This week, Prav and Payman welcome their old friend Jason Smithson to the show. Jason talks about his modest Yorkshire upbringing and lets us in on how he almost chose a very different career path.
Jason fills us in on how a lack of technical know-how almost stopped his lecturing career before it began, but didn’t stop him from becoming an early internet sensation.
“Just be yourself, nobody will criticise you for being yourself. Everybody’s got something to offer, offer what you feel is right…and you’ll always have an audience.” – Jason Smithson
In This Episode
01.27 – The early years
21.27 – Life down South and Cornwall Independent Practitioners Group
27.45 – Teaching on the global stage
42.46 – Social presence
51.45 – Travel and work-life balance
01.06.54 – Lowest moments
01.14.38 – Dealing with stage fright
01.22.47 – Groupies
01.25.31 – Jason’s advice for young dentists
About Jason Smithson
Former Harley Street dentist Jason Smitsson now practices in Cornwall. He is one the UK’s best recognised dental educators who has trained over 15,000 dentists across the world during his 15-year career.
He is widely considered to be among the industry’s most authoritative voices on cosmetic dentistry. He has authored a book on crowns and is a regular contributor to dental journals. Jason is also recognised as a pioneer in the use of dental operating microscopes for teaching direct resin dentistry.
In addition to being a dental practitioner and educator, Jason is a medico-legal expert witness.
Dr Smithson is an ‘In Demand’ presenter and is perhaps the most prolific in the UK. He is considered by his peers to be an authority on aesthetic dentistry and has presented to audiences on every continent over the past 10 years. He is a true innovator and pioneered the use of Dental Operating Microscope in teaching Direct Resin Artistry to other dentists in the UK; he is the author of numerous articles and a book on crowns in aesthetic dentistry.
Payman: Do you have people, sort of groupies, you know, people who are nervous to be in the same room as you? It must’ve happened. I remember it happening to me …
Jason Smithson: I hope not.
Payman: Back in the day.
Prav: I was your groupie once, Payman.
Jason Smithson: Once. He came to his senses.
Payman: And I handled him in the way that groupies are handled.
Intro Voice: This is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.
Payman: It gives me great pleasure to welcome Jason Smithson onto the podcast. Hi Jason.
Jason Smithson: Hi, how you doing?
Payman: Good. Good. I’ve known you for more than 10 years now, I think.
Jason Smithson: When we were in short trousers.
Payman: Yeah. Yeah, I think both of us were, both of us were.
Jason Smithson: Yeah.
Payman: But I think-
Jason Smithson: And had hair.
Payman: Yeah, both of us. And Prav. I think with a personality like you, a lot of people feel like they know the kind of person you are, but I think we’re all aware of the limitations of social media and so I think what we want to get out of this conversation is sort of a more in depth, long form sort of discussion of the person behind the personality.
Jason Smithson: Looks and all.
Payman: Yeah. So just give us the quick rundown. How did you grow up, your parents, school, that sort of thing.
Jason Smithson: I was probably quite unusual for a dentist. I was brought up in quite a modest background, not poor background, but quite a modest background in a mining village in a place called South Yorkshire in, well, the 1970s and 1980s, a place called Doncaster, not very exotic, mainly known for the railway station which you pass through or the motorway interchange as you rapidly pass through trying to get away from it. But, yeah, it was at that time a mining village. My parents were both married obviously, and I have a younger sister, Emma. My parents were just regular, fairly working class people. My dad worked in a factory doing a relatively basic job and my mom, my mom’s quite personable and my mom was the meet and greet girl at Sainsbury’s. So she kind of stood on the front door and said hello to people and helped old people with their shopping and stuff like that.
Jason Smithson: My generation, I come from quite a big family, in terms of cousins. I have at last count, 20 odd cousins and everybody in my family, immediate family, aunts, uncles, cousins, all live within perhaps a five mile radius. So quite a close family, quite close knit background.
Jason Smithson: My parents actually both left school at 15. Neither of them has O Levels, and obviously no A Levels or university education. But I was quite fortunate to be really strongly mentored by my parents at a really early age in so much that my mother had me when she was 21, but she kind of, I almost felt like the chosen one with my mother. She spent literally so much time with me. When I was preschool, she spent literally every hour of the day with me and I was fortunate in being able to go to school at five being able to read and write, which put me at a significant advantage. She also spent a lot of time drawing and a lot of time making things. So I’m really, really grateful to my parents for that.
Jason Smithson: My dad used to work, frankly, ridiculously hard in quite a hard job, but I always remember him coming home and, when I was younger, always having time to play things like Lego with me. As I got older, I got interested in Airfix or actually Tamiya was the brand of model tanks. And he always used to spend time doing that with me. And we used to make like diorama’s of little tank battles and stuff like that. And then when I was older still, I was, I had a massive interest in cycling, road cycling, believe it or not, given my build now, I was quite a serious road cyclist, but yeah, my dad used to spend literally hours taking me to A roads and motorways where we used to tram up and down and do 10 mile time trials for that. So my parents really invested a lot of time in my childhood, and I’m really grateful for that.
Jason Smithson: In terms of schools, my parents, and not … My grandparents are quite religious, but my parents are not especially religious, but they fought quite hard to get me into the local kind of Church of England school. So from the ages of 5 to 11, I was educated, it’s a state school, but it had a very strong church background. So I was educated at a Church of England school, which was in a really a housing estate just outside a pit village. And then when I was 11, I went to the local comprehensive school, which was right in the centre of the pit village, and oddly in the middle of the miner’s strike, which you may remember in the early ’80s. So that was quite a strange environment to be in, in the ’80s. A lot of my friends were children of miners, so that had a significant impact on my life. And then-
Payman: Were you a staunch anti-Thatcherite?
Jason Smithson: Do you know what? I’m not and I really should be. I’m not that political, if I’m very honest. It has to be said, I mean, Margaret Thatcher and what she stood for really, really destroyed that community. Not only the miners, the policies and what happened there actually destroyed … I had friends who had businesses, friends’ fathers who had businesses, you know, my uncle’s business was he used to sell books, he had a book shop, and his business was destroyed as a result of the miner strike, which sounds really odd, but in fact, the miners’ wives used to go and buy books from him. Well, if you’ve been on strike for two years and you haven’t got enough money to feed your children, the last thing you’re going to do is go and buy a book. So his business folded as a result of that. I had lots of friends’ fathers who were in other businesses, went under because of that. So, you know, it was, it was a real negative for that area. And even now what was a very vibrant area with people working up to me being about 11 or 12 and quite a strong community, is still destroyed some, what, 35 years, 40 years later.
Payman: Never fully recovered.
Jason Smithson: It’s just absolutely destroyed. And there’s no way that it’s ever coming back. So I think they have to accept the blame for that, but it doesn’t make me an anti-Thatcherite, oddly enough.
Payman: She turned out to be right on some of the things, didn’t she?
Jason Smithson: On some other things, yeah. Yeah. So I take a fairly balanced view on that, but yeah, then I went to sixth form in the same school, which was … The pass rate for GCSE was quite low, as you can imagine. And the sixth form wasn’t huge, it was about 20 people.
Payman: Were you a swotty kid, Jason?
Jason Smithson: Was I swotty?
Payman: Were you top of the class?
Jason Smithson: Well, funnily enough, my mum and my wife were talking about this in the February half term just gone. And I actually didn’t want to be a dentist when I started off, I had absolutely no interest in being a dentist, and I want to be a vet. I was kind of inspired by the, again, a Yorkshire thing, but by the James Harriet thing, and my plan was to be a horse vet or a large animal vet. And I was a swotty kid, up to being about 15/16. I was mega swotty. And in the lower sixth, I was pretty swotty. And at that time you had to get four As at A Level to get in to do veterinary science, and my predicted grades, I did five A Levels at that time, plus general studies. So my predicted grades were six As.
Payman: Whoa. Wow.
Jason Smithson: So I applied for veterinary college and got offers, one of which I accepted for Nottingham. And then in upper sixth, I discovered girls. And I was quite a late developer. So lots of guys were hanging around with girls at 15/16, and it took me until I was 17 kicking on to 18, and then I kind of tried to make up for it a bit and I spent all the time we had, you were probably much the same. You finished school at, I think, I don’t recall, I think it was something like March and then we had until June to revise for our A Levels, something like that, and you took the time off and you were supposed to go home. I actually came down to Cornwall and camped on the beach. Yeah. Came and sat on the beach surfing, chasing girls, and I shouldn’t say this but smoking pot.
Payman: So were you living in Cornwall at the time or were you living in Yorkshire?
Jason Smithson: No, I was living in Yorkshire. I …
Jason Smithson: Part took the train down and part hitchhiked down and part walked down and a bunch of friends, about four of us came down here, and we just arsed around really. And then I came back to Yorkshire, very cocky, extremely cocky, sat my A Levels and promptly failed and ended up with … What did I get? I don’t recall. I think I got an A in general studies, I remember that, and then I got an A, I think I got an A, a B, and a … A, a B and two Cs or something like that in the end-
Payman: And then what?
Jason Smithson: Which was nowhere close to getting accepted.
Payman: Then went to dentistry with those grades? Or did you retake?
Jason Smithson: No. So I went home, I went home to my father, with the … My dad’s very relaxed. My parents are slightly hippie-ish, but I went … Now, I can remember going home to my dad with a paper and in a state of shock, you know, how dare they give me these low grades? And my dad said, “Well, what are you going to do?” And I said, “Well, I thought, I thought I might spend a bit of time travelling and then I’ll go back and retake them.” And he said, “I don’t think so. I think you better go and have a look in …” You might remember at the time they had clearing in The Times newspaper.
Payman: Yeah. Yeah.
Jason Smithson: Here for all the no hopers, of which I was one. And you had to kind of scan through The Times and find a reasonable course to go on. And they were all kind of biomedical sciences and stuff like that. And then at the bottom was the Royal London Hospital, and it was the London Hospital at that time, dentistry. And I thought, “Oh, I could probably, I could probably do …” I was clueless. I had absolutely no idea. I thought I’ll do that. So I applied to the London and got in. The London had quite a smart admissions policy at that time because what they did was they made offers for half of their places. So they got the kind of smart, smart kids. And then the other half of their places were in clearing, which sounds bad but what they did is they mopped up all the smart kids who were … Who screwed up their A Levels for whatever reason.
Jason Smithson: So actually, well, I’m still in contact with quite a few of them now. The people who’ve actually done quite well were the misfits who failed their A Levels because you’re just too young at the time, really 18 is …
Jason Smithson: I actually think, if I’m honest, I actually think that dentistry should be a postgraduate degree, because I just think you’re just too young at 18 to have the level of responsibility required. And I absolutely definitely did not have the level of responsibility required at 18. And I …
Payman: Did the party go on into first year and second year, did you knuckle down and …
Jason Smithson: Yeah, it did. It went on in my first year. Yeah. Some of my friends might tell you my first year I was known for having gone to the toga and tequila party for literally half an hour and spending the rest of the evening taped face down on a gurney in A&E throwing up. And, yeah, it was bad. I have pass-fail vivas for first BDS, anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, absolutely clueless, didn’t know anything, just about got through it, well, did get through on pass-fail vivas. And I had pass-fail vivas for about half of the topics in the second BDS. So I was just really not interested. And then when I got to be about 20/21 and we actually went on clinic, I just grew up a bit. And then I went back into being a swot a bit. So, yeah. So it’s a bit of an odd journey, really.
Prav: Jason, just going back to your upbringing, a lot of what you’ve said there resonates with myself. So my dad worked in a factory.
Jason Smithson: Yep.
Prav: He then spent a good part of his life driving taxis, and then …
Jason Smithson: Yep.
Prav: Typically owned a corner shop, as you do.
Jason Smithson: Yeah.
Prav: And I think the overriding theme for me, and I don’t know if it was the same for you, was for me to do better, and the reason why they were grafting so hard, and as you said, your dad worked incredibly long hours, was all driven towards basically a better future for us.
Jason Smithson: For the kids. Yeah.
Prav: And the overriding message for me when I was growing up was I’m doing what I do today so you don’t have to. Were there any themes or anything like that when you were growing up in terms of your future or …
Jason Smithson: I don’t think it’s that strong, but then, and actually even now, my parents are in their 70s now, their primary motivation is for me and my sister still.
Jason Smithson: Even though, I mean, my sister’s done very, very well. My sister was in finance and recruitment. She’s done very well, indeed, frankly, better than I have, financially anyway. And even though my sister and I are both, let’s say very independent, my parents still are motivated by what is best for us. They never really used a stick or anything, they never, not physically, but …
Jason Smithson: A mental stick with us, but they were always motivated to do the best. To be fair, they knew from quite an early age I was reasonably bright. I mean, I was, I mean, as I said right at the beginning, I went to school being able to read and write. So I was then put in a school, a good school, but with kids who couldn’t read and write, and that made me a little bit disruptive as a five and six year old, because everybody’s learning to read and write and you’re bored. And so I had a … I had kind of extra lessons at that time, which worked, with like a trainee teacher, I suppose. My parents were very supportive of that. So I got a lot of good breaks as a result of my parents. Let’s say that.
Prav: And what was it like growing up with 20 plus cousins? Were you in and out of each other’s houses? And …
Jason Smithson: Yeah, we were. My mom has, well, five brothers and sisters and my dad has one brother and they all have quite large families. And my cousin, and my cousins, male cousins, there’s a group of us, about five or six of us all about the same age. And I’m the youngest of them, but we kind of used to hang out together. So it started out from being probably about 10.11, we’d get on they were BMX bikes at that time, you know, ooh, I can’t remember the name of that gold rally BMX.
Prav: Raleigh Burner, was it a Raleigh Burner or a gold …
Jason Smithson: Actually, I think it was a bit cooler than that.
Prav: Was it cooler than that?
Jason Smithson: It might have been a Super Burner or something like that. But anyway, I used to get on that and ride to my cousins. My cousin lived on the same road, two of them, and I used to ride over there. It was about a mile, mile and a half over some fields. And then we used to play together as 11, 12 year old kids, BMXs, bows and arrows, air rifles at that time. Not that I’d want my children doing that kind of thing now. But there we go. And then, as we got older-
Payman: Jason, was moving to Cornwall with your kids, was that, did you want to give that sort of experience to your kids that you had yourself?
Jason Smithson: The move to Cornwall was accidental. My wife is actually Cornish, but we weren’t married at that …
Payman: Oh, is she?
Jason Smithson: We weren’t married at that time. We lived in London and it was … Moving to Cornwall was almost an accident because what happened is I did oral surgery for quite a while in hospital, practise at Barts and the Royal London and some outlying, excuse me, outlying hospitals at Bedford and places like that. And I was going to do oral surgery and then I decided not to do oral surgery. And then I realised I timed it really badly because I was the first year that had to do VT. You might remember this, Payman.
Prav: Me too.
Jason Smithson: Yeah, so I-
Prav: Yeah, me too. Yes.
Jason Smithson: So I actually resigned my oral surgery post with a view to going into practise. And somebody had said to me, “Well, where’s your VT number?” FD number nowadays.
Jason Smithson: And I said, “Well, I haven’t got one.” And they said, “Oh, well, actually you’ve got to go and do VT.” And then, being a little bit of an arrogant, mid twenties, I thought, “Well, you know, I’m quite bright and I’ve done three years of oral surgery, everybody will want me.” And actually, everybody didn’t want me. So I was applying to do VT quite late in the day, June, July, when everybody else had found their post. So there weren’t that many posts left, certainly around London and of the posts close to London I applied to, nobody was … It was kind of, “I’ll give you a call.” They didn’t want … I was ringing them up saying, you know, to a general practitioner, saying, “Listen, I’ve got three years oral surgery experience. I could come into your practise and do loads of oral surgery.” You can imagine how attractive that is for somebody who’s running a fairly stable practise. You know, having the, having some wildcard in there who’s going to be taking loads of people’s teeth out and people in the waiting room with swollen faces and such, it’s not very attractive.
Jason Smithson: So I had real trouble getting a VT job and it worked out that the only real VT jobs around were in Cornwall, South Wales and up in Northern Scotland. So I’d been to Cornwall on family holidays and my wife was … My wife is kind of Cornish, she’s born in Cornwall and spent the formative years of her life in Cornwall, but mainly she’s lived in, around London, but I felt I had a kind of link to Cornwall so I came down there. That was why. There was no design to it at all.
Payman: It wasn’t about the good life?
Jason Smithson: Absolutely not. It was the fact that I couldn’t get a job anywhere else because I’d left it too late.
Payman: But it became about that, I guess, right? I mean, you decided to stay.
Jason Smithson: Sorry?
Payman: It became about that because you’ve decided to stay there.
Jason Smithson: Absolutely. I mean, it worked out very well because there’s quite a strong private practise ethos in Cornwall. In fact, I think I’m right in saying, although Gloucester may disagree, that the Cornwall Independent Practitioners Group was one of the first in the country, if not the first.
Jason Smithson: So there’s that. And also because it’s quite spread out and there aren’t that many dentists, there’s not that much competition in comparison to say London or Manchester or Leeds, and also there’s, well, there is now but there wasn’t at that point, a dental school. So most of the switched on practitioners, you wouldn’t refer, for example, endo or implants or difficult oral surgery to the local dental hospital because there wasn’t one.
Jason Smithson: So there were a lot of fairly, well, very competent older guys around here who were actually really, really good in terms of mentoring and, and in terms of getting you out of trouble with things like wisdom tooth extractions, difficult molar endos, stuff like that. So I actually gained a ridiculous amount of experience just from being down here, just because of the remoteness of it.
Jason Smithson: The …
Payman: That independent group …
Jason Smithson: Yes.
Payman: I think the first time we met, you were heading that up.
Jason Smithson: Yeah, by default.
Payman: … that up.
Jason Smithson: Yeah, by default.
Payman: It’s a bit strange, because even with this BAPD thing that you’ve done, I always think of you as sort of a rebel loner kind of cat, like not the type who likes to sit on-
Jason Smithson: I’m not a big committee guy, I have to be honest.
Payman: But you were, you were ahead of that organisation. And you were head of this organisation. So there must be sometimes.
Jason Smithson: [crosstalk] head of the BAPD, it’s a committee, but …
Payman: Oh fair enough.
Jason Smithson: Yeah, I was chairman of the Cornwall Independent Practitioners Group for about five or six years. And yeah, I [crosstalk 00:00:38].
Payman: You used to bring six speakers from all over the world. Like Newton [Fall] and all of those used to go to Cornwall.
Jason Smithson: It was a really really good concept because, as you remember at that time, it was a time of like [Whack] and things like that. There was a lot of big stuff going on in London. Really good stuff. But the trouble is, London for us is five or six hours away. So everybody would have to close their practise, come down to London, do the one day course, and then come back. So you lose between two and three days. So what we decided, well not we, prior to me, they decided to kind of club together, pay a membership fee monthly, and get these people down. And I managed myself to get, I think we met at the Newton Fall course didn’t we? But people like Newton Fall, we got to John [Canker 00:01:23], quite a few pretty serious guys. Buchanan, the endo guy. Yeah. Quite a lot of them are not that well known now because that time’s gone.
Payman: When did you start getting into minimally invasive dentistry? And sort of the kind of work that you’re known for now? It was around the time that we met, I remember.
Jason Smithson: It was, but actually to be quite honest, I spent quite a lot of the early parts of my career doing maximally invasive dentistry. So I was very much of the … I went to the [Rosential] course fairly early on and I saw that. And I was pretty inspired by that because I liked the aesthetic. So I was doing, I think Tiff probably touched on this as well. I was doing in my … How old would I be? Mid-thirties, maybe quite a lot of [inaudible] veneers. A lot.
Payman: Yeah me too.
Jason Smithson: Like two or three cases a week of 10 years, that was pretty normal. If we didn’t have a veneer case on, I was pretty disappointed. And actually it gets slated now for it, because it suggests people are financially motivated. My impetus to do that work wasn’t really the money of it, although we did quite well financially. It was actually, I actually felt at that time I was transforming people’s lives. As it turns out-
Payman: That’s what it was to be at the cutting edge of cosmetic dentistry at the time.
Jason Smithson: Yeah.
Payman: That’s what it was.
Jason Smithson: You had people with misaligned teeth, dark teeth, and you were kind of chopping them down, hacking them up, and putting veneers on. And two weeks later they look great. Three years later they didn’t look great, that’s a whole different story. But I think probably when I started to get to my late thirties, I started to think, when they started to fall off quite a lot, and people ended up needing more endos. And I was just looking at it. And I’d been on the [Panini] course. And I just thought, “You know what? Rather than just doing a single central with composite, I wonder if we can do composite veneers?” Which was one of the … I mean, when we first met that’s what I’d just started doing. Hadn’t I? Do you remember?
Jason Smithson: Years ago. And I had some cases that I showed you, I remember, which I was really impressed with. And looking back they were not very special, but they seemed good to me at the time.
Payman: Your photography was always very strong. Did you do a early photography course in Cornwall or something?
Jason Smithson: Absolutely not. I mean, as we were talking about earlier, I’m technologically quite inept, and I would count photography as a technology really. So I have a reasonable idea of how to use a camera, but my method of getting a good shot is really just take a lot of pictures. And I pick the best one. Very rarely first time out the camera.
Prav: So Jason, going from the point where you’ve been on all these various courses, you’ve been doing a lot of invasive cosmetic dentistry and then shifted over towards this thinking, “Oh, rather than doing one, maybe we can do a load.”
Jason Smithson: Yep.
Prav: How did you transition from that point to being known as one of the world’s, if not the world’s best, at the technique that you teach today? What was that transition? And in terms of just going from someone who practises dentistry, who then teaches it on a global stage?
Jason Smithson: So I think Payman’s heard this before, but I’ll tell you. I work in a practise, or worked with a guy called Jeremy Harris, who was a very strong early mentor for me. But his thing is really fixed pros and implants. Very good at amalgam carving as well. Indeed, I still work with him, and he still works at the practise a day a week. Now he’s nearly retired, but there we go. But he’s not interested by his own admission. He could do good composites, but it’s not really a massive interest. So I wanted to get some feedback on it. So I started to post my cases, which were mainly at that point posterior composites, which were quite unusual at the time. Maybe what, Payman, would it be 12, 13 years ago? In so much as I used to use a lot of tint in the fissures and stuff like that.
Jason Smithson: So they were quite, what might be called now, hyper realistic. So I posted them on a website, which is still around, called Dentaltown. Really just for feedback, it wasn’t with any ambition to do anything other than to communicate with other dentists who were into composite resin. And it got mixed feedback, it’s a fairly American dominated website. And some people were saying, “Oh, why are you putting all that ugly [inaudible] into your teeth? Into your restorations?” And some people were saying, “Wow, that’s really cool.” As it turned out, again, they were so-so. But they were perhaps quite revolutionary for the time. I wasn’t the first to do it, but one of.
Jason Smithson: And after a while a guy called Lincoln Harris, who is still a good friend of mine. In fact, I had dinner with him in Sydney about three months ago. Good guy, runs a group called Ripe on Facebook. He called me and he said, “Do you teach?” And I said, “No. And I don’t have many interested teaching,” because at that time, and to some degree now, I’m quite shy in some environments. And at that point I would be quite nervous to give a presentation in a practise meeting. Like if I was asked to give a short presentation in a practise meeting I’d be up all night with diarrhoea at that point. So it was a definite no-no for me. So I listened to him, and he said, “Well, we have this business model. It’s called Aesthetics in the Alpine. I live in Australia. My wife is Canadian. We fly to Canada to Whistler once a year. And we have a dental meeting that’s mainly geared up to skiing. And we have three speakers, one kind of world known expert.”
Jason Smithson: The year I did it, it was actually a guy called Gary DeWood who I’m really good friends with now who’s fairly prominent in the Spear Institute, really decent guy. There is a guy who’s kind of regionally/nationally known, was a Canadian implantologist [inaudible 00:31:10]. I don’t recall his name. And we have a guy or girl who’s never lectured before. And all you’ve got to do is to come over. We’ll pay for your flight, economy class flight. We’ll pay for your hotel for a week. We’ll pay for a ski pass. And all you’ve got to do is give a one hour lecture. And my response to that was, “Thank you very much. No thanks. I’m not interested.” Because I had several barriers. The first barrier is I didn’t really like public speaking at all. I was quite shy. My the second barrier was I have absolutely no IT skills and that hasn’t changed much.
Jason Smithson: So I had a Dell computer with two keys missing. And I had absolutely no PowerPoint. So I said, “Thanks very much,” put the phone down. And he said, “Well, get back to me if you change your mind.” And so my wife, who was into skiing, she said to me, “Who was that?” And I said, “Well, it’s this guy from Australia,” and I just explained the situation to her. And then, “Anyway, I’m going to go make myself a cup of tea now. Thanks.” And she said, “What? You ring him straight back. This guy has just offered you a free holiday.” We didn’t have kids at the … Well, actually we did have one child at the time. “He’s just offered a free holiday for you to speak for 60 minutes and you’re saying no?” And I said, “Yeah, I don’t want to do it.” My wife brow beat me over the evening into doing it. We’re all married, so you know how that works. Once she made that decision that was that.
Jason Smithson: So I rang Linc the next morning. And I said, “Look, I’ve had a chat with my wife and I’ve had to change of heart, and I’m going to do it.” He said, “Okay, fine.” So we agreed to do it. Luckily I had about nine months of notice. So my next challenge was I have no technical ability and no computer. So luckily Stewart, who has been my best friends since I was 11, teaches computer science as a teacher. And I called him and I said, “What do I do?” And he said, “Don’t worry. Just send me a disc.” We were on discs at that time. “Just send me a disc with everything you need to go on a PowerPoint, and I’ll make it for you. I’ll make you a really simple five four PowerPoint. And you can advance it with one button. Don’t press any other buttons and you’ll be fine. Just talk about the slides.”
Jason Smithson: I didn’t even know how to put anything on a disc. I couldn’t even copy paste at that time, that’s how bad I was. So you’re going to laugh at this. What I did was my wife put all my pictures on a disc. All right? And she labelled them figure one, figure two, figure three. And I got a 100 page flip top reporters pad. And on page one I wrote, “Slide one.” And then I drew where I wanted the picture to be. I wrote the reference underneath it. And I wrote the title of the slide. And I put the floppy disc and the reporters pad … Younger dentists are going to be absolutely laughing at this. And I put that in a bubble wrap bag and sent that to Stewart who lives in London. And he called me a day later and said, “What is this?” And he made me a PowerPoint, which I still have. I look at it, it kind of grounds me when I look at it, with my pictures on. And the titles.
Jason Smithson: And that actually, that lecture has changed quite a lot. But the backbone of that lecture is still the backbone of my posterior composite lecture. And that was my first lecture. That’s how I did it. And I went and I had no clue what I was doing. I had at that point, no public speaking training. And I kind of bumbled my way through it. And it kind of worked.
Payman: Someone else asked you to speak again from that? [Inaudible 00:12:06]?
Jason Smithson: What, to use the same PowerPoint?
Payman: Well, did it go down well?
Jason Smithson: Well, interestingly enough, or not, another friend of mine who’s become a really good friend, a guy called Phil [inaudible 00:12:21], is a dentist in Connecticut. And he was quite prominent on Dentaltown at that time. And he said, “Listen, I hear you’re lecturing for Linc.” And I said, “Well, yeah.” And he said, “So, I don’t like skiing.” He does now. But at that point, “I don’t like skiing. What I like to do is to drink and gamble,” which he still does. “And I live in Connecticut and we have this casino near us called the Mohegan Sun.” I don’t know if you’ve ever been there Payman.
Jason Smithson: I’m not really into casinos, but it’s quite a nice casino. It’s owned by an American Indian family. And it’s all done in kind of tiffany glass. It’s really quite nicely done actually, quite tasteful. Anyway. “What I want you to do is to come to the Mohegan Sun and give me this lecture. And also do a hands on.” And I’m thinking, “Oh my God, I’ve now got to make this lecture a bit longer. And I’ve now got to do a hands on.” So the next guy in my practise, the following day, happened to be a guy called Rich Newman, who is still actually the rep for GC. And I said to him, “Do you know anybody in America who could give me some stuff to do that’s hands on?” And he said, “Actually no. But I’ll give you the number of Chris, Chris Brown, who’s my boss. And I’ll see if he can help you out.” They were very kind. And they ended up fixing me up with GC, and we ended up doing the hands on with GC in America.
Jason Smithson: And actually Phil, who was the organiser, is a very smart, slick case, a really good people person. And he’s a really good business guy. So he managed to fill, and this will surprise you nowadays, he’d fill 40 places in an hour.
Jason Smithson: On Dentaltown. That’s my-
Payman: Dentaltown was on fire back then.
Jason Smithson: It was on fire, yeah. So he-
Payman: There was a thread called the Chase and Smithson thread, Prav.
Payman: It was called the Jason Smithson appreciation thread or something like that.
Jason Smithson: Something like that.
Payman: And it was the biggest thread on Dentaltown for like two years running continuously.
Jason Smithson: Something like that. Yeah. So then we did that. We kind of split the profit after we’d taken money off for what we drank away, and was financially quite good. So I thought, “Oh, this is okay.” So yeah, then a little, not too long after that I met you.
Payman: Yeah, that’s right.
Jason Smithson: That was when it was … I had that first, if you remember, you had a rep I think.
Payman: For about two months.
Jason Smithson: Yeah, Hawkeye, I forgot what … It doesn’t narrow it down much in this room. And he came down to Cornwall, and I was like, “I’m a really good lecturer. I lecture in America and everything.” And just completely blanked it. And, “Would you be interested in sponsoring me in the UK?” Basically I didn’t have a sponsor in the UK. And he was like-
Payman: We’d just started with Cosmodent that year. And we brought Buddy over to lecture at Whack.
Jason Smithson: I remember.
Payman: And I said, “You come over.” And you were like one of these young kids. But you weren’t one of those young kids. You were a bit older.
Jason Smithson: I wasn’t that old. I was-
Payman: I reckon you were like 32.
Jason Smithson: Yes, something like that.
Payman: People much younger these days.
Jason Smithson: They do. Yeah. So I-
Payman: Which we’ll get onto I’m sure.
Jason Smithson: The first time I helped out on Buddy’s course, I can remember doing that. And then the second year, I think it was Corky did a class, didn’t he?
Payman: That’s right.
Jason Smithson: And I got an hour in a back room in a broom cupboard somewhere. But my Mike O’Malley, and people who are listening probably don’t know, he’s one of the owners of Cosmodent, came and listened to it. And Mike will say this now, I think he quite liked it, because certainly in the US at that time, and to some degree in the UK, all the lectures were really hugely inspirational, and, “This is what you can do at the highest level.” And this was more of a worker day. This is how you could knock it out in your practise kind of lecture, which was completely alien to that kind of thing. And Mike really picked up on that.
Payman: He’s a smart guy, Mike.
Jason Smithson: He’s a very smart guy and a very good friend of mine. And then that kind of picked up with the Cosmodent stuff in the US. Yeah, so that was that.
Payman: Jason, who must get a lot of people-
Jason Smithson: And we went for dinner with him didn’t we?
Payman: Yeah yeah.
Jason Smithson: At the River Cafe, didn’t we? I remember it.
Payman: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.
Jason Smithson: Yeah.
Payman: I mean the number of people you’ve trained over the years, it must have gone into the many thousands by now.
Jason Smithson: I think it’s about 15,000 if you do the maths.
Payman: Yeah. So do you have now people contacting you all the time trying to get help for this, that, or the other thing?
Jason Smithson: Yes. Yeah. In fact I-
Payman: It must take a lot of your time.
Jason Smithson: It takes an enormous amount of time, but again, about five years ago, I read Ronald Reagan’s autobiography. It’s quite interesting. And when he was president of the US, not that I’m anywhere near that, but he always took the time to personally reply to everybody who wrote him a letter. And I thought, “Do you know what? That’s a really amazing thing to do.” So people have always said to me, because I get about roughly between six and 10 emails/Facebook messages/Instagram messages a day saying, “I’ve got this case. How do I handle this?” And people have said to me, “Why don’t you just get your PA to handle it or just fob them off or something like that?” And I think, “Do you know what?” I think that’s kind of a cop out. And I think that’s kind of poor behaviour as a human being.
Jason Smithson: So I always, if anybody sends me a message after any of my courses, or if anybody hasn’t been on any of my courses and still sends me a message, I always try and take the time to at least answer them or point them in the direction of a paper that might answer their question. Or if I can’t answer the question, I’ll say, “Well, I can’t answer that, but here’s somebody who might be able to.” Because I just think we owe that to people. I just think it’s really rude just to say-
Payman: No for sure. For sure.
Jason Smithson: And I mentor a few people, probably about, young dentists, let’s say, what? Probably about six on a regular basis. We speak once a week. And probably another six where I speak to them once a month.
Payman: Jason, you kind of made your reputation on social media. Dentaltown at the end of the day was the early social media-
Jason Smithson: It was social media. And a bit of Facebook.
Payman: Facebook transformed, globally became someone super important. Because of the photography I think. I mean, at the end of the day, and the dentistry, but what I’m saying is that dentistry works because of photos, and it resonates on these platforms because of photos. Did you not want to then move into the Instagram?
Jason Smithson: I’m not sure Instagram is that good at … See, we have this kind of, “Oh, he’s an Instagram dentist. He’s a Facebook dentist.” And actually I use both platforms. I’m not convinced that Instagram is a very good teaching platform, because of the kind of environment it is. Instagram, rightly or wrongly, is quite a positive platform. So it doesn’t encourage critical discussion, let’s say that, so-
Payman: Or long form discussion. It’s also short.
Jason Smithson: Sorry?
Payman: It’s very short. Isn’t it? Very short.
Jason Smithson: Yeah. My kids, certainly my 14 year old has … Well, she’s very into horses and she has I think, at last count, 10,000 followers on Instagram.
Payman: Well done.
Jason Smithson: Yeah. Maybe more. And she would consider herself to be an influencer on Instagram, I think, or that’s her aim. And I think Instagram has some uses. I think it’s useful for your profile, to get out there. And it has a use to promote either yourself or a product. For example, if you were looking to launch a … you’re Enlightened, so a new Enlighten product I think would work really well on Instagram because of the way the platform is. I think in terms of a discussion with constructive criticism, I’m not talking about slating somebody’s case, but with constructive criticism, I don’t think it really works. I think, to be quite honest, I think Facebook or Dentaltown, Dentaltown’s kind of gone now, but they were much better places for discussion about cases than Instagram.
Jason Smithson: I’m also not that convinced about the link between influence of people and the number of followers they have, and things like that. It doesn’t kind of resonate with me. My daughter’s obsessed with how many followers she’s got. And I’m kind of like, well really, the important thing rather than worrying about the number of followers is whether the message you’re putting across is right. That’s something I’d be more concerned about to be quite honest. And I think-
Payman: But when you see these young kids who’ve got massive Instagram profiles.
Jason Smithson: Yeah.
Payman: what’s your feeling on it? I mean, let me tell you what I think first, because-
Jason Smithson: Go on.
Payman: These platforms skew younger and younger. Yeah?
Jason Smithson: Yeah.
Payman: So now the Tik-Tok, as an exercise, I’ve got a social media manager. As an exercise I said, “Look, go and find Tik-Tok influencer”. Because thinking, “I’ll get them cheap now. I’ll get onto that.” And they’re all 12. They’re all under like 15, the big ones.
Jason Smithson: Yeah my son’s on Tik-
Prav: They’re all 12. They’re all under 15, the big ones.
Jason Smithson: Yeah, my son is on TikTok. With their fixed models.
Prav: So the platforms skew younger and younger. And so what happens is the people who know how to handle the platforms are younger and younger. And so we end up with younger dentists having more influence and younger dentists have got less experience. So they’re always going to clinically make, they’re not going to be clinically of the same sort of standard because they haven’t got the experience, but they know how to handle the platforms. It’s a funny situation.
Jason Smithson: Yeah, I’m not even sure that there’s a correlation between how many followers you’ve got on your level of influence. For example, I did a course about 18 months ago abroad myself, the old man and a younger dentist who has a very strong Instagram profile has, I don’t know, 40, 50,000 Instagram followers.
Prav: Who was that?
Jason Smithson: Well, we won’t go there because it’s not very fair on him. But when we did this, the course was attended by 30 people, 32 people actually. And I have 2500 Instagram followers of which 50% are about my wine, because my Instagram rather stupidly is half wine and half dentistry. I should have done two separate ones. I’m so technologically stupid, I couldn’t manage that. So essentially I have about 1000 dental, Instagram followers, and it turned out that even though we advertise the class on Instagram, all 32 came via me. So I have to question how much actual influence Instagram has.
Prav: Well, I mean, because you were known before Instagram, so.
Jason Smithson: Yeah. Yeah.
Prav: That’s maybe to be expected, but what do you think about my point about we all see it, we see errors on Instagram. We see people getting very successful on Instagram. What’s your take on it?
Jason Smithson: Define success.
Prav: Loads of patients want to see them.
Jason Smithson: Do you think so?
Payman: Well, yeah, we see it. You do see it.
Jason Smithson: I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. If I’m very honest.
Payman: Do you think patients should be making their choice of clinicians through pictures on Instagram?
Prav: It’s a bit sad.
Jason Smithson: Direct answer is no, but how else can they make a choice? You know, it’s very difficult. I mean, if you go and try and a builder, for example. We’re having renovations done on our house, how do you know who’s a good builder? So I don’t know about you, I tend to look on the website and if they’ve got quite a nice website, it looks pretty professional on website. I think that they might be a pretty good builder, but it has absolutely, makes no sense whatsoever, does it really, if you think about it? Probably the patients think very much the same. If you go on Instagram or you go onto the person’s website or you go on a Facebook site and it’s well put together and well managed, then they’re probably a good dentist.
Jason Smithson: And that may or may not be the case. Indeed, to be honest, Jeremy, who I mentioned before, who’s a very, very competent, he’s one of the very few dentists who I know who’s competent broadly. He’s good at endo. He’s good at implants. He’s good at restorative, which is quite a lot better than me, because I’m only good at restorative. And he hasn’t got any Facebook or Instagram profile whatsoever, but he’s spent 40 years doing really solid high end dentistry. And frankly, one of the best dentists I know who I would have treat me, you’ve never heard of.
Payman: Thanks, Jason. If you needed or wanted or desired composite veneers who would you go to?
Jason Smithson: Well, I don’t need composite veneers.
Payman: Let’s say. Let’s say.
Prav: Quite a diplomat today, Jason.
Jason Smithson: I don’t know. There’s the guy who you probably haven’t heard much of recently called Leandro in Brazil, who’s very talented. I used to do some work with an Australian company called DentalEd, A guy called Emanuel Recupero, and I fancied myself as being their top composite guy. And you know, I was in my mid thirties at the time and Emmanuel showed me, he said, “I’ve got some pictures of this guy in his third year at dental school just sent me up some composites”. And I said, “Oh, okay, let’s have a look”. And he showed me them and they were Leandro’s. And I thought, Oh dear, this guy is really, really good. He hadn’t even qualified then. He’s going to be quiet now. I think he’s a concentrating on work and his life and his family, but he’s again, he was quite well known. What would you say, Payman, five years ago?
Payman: Yeah. With the whole bio emulation stuff, right?
Jason Smithson: Yeah. A very, very talented guy. There are a few other guys.
Prav: Jason, what’s your amount of travel that you do every year?
Jason Smithson: I would say, well, last year I did a hundred lecture days, so yeah. Just translate that.
Payman: So every other weekend or even more than that?
Jason Smithson: Well I did, for example, in March, just before lockdown, I did three days in New Zealand and then another four in Australia back to back. And then just, when was it? In November? What did I do? I did four days at Spear. And then I flew over to North Carolina and did a day at UNC. That was quite cool. One with the students. I don’t know if you remember that there were like 110 students.
Payman: Yeah, I saw that one.
Jason Smithson: That was really cool. And then I flew up to Philadelphia and did three days there.
Prav: Where is it? Raleigh?
Jason Smithson: It’s Raleigh, Durham. Yeah, really nice dental school. UNC, nice bunch of students really well kitted out lab. And it worked with one demonstrator, it worked pretty well. But what I’m saying is I did what, nine days in two weeks there. So, it’s not every weekend, but it’s pretty much every other.
Payman: What’s the impact on your family life?
Prav: That’s exactly what I was going to ask.
Jason Smithson: Yeah. So most people would be thinking, God, how does he stay married? Kate and I have been together since, we haven’t been married since ’95, but we’ve been together since 1995. So I suppose that says something. The deal is, I have a good friend who is an estate agent. And he said to me, we had a dinner about six months ago, and he said, well, with all this travel you probably never see your kids and I said to Tim, well, your working day is you get up at 6:00 AM. Your kids aren’t out of bed, you have your breakfast and go to work. And then you come back at eight, your kids are in bed and you don’t see your kids. So you don’t see your kids apart, and you work Saturdays, you don’t see your kids apart from on Sunday.
Jason Smithson: My deal is I work pretty hard in bursts. So I don’t really work at all in July and August when my kids are off. So I work two to three days in practise a week. I cut that down to a couple of days in practise, July and August. So I essentially got most of summer holidays off with them. And I also don’t work particularly hard in December. So I’m off most of the Christmas holidays off with them. And then we usually take a holiday in February, half term and the October half term. So in fact, what it is, is, daddy’s away a lot, but when he’s at home he’s in the room. So, I personally think it’s better to be like that because my kids do a lot of after school activities anyway, to which parents often can’t go. So, it’s better for me to have time with them when they’re off school.
Prav: And are you good at being in the room, so to speak? Because I struggle with that.
Jason Smithson: Do you?
Prav: I’ll wax and wane. So sometimes when I’ve got a lot on at home, I bring my work home and I could be sat there watching TV, but I’m not watching that programme. I’m not really in the room. I’m thinking about something else. Do you find it…
Jason Smithson: No, I’m not like that at all.
Prav: And I have to make an effort to switch things off, so to speak. And I’ve tried really hard over the last couple of years. You can just compartmentalise, and when you’re doing that one thing, whether it’s playing with your kids or doing the activity with them, you’re 100% engrossed in that?
Jason Smithson: I wouldn’t say I’m 100% perfect, but I mean, I’m up pretty early. I’m up about 5:30. My wife’s very rarely up before 7-7:15. So I’m up at 5:30. I don’t set an alarm. I just wake up and then I do all the kind of dog work or the emails or replying to Facebook messages about how do you handle this case and stuff like that between about 5:30 and about 7:15. So I’ve got all that out of the way before my family is in the zone, really, cause I’ve got, well, Henry’s not a teenager, he’s 12, but my 14 year old daughter and 12 year old son are definitely not up at that time. So, and then I go to work and when I’m at work, I do all my treatment planning, all my letters at work and things like that in my lunchtime. So I don’t tend to take lunch. I take lunch, but I’m working in it.
Jason Smithson: And then when I come home, it’s family time, but I work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in the practise. And then if I’m not lecturing, which is every other week I’ll work like a normal nine to five day working on lectures or reading papers or writing articles, whatever. Nine to five on Thursday and the Friday.
Jason Smithson: And then I’d like to pick my kids up from school or take them to school on those days. And it’s family time in the evenings, and certainly at the weekends. Although it’s changing a little bit because my daughter is a really good horse woman and my wife’s obsessed with horses as well. So it’s kind of almost, it’s not splitting the family, that will be a negative, but they tend to go off and do their horsey things.
Prav: You’ve got some horses, Jason, I saw.
Jason Smithson: Yeah, we have four. Not to be recommended. This is on par with having a boat, I think, in terms of hosing money away. But yeah, it’s a hobby of my daughters and I tend to do things with my son. Like, not that I’m very good at it, but skateboarding and we’re currently building a Spitfire ethics model, is what we’re doing there.
Prav: Jason, people don’t appreciate the level of sacrifice that it takes to be one of the greats. You must have over the years, you must’ve missed, I don’t know-
Prav: Important events?
Jason Smithson: Nope. I tell you what I did miss. And I always say this to people I mentor. I’ve come to the conclusion there four [inaudible] in dentistry. And this is only for dentistry. This is probably one of my most profound thoughts. If you want to be successful in dentistry, you have two main things and that’s yourself, your own mental and spiritual and health well being and your own interests and hobbies, which is on equal par with that of your family. Staying married, which is important, one of the most important things and giving your kids a significant part of your life and good mentorship, bringing up your kids properly as it used to be called. All right? So those are two main things. And then you have the little add-ons, which may be a lecture career in dentistry, maybe a practise, right?
Prav: But not both.
Jason Smithson: But not both. Well, you can choose. There are four, you can have three. So choose three out of four. Now I’m not saying which is right and which is wrong. It’s not for me to decide. Some people have chosen to have a really strong practise, a really strong lecture career. And unfortunately for me, with my life view, they’re either no longer married to their wives or they haven’t spent a lot of time on themselves, or you go out for dinner with them and they could only talk about dentistry, and that in a way, is sad as well to me. But it doesn’t make it wrong.
Jason Smithson: I chose to have lecture career and spend time with my kids and family and to spend a little bit of time on myself, because I do have my own hobbies, and not have a practise. So that’s basically the bit I missed out on, but I think people who try to do all four might be disappointed because I’ve never yet met one person who has had all four, truthfully. They might tell you they’ve had all four and on the lecture circuit on the stage, you might see even a video or a big presentation about that person having all four. But it’s not true. It’s not authentic.
Jason Smithson: I’ve not met anybody yet who’s had all four and it certainly isn’t me. If I’m very honest, I probably only have two. And I do neglect myself a bit. I spend a lot time with my family and a lot of time on my lecture career and in a way I’ve neglected myself. You were probably a little bit inspirational with your weight loss and fitness thing recently. Well, I’ve been following that. And actually that’s kind of inspired me a little bit and I think you know what?
Payman: Well thank you.
Jason Smithson: I think, you know what? I’m getting to nearly 50 now I maybe should think about doing some pull-ups because I don’t think I can do one. But yeah. So maybe I only got two out of the four, so maybe I need to focus on the third.
Prav: What is Jason time? You get that time to yourself and let’s say you’ve got half a day to yourself, do whatever you want, what would you do?
Jason Smithson: So I have quite weird hobbies. I’ve had Jason time between one o’clock today and this interview, which was at four o’clock and my nerdy hobby is something called Nowaki. Now I don’t know if you’ve known anything-
Prav: Tell us more.
Jason Smithson: Have you heard of bonsai Japanese that you’ve probably seen bonsai plants. Well think of that on a macro level. If you make a tree into a bonsai it takes years. It takes about 10 years for most trees. But, my wife thinks I’m insane. I’m currently in the process… We have about one acre, we have some paddocks because we have horses, but we have about one acre of formal gardens, which was really quite badly overgrown. So I’ve cleared that. And I’m now in the process of either planting things that I can convert it to Nowaki or converting trees that were already there into Nowaki and quite fancy pruning.
Jason Smithson: So it kind of appeals to my nerdy kind of precision and I love Japanese aesthetic. I’ve never been to Japan and I’m dying to take the children to Japan when they’re a little bit older, when they can really appreciate it. But I like a lot of things about Japanese culture, particularly Nowaki and it involves quite big ropes and ladders and stuff like that. So it’s quite physical, and also some quite fancy Japanese handsaws, which you chop things with and varying pruning bits and bobs. But that’s one of my interests.
Payman: You know Jason, every time I land at Heathrow, I think about you. Every time.
Jason Smithson: Where?
Prav: Because I land at Heathrow, I jumped in my cab, I’m going to be home in half an hour and think-
Jason Smithson: I’m home in five.
Prav: And I think he’s got another five hours.
Jason Smithson: Another five hours.
Prav: Every other weekend, both ways. Right? What do you do on that train?
Jason Smithson: You have to wait. It depends, if I’ve just come back from Australia I don’t do very much. I usually try, and this sounds really OCD, but I am a bit, I usually try to do something constructive. Like you just come back from a lecture. Okay. One thing I always do is if I’m asked questions at the end of the lecture, which seem stupid, I always analyse why did that person ask that in inverted commerce stupid question? And the answer is always not that the person was stupid, more than I explained it very, very poorly or the visual aids I had were poor. So indeed the reason why they asked that stupid question is because I made a mess presenting it. So what I do is on my flight back, I think, okay, some person asked a question, which seems real obvious to me. Quite clearly, I didn’t explain it well. So how can I modify that?
Jason Smithson: So I use the, while it’s clear in my head, I think, okay, what bit of it was the visual aid? Was the picture poor or was the general explanation poor or was it just put together, was the message just wrong? And usually it is, so I modify that and often I can take a couple or three hours and obviously I have lunch or dinner on the train as well. And that by the time you’ve sought all that out you’re home pretty much. So you can use that time in a constructive way.
Payman: So that lecture gets better every time?
Jason Smithson: Well, I get a fewer questions at the end. Let’s say
Prav: It’s certainly evolved. Your lecture’s not the same lecture it’s been, it continuously evolves.
Jason Smithson: Yeah. I mean the skeleton of, certainly the posterior lecture, and to some degree the anterior lecture is the same. And you might get new cases you might have done the week before and you think, oh, that’s a really cool one, I want to put that in the lecture. But yeah, it evolves in terms of the message is the same, but the way the message is put across differs. Also, you might want to, it might be the following week, I’ve got a lecture, for example, you might explain something quite differently in, I don’t know, the Philippines than you would in the US in terms of analogies and you want to choose an analogy which resonates with that person. Because if you choose an analogy that doesn’t resonate with that person at all, it doesn’t make any sense. So you might need to make a little modification and you probably just hide the slides and leave it in the lecture for when you’re talking to a group that is similar.
Prav: So Jason, I want to go into two areas now, you have two areas. Running hands on courses myself I know that sometimes if you forget some little tiny thing, it can ruin the course. So what’s your worst story from? I mean, on all the courses you’ve taught, there must have been a couple of stories where things just went wrong. Your lowest movement?
Jason Smithson: On lectures? Oh yeah, yeah. We’ve had a few, I did a course once, an anterior composite course, very early on in my career and there was a big miscommunication about models for the composite course. And I was provided with a very nicely cast, upper and lower stone model to do composites on. That didn’t end very well.
Jason Smithson: Another one, Ryan won’t mind me saying this, we laugh about it now. A guy called Ryan Maguire, who was at that time, the Kulzer rep in Ireland. In fact, I think he is again the Kulzer rep in Ireland. Ryan and I had a real good laugh when we went over to Ireland, pints of Guinness and stuff like that. But he emailed me the day before the course and said, “I have got the most amazing camera to project what you’re doing onto the screen. And it’s being supplied by a television company.” And I thought, wow, he’s really gone. And he had made a huge amount of effort in getting this camera and it was in no way his fault, but when the camera turned up, I don’t know if you remember from years ago, watching Grand Stand or Man of the Day with this huge camera. So, this guy turned up and said, “This is a cutting edge camera”. And he plonked down this camera that you might use to film, I don’t know, a David Attenborough-
Jason Smithson: … down this camera that you might use to film, I don’t know, a David Attenborough series, macro, but it wouldn’t even focus on my hands on the table, nevermind the … and this was like two hours before the course.
Payman: So what did you do?
Jason Smithson: Well, poor Ryan had … We said thank you very much to this guy. I mean, it’s a really good camera for filming, I don’t know, lions and tigers or something like that. Ryan had to run out at … Well it was eight o’clock in the morning and try and find a Currys or something that was open-
Payman: You’re joking.
Jason Smithson: … and just buy a video camera, which we sellotape onto a mounting-
Jason Smithson: We didn’t have a tripod, that was a bit … But it worked out all right in the end and everybody enjoyed it and it was good. The other one was a complete disaster is the one I never made because … and I never do this anymore. For any dentists who are just starting out on a lecture career, never booked back to back lectures. In other words, never finish a lecture in one town at five o’clock at night, and then plan to get on a plane that evening or the following morning and do a lecture in the morning in another town because it always goes wrong.
Jason Smithson: I did a lecture in Hungary and then I planned to fly at five o’clock in the morning to The Hague in the Netherlands and get to The Hague in the Netherlands, I don’t recall. I think it was about half past seven, eight o’clock in the morning and then do a lecture at 10 o’clock in The Hague. It was early in the morning and I fell asleep on the plane and they said, “We’re landing.” Unfortunately, due to what fog, I landed like 150 miles away from where I should have been. So the poor people on … they were Dutch, Michael, who was the organiser at a place called Seed, very good organiser in Holland. They were very cool, being Dutch. So they ended up waiting around until I got there at lunchtime and then we did the course and finished it late in the evening and went out for a dinner. So everybody was happy in the end, but it was quite stressful.
Payman: We forgot the mandrels.
Jason Smithson: Sorry?
Payman: We forgot some mandrels. We forgot the mandrels once.
Jason Smithson: Did we?
Payman: No, we did on one of our courses.
Jason Smithson: Oh, one of your courses? Yeah.
Payman: So there was no way to polish the composite-
Jason Smithson: On a polishing course, slight problem.
Payman: That one’s never going to happen again, but how about clinically? We’ve been asking everyone, in that black box thinking, so that everyone can learn from an error. What’s your biggest clinical error?
Jason Smithson: So when I was a student, my … Well there are a few, but when I was a student, my exam case, I forget her name now, but she was an older Greek lady and she had absolutely loads of gold crown and bridge work in her mouth. I had to take off a five unit bridge, not under exam conditions, but it was part of my exam case, and then re-prep it underneath and redo the bridge. I managed to throw it down her throat, a five unit bridge.
Payman: Oh, bloody hell.
Jason Smithson: And she swallowed it. So I dropped it.
Payman: Big thing.
Jason Smithson: I was stupid enough not to … Yeah, huge. So I looked at it and I thought, “There’s no way I need to tie any floss around that, it’s huge.” So I took it off in one piece because she wanted to keep it obviously, because it’s quite valuable and then it slipped out of my fingers and I dropped it on the back of her throat and I said, “Don’t swallow, don’t swallow.” And she went … and just swallowed the whole thing, so that was pretty bad. I got into quite a bit of trouble for that as an undergraduate. Then when I was a houseman at the London, it was quite stressful because as a houseman, I don’t know if you’ve ever done an oral surgery house job, but you had to supervise two or three students and it was a kid’s extraction clinic. So it was GA and they didn’t put a tube down, they just put a mask on the kid and they gassed them and then they whipped the mask off, the anaesthetist whipped the mask off and you’re expect it to extract the tooth in about 10 seconds and then they put the mask back on before the patient died of anoxia. It was in the early, mid ’90s.
Jason Smithson: We were supposed to be taking out a lower E, you can see where I’m going to go here, and the anaesthetist took the mask off and the student grabbed the lower E and wiggled it about a bit and did get anywhere, which is reasonable because they were fourth year student and then put a mask on and then they took the mask on and they did it again. The anaesthetist was getting quite hassled because obviously it’s not healthy for the patient. So he was really hassling me to get on with it and I picked up a forceps and I said, “Let me show you how it’s done,” with some irritation and a bit of arrogance, let’s say. I grabbed the lower six and pulled the six out. I got into serious trouble for that. So yeah, I’ve done quite a few pretty bad things.
Prav: Just a quick one. Jason, going back to being renowned speaker, you said earlier that you were nervous standing up in a practise meeting.
Jason Smithson: Hugely, yeah,
Prav: So tell me about the very first lecture you gave and how you felt and then what was that transition? Did you public speaking training or how did you transition?
Jason Smithson: I did, if I’m very honest, yeah.
Prav: Did it help?
Jason Smithson: It did. The first one, I think you kind of … I don’t know, you don’t even remember it just blanks out because you’re so focused on, you don’t know your … I mean, now I know my slides. I could talk you through my lectures now without having the slides in front of me and finished on time because it’s just what I do and I’ve been doing it so long. Whereas when you first start, it’s almost trial by PowerPoint because you’re looking at a slide and reading off it, which is never very successful and that’s what I did the first time out and it was just reading the words on the slide, which is not really speaking at all.
Payman: It’s all too common, actually Jase, you know? Still today, you do see that.
Jason Smithson: I know, but I mean, I think my tip would be, to anybody to starting out, young or older, or somebody who’s … Is to keep the slides very simple. You should limit it to one or two pictures, a title and maybe a reference or a slogan. I think as soon as you start putting loads of tables on stuff, it’s a problem. I think the less experienced you are probably the more slides you need, which is really difficult, because the fewer slides you’re able to build, if you’re less experienced, because you just don’t have the material. So it’s kind of chicken and egg and you get more experienced. I mean, I need probably now 30 slides an hour, roughly. That would be my rate, average is about 45 to 60, but then you can slow your speaking style down. You can talk about the case more, you can talk about the research more, but you have to be doing it a while to do that.
Payman: I think you do, something with you Jason, you do do that. You slow down, from what I remember. You slow down on the difficult concepts.
Jason Smithson: On the difficult stuff. Well, there’s also a way of getting somebody’s attention as well.
Payman: But it’s really important because it’s something I say to younger lecturers sometimes, that just because it’s a word that you take for granted, don’t think the audience takes that word for … You are very good at that. You’re very good slowing down at the right point when it’s getting complicated.
Jason Smithson: Well, there’s also a cadence thing. For example, some speakers just speak really slowly all the time, and some speakers speak like a machine gun all the time and I actually … My thoughts are you keep people’s attention by change. Now that change can be in the cadence of your speaking, so you can speak at a set rate and then you might speed it up and then you might slow it down et cetera, et cetera and it just keeps people awake. The other thing you can use, is I try to keep the background of the slides fairly uniform. It’s usually black, but you might every 10th slide have a white one. Not Technicolour, just you’re doing black, black, black, black, suddenly a white. Wake up, because you were just nodding off. Just maybe thinking about going on Facebook or looking at your iPhone or whatever, and that just re-grabbed your attention.
Jason Smithson: Or you might change your position in the room. Or if you’re on a podium, you might get off the podium every five or 10 minutes. I’m not saying prowl around because that annoys me as well, but you might move from the lectern down into the audience or you might move … It’s just these small things that actually look very casual and like you never thought about them, but actually are designed into your lecture to keep people awake.
Jason Smithson: I learnt quite a lot, I don’t know if this is done anymore, but I did Dale Carnegie, funnily enough. Do you remember How To Win Friends And Influence People?
Payman: Amazing book.
Jason Smithson: I didn’t do that. They run, what was it called? Powerful PowerPoints or something. I don’t think it was called that but was called something like that. I went in Bristol about, gosh, 10, 12 years ago and there was six of us. None of them were dentists, they were all … I was like the monkey there, the tea boy. They were all quite serious people in high … High level corporate people and I think one barrister maybe. They took you through … Just like the things I’ve just told you, how to engage people during a presentation, how dress, your posture, how to speak, how to put the PowerPoint together, it was PowerPoint then. All these little things and it was quite expensive. I remember, eye-wateringly so. And it was about three or four days, but it was actually very, very good.
Payman: I think as a delegate, there’s a way to be a good delegate too and you see it. When you see enough delegates going through, you see some who really get a lot out of it and others who don’t. By the way, I’m totally cool with someone turning up for the fun of it. Why not? Because you want to take some time off the practise and you want to come and have fun. It’s cool, it’s super cool with me. I’ve got not problem.
Jason Smithson: I don’t know, I think to take time off and come and see my lecture just for the fun of it, I think’s a bit sad.
Payman: But it’s real, it’s a real thing.
Jason Smithson: Why don’t you go and enjoy yourself or spend time with your family and friends, you know?
Payman: It’s a real thing. It’s a real thing. It’s almost like I need that excuse or whatever it is.
Jason Smithson: To get away?
Payman: But what I’m saying is-
Jason Smithson: Yeah but maybe you should reflect on your own life. You shouldn’t need to go to a dental lecture-
Payman: Yeah, I get it.
Jason Smithson: … to take some time for yourself-
Payman: I get it.
Jason Smithson: I don’t think-
Payman: I get it.
Jason Smithson: … but then, that’s me.
Payman: But what I’m saying is the idea that the event, the lecture, the course is the beginning of the journey and not the end. I think a lot of delegates come in thinking, “This is it. I do this course,” and they’re done and that’s not the case and what you see afterwards-
Jason Smithson: No, no absolutely not, which is why I spend time supporting people afterwards.
Payman: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Jason Smithson: Because getting back to what I was saying about converting things on the train, they’re often people who don’t get it, who don’t feel confident to ask the question and that’s quite reasonable. Everybody has a different personality type and that person may email you a day or two, or even a week later and say, “Do you know what? I didn’t actually get that in the lecture.” Then you do have a responsibility to explain that, I think, anyway.
Payman: Well, I think lockdown’s shown us that there’s a massive appetite for education, the webinars … I’ve been pleasantly surprised that that’s what dentists have been doing, watching webinars during knocked down, and your success that you’ve had-
Jason Smithson: And drinking wine.
Payman: And wine. The success you’ve had with yours, how many were you getting? 500, 600 paying people coming to your online one?
Jason Smithson: Yeah, yeah.
Payman: Marvellous man, really marvellous.
Jason Smithson: International, which was nice. It’s nice to keep in touch as well. You both probably know the book Tribes by Seth Godin.
Jason Smithson: And it’s almost a tribe and it’s actually, you know, I tell you what I do enjoy, actually … The lecture I enjoy, I don’t mind that. But when you see people signing in at the side at the beginning, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, I remember you, we met in Taiwan, you were in Scotland,” and it’s nice to see these people again online and then we do a 30 minute at the end and chat with them at the end. It’s not social because it’s Zoom, but it’s almost social in lockdown.
Payman: Do you have people … sort of groupies? People who are nervous to be in the same room as you. It must’ve happened.
Jason Smithson: I hope not.
Payman: I remember it happening to me back in the day.
Prav: I was your groupie once, Payman.
Jason Smithson: Was. Come to his senses.
Payman: And I handled him in the way that groupies are handled in.
Jason Smithson: I have people that come to the course more than once, the same course. Actually, and this is not a sales pitch, I would encourage that because I’ve done some people’s courses twice myself, because I think sometimes, particularly if it’s a bit out of your comfort zone, you might spend the first course thinking, “I’m just getting my head around it.” I did with a couple of courses, and then you may embrace it and then go back to your practise and start doing it. Then some aspects of it you may run into trouble with, then you think, “Okay, well, how do I deal with these problems?” Well, if you go on the course again, then often you A, get the ability to ask questions about those issues. Or it may be that that’s covered in the course anyway, and you just didn’t pick it up because we all only take in … what are the numbers? Something like 36% or something like that of what you’re taught?
Jason Smithson: So it just gives you a second bite of the cherry and actually, people always say, “Oh God, he’s on the second time on the course. He’s obviously a no-hoper,” or she. Actually, it may be that that person is not a no-hoper, it’s actually that that person is really, really engaged and has taken in 40%, 50% and has worked on that and they actually want to grab that last 10% from coming again and they’re the people that really, to be honest, get the most out of it.
Payman: Yeah, repetition’s massive, massive. It really is.
Jason Smithson: I don’t think it’s a sign of weakness going on a course twice, I mean, I’ve done a couple, I’ve done Didier’s course twice.
Payman: We encourage it, we tell them to come again to watch, to watch.
Prav: I find when you’re learning or reading a book, it’s always contextual to what’s going on in your life. So, the How To Win Friends And Influence People book, for example, I’ve probably read that three or four times and each time I’ve read it-
Jason Smithson: Got something different.
Prav: … it always resonates with what is happening in my life and the relationships around me and the same with the course. It might be a patient that walked in your practise last week or a conversation that you had with a patient and then something that Jason says, it resonates. You pick up on that and you missed it last time.
Jason Smithson: Yeah, or maybe I modified it.
Prav: Yeah, yeah on the three hour train trip or whatever it was.
Jason Smithson: Five.
Prav: Five hours.
Payman: Jason, what’s your advice to an ambitious young dentist who wants to really go places now in restorative dentistry? What should they do? Come on your course, of course.
Jason Smithson: You know what my advice is, in very few words?
Payman: Go ahead.
Jason Smithson: I haven’t really thought about this, but be authentic. Be authentic. My second bit of advice is be authentic. Because, you know what? If you jump on stage and start recommending techniques that you don’t do, if you jump on stage and start recommending products you don’t use, it’s obvious. Just be yourself, nobody will criticise you for being yourself. Everybody’s got something to offer, offer what you do and what you feel is right in your head and you’ll always have an audience for that. That’s what I think.
Prav: I’ve got another piece of advice to ask you for Jason, and this is-
Jason Smithson: I’ll try.
Prav: This comes down to really, imagine it’s your last day on the planet. Earlier today you mentioned that one of your values in life is giving your children good mentorship. So what would be the three of advice that you would leave them with for life?
Jason Smithson: I think again, it’s to thine own self be true. Be authentic. Put your family first. I don’t know if I’ve got a third one.
Prav: That’s all right, yeah.
Payman: All right, we’ll have to live with that.
Prav: Drink good wine Jason, drink good wine.
Jason Smithson: You caught me on the hop.
Payman: Drink good wine.
Jason Smithson: Yeah, but not mine. Because my wine, but I don’t know if it’s my son or my daughter, have been hogging into my spirits, I don’t know. But it’s slowly going down.
Payman: Good on them, good on them.
Jason Smithson: But there we go.
Payman: Well, thank you so much. I know how busy you are, Jason and I know what [crosstalk] thank you so much for doing this.
Jason Smithson: Thank you so much. Thank you for the opportunity.
Prav: It’s been great, it’s been brilliant.
Payman: Thanks a lot.
Jason Smithson: Thank you very much, thanks.
Outro Voice: This is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.