different layers to give a really natural, long-lasting result.
It is hard to imagine what I would do if I hadn’t started my working life in dentistry. It allowed me to enjoy my life in and out of work, offered experience in different environments and eventually to run my own private practice. Each step made sense and lead me to where I am today.
I am very happy. I do a job I love and have managed to create some work-life balance. I now have time to spend with my husband (same one), kids (now 13 years old) and my dog (just one drooly boxer). I am looking forward to the next 20 years, and I really do love going to work!
Top tips for a successful aesthetic journey
• Make a plan and find ways to get there. Don’t remain where you are unhappy or can’t be your best, make changes.
• Invest in training. Knowledge is power, to offer our patients the safest and most efficacious treatments lifelong learning is vital.
• Get your team on board. Involve them in training and the process. This will benefit you and your patients and add to the enjoyment
• Self-audit, self-assess and seek feedback. Clinical practice doesn’t always go to plan. If you are experiencing a repeat problem, find a solution or a way to do it better next time. You only get better by improving on your errors. No one is perfect – learn and move on.
• Be honest with yourself, your patients and others. Only work within your comfort zone, ask for help if needed, support colleagues where you can and pass on what you learn.
To register to Merz Aesthetics Clinical, Business-focus and Health & Wellbeing webinars go to merzwebinars.com
M-MA-UKI-1264 Date of Preparation February 2021