It’s who you know

News Published: 
25 April 2019

FGDP(UK) Dean, Dr Ian Mills, reflects on the value of networking and peer support as a member of the modern general dental profession.

Working as a dentist in primary care can be tough. I am sure those of you who work in general dental practice would agree, although most would acknowledge that the professional and personal rewards can be significant. In my opinion the key to success is to surround yourself with the right people: patients, staff and colleagues; although some might say, that’s easier said than done!  

The old adage that “you get the patients you deserve” may well have some truth in it. In my experience, our own approach and that of the dental team often profoundly influence our own patients’ attitudes and behaviours. A key to this is developing the patient-dentist relationship, where mutual trust and respect are vital aspects of a successful career in general dental practice. This is not the exclusive domain of the dentist, and the role of the whole dental team is crucial in maintaining the quality of care provided. Effective recruitment and training of staff is crucial, and I have always found recruitment to be the most important factor. “Recruit for attitude, train for skill” has served me well over the last 21 years as a practice owner and I am very fortunate to be part of a fantastic team.

It is often suggested that one of the challenges of working in general dental practice is the feeling of isolation. I have observed this with colleagues; although it is not something I have experienced myself. This is partly because of my good fortune to have met many inspirational colleagues who have provided me with support, mentorship and friendship throughout my career. Undoubtedly, my involvement with the Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK) has been absolutely key in this regard. 

I have been a member of FGDP(UK) for many years, but my Damascene moment was in 2006 when I embarked on the Diploma in Implant Dentistry. This experience was truly career changing in many respects. The acquisition of knowledge, understanding and skills was highly important but it was exposure to inspirational colleagues, which had the greatest impact on my career.  

Professional organisations, such as FGDP(UK), are able to offer a sense of peer support and development through training, networking and shared practice. This has become increasingly relevant with the additional pressures of working within general dental practice. As GDPs we need to thrive rather than simply survive; and to achieve this, we need to surround ourselves with the right people. I have managed to maintain my passion and enthusiasm for dentistry for over thirty years, and this is largely due to my involvement with the Faculty and their inspirational members. And with the move to the new College of General Dentistry this is a great time to get involved to shape and develop the future of our organisation.


Ian Mills is a general dental practitioner in a mixed NHS-and-private practice in North Devon. Read more of his posts at