This week’s guest is one of dentistry’s few true household names. Uchenna Okoye has found success as a cosmetic dentist and clinical director of London Smiling dental group.
But she is perhaps best known as the dental consultant on Channel Four’s Ten Years Younger program.
Uchenna tells us how it all started and we get round to discussing race and gender in dentistry, non-nonsense management and much more.
“I don’t understand the jealousy and all that nonsense. There’s enough teeth for everybody.” – Uchenna Okoye
In This Episode
01.12 – Backstory
05.19 – Race and gender
24.01 – Cosmetic dentistry
26.44 – TV and PR
32.21 – Fitting in
36.21- Patient journey
43.21 – Training
50.31 – Motherhood
55.34 – Day in the life
58.52 – Being strict
01.04.38 – Being a brand
01.14.25 – Last day and legacy
About Dr Uchenna Okoye
Cosmetic dentist Dr Uchenna Okoye graduated from Guy’s Hospital, London.
She is perhaps best known for her role on Channel Four’s Ten Years Younger makeover programme and is a frequent contributor to radio and TV.
Uchenna is the clinical director of London Smiling Dental Group. She is a member of the American and British Academies of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD) and former BACD board member.
Uchenna Okoye: But I make it very clear that this is what you’re signing up to. And sometimes people say, “Do you actually want me to work here?” And I’m like, “Yeah, but if you’re going to go to Oxford and Cambridge, you know what you’re up against. You don’t have to come to Oxford and Cambridge, you can go somewhere else. But if you want to join us, it’s not easy. And I know that it’s not easy.” So yeah, I don’t know, does that make me an evil witch?
Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah. It does, yeah.
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 Langroud…: It’s my great pleasure to welcome my long-time friend Uchenna Okoye on the podcast. Uchenna’s had a brilliant career in dentistry, one of the most high-profile dentists in the country right now, and for a long time now. Welcome to the show, Uchenna.
Uchenna Okoye: Thank you. It’s good to be here. It’s taken you a while, you’ve finally pinned me down haven’t you?
Payman Langroud…: You’re a busy woman, that’s why. Uchenna, let’s just start with where did you grow up, when did you think you want to be a dentist, why?
Uchenna Okoye: Well, I was born in Nigeria, so I’m the oldest of six. And I grew up there, came over to England when I was about seven, and all I remember is how cold it was, and it’s still cold, I hate the cold. And yeah, I went to school here. I went back to Nigeria for a year when I was about 10, 11. And then came back to England after that. So yeah, been here for a long time.
Payman Langroud…: And what brought you back and forth, Uchenna?
Uchenna Okoye: We came because my mom is a pharmacist, so she came to do her master’s. And we were never meant to stay here, so then my dad was like we were becoming too anglicised. He used to moan that my brother started talking through his nose, he had a posh accent, so we went back to boarding school, and I went back for a year. I kind of went thinking… yeah, I grew up on all these St. Trinian’s and Malory Towers, and I thought I was going to a Swiss boarding school. And instead it was like the middle of the jungle and snakes and all that kind of stuff, which now was a great experience, then I thought my father hated me. So, I went for a year. And it was great though because it helped keep me… I have a real love of Nigeria. So, if somebody asks me where I’m from, even though I’ve lived most of my life in England, I’d say Nigeria, that’s where it resonates. And then I got ill, and I came back just after a year, and then never left really.
Payman Langroud…: What made you become a dentist?
Uchenna Okoye: It was a tossup between dentistry and medicine. Traditional African family, you could be a lawyer, dentist, accountant, all that kind of stuff. So, originally it was going to be medicine because my uncle was a doctor. And then I did work experience in the hospital, and realised that the doctors didn’t do anything, it was the nurses that did the caring, didn’t like the hospital environment, which I still don’t. And yeah, dentistry’s just great, and I love it. I love it because I get to be my own boss, I get to be artistic, and it’s just the best job. But at the time, when I’d told my dad I was going to be a dentist, he was very dismissive. He was like, “You’re not.” In Nigeria, we have great teeth, that’s not a proper job. It’s not a proper doctor kind of thing. But yeah, he was very proud in the end.
Payman Langroud…: What does your dad do?
Uchenna Okoye: Oh, I had a wonderful childhood. He’s passed unfortunately, quite a while ago now, but he had a ice cream factory.
Payman Langroud…: Oh, really? Wow.
Uchenna Okoye: The holidays was in the ice cream factory, and it’ll be like one scoop for me and one scoop for… He was way ahead of his time. He was an amazing entrepreneur. And I wish he was alive now because there’s so many questions I’d ask him. And I’d say sorry to him, because as kids we’d be like, “Why can’t you take our holiday? It’s your factory, you can just take time off.” Now I own my own business, I’m like, “Now I understand.”
Payman Langroud…: And where did you study dentistry?
Uchenna Okoye: I went to Guy’s when it was Guy’s. So yeah, so I did primary school, secondary school. Went to Guy’s which wasn’t the best experience. I think Guy’s was fabulous from the perspective of teaching. And even now… well, it used to be that I could tell the difference between the Guy’s graduates, the things that we were taught and how we were taught. But I honestly did not like being at uni. So yeah, it is what it is.
Payman Langroud…: [inaudible 00:05:18].
Uchenna Okoye: There was loads of racism, so I guess we might as well dive straight into that. One, I didn’t know if I wanted to be there, because obviously the parental thing, my dad’s attitude towards dentistry impacted me quite a bit. So, initially my first year was about changing to medicine, because that’s what my parents felt was the right thing to do. But there weren’t many people that looked like me at Guy’s. I made friends and it was a great education, but Guy’s was… I still remember it. The comments like, you know how you’d have demonstrators and stuff? And they’d come and they’d look at my work and they’d be like, “Oh, that’s a really good filling Uchenna for you.” So, there was always that what I call subtle British racism type thing. And a few of us had a rough time there.
Uchenna Okoye: But it’s part of who we were, because in Nigeria we have tribalism, so we have different tribes. So, I’m kind of… that happens. And my parents very much you just be the best that you can be and nobody cares who you are kind of thing. So, it’s just stiff upper lip. So, I found the whole Black Lives Matter thing quite interesting.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah, let’s tackle it. Because I mean it was a whole different era as well back then. I mean, we’re a kind of similar age me and you, so I can relate to that idea that what’s acceptable to say back then is different now. But being a Nigerian lady, and we’ll get to the lady part as well. Being a Nigerian lady, take us from experiences that you’ve had that you would class as racist, race-related experiences, getting jobs, has that been an issue? Patients walking in and being shocked or whatever? I know people who wear hijabs sometimes say that. They say a patient comes in and immediately you can tell. And bring it right down to today. Are we saying today it’s all over and there isn’t so much racism, and with all Black Lives Matter and all that? Give us some of your comments about race in your growth from being a teenager to…
Uchenna Okoye: I mean, I guess upbringing has a big role to play in one’s perception of stuff. Because okay, my first memory of school in England when I would have been about seven or eight, I was really proud of my English, because although Nigeria has loads of languages, English is actually our official first language, so I could speak English, [inaudible 00:08:18]. I was being asked in primary school to read a story, and the whole class bursting into laughter because of my thick Nigerian accent. So, it’s kind of like from that beginning things, or kids asking me about worms in my hair or being called rubber lips. Now patients want me to inject filler so that their lips look like… I mean, I just find the whole thing quite bizarre.
Uchenna Okoye: So, it’s kind of always there, you’re aware of it. But for me it’s just you just get on with it. It’s not something that defined me or I spent a lot of time thinking about. And I think for me it was more difficult as well because you’re a black woman in a very male, chauvinistic, white world, or whatever. So, I’d get stuff of the woman bit where it’s, “Oh, are you the nurse?” Type stuff. Or the letter’s addressed to Mr Okoye and all that kind of stuff.
Uchenna Okoye: The blacks thing, I haven’t had a direct spit in your face, “You’re black” type experience. What have always known and was always told from day one, “You’re black so you have to work harder.” But then my family is, and my mother especially, is like classic African, “Well, why are you second? Why are you not the one that was first?” And so, it’s just always been there. [inaudible] that psyche, yeah.
Payman Langroud…: And so, what do you think about Black Lives Matter?
Uchenna Okoye: I found it really interesting on lots of different ways. I mean I’m glad that the conversation is being had and it’s long overdue. I found it irritating that a lot of friends were looking to me to almost absolve them, or to tell them what they should do, or they’re like, “We’re sorry this happened to you.” And all this kind of stuff. I’m just like, “What do you want me to say or what do you want me to do?” And they’re like, “Oh, teach us.” I’m like, “It’s not up to me to teach you. You need to go and find out for yourself kind of thing.” So, that was my bit on the one hand. I mean, I’m glad that they wanted to know and all the rest of it. But it felt again that the burden was on me to make them feel better about themselves, or to give them the information that they needed to know. I’m like, “No, you need to… It’s your turn to live in my world.” So, that was one.
Uchenna Okoye: But then the other thing that it did was it made me think about stuff that maybe you just ignore. And I think that’s probably what I found the most uncomfortable. To just sit back and think, “Oh, right, there was that time and whatever.” But I really didn’t dwell on it. I think I’m glad it’s happened. And I’m one of those people that I’m like, “Absolutely. That whole affirmative action thing.” I know some people feel that it’s a bad thing or whatever. It’s not about putting people that can’t do the thing in the posts, it’s about giving them an opportunity. And as a woman, it’s exactly the same scenario. Whether it’s you’re black or a woman, it’s other people to encourage you and mentor you. And there’s not enough of that in dentistry at all.
Payman Langroud…: We’ve talked about this a few times, me and you I think in the past at some dinner somewhere. But you really think it’s a lot harder being a woman than a man?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. It’s good that you’re where you are and I’m where I am, because of course it is. I’d be slapping you about the face. Of course it’s
Payman Langroud…: But listen. Is it harder being a black woman or a black man? I’d rather be a black woman.
Uchenna Okoye: Why?
Payman Langroud…: Because I’m not going to get the cops stopping me and thinking I’m a criminal every five minutes.
Uchenna Okoye: That is true. That is true, I definitely agree with you that. But then there comes another baggage you have to carry where-
Payman Langroud…: I’m making an example, yeah? An example of where it is advantageous to be a woman over being a man. I’m not pivoting my whole argument on that. What I’m saying is there are advantages to being a man, there are advantages to being a woman. When you say it’s harder to be a woman than a man, let’s go to dentistry. Let’s go to dentistry, go on, tell me.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. So, why it’s harder to be a woman? I think-
Payman Langroud…: By the way, by the way, outside of childcare, yeah? Because that’s obvious, yeah?
Uchenna Okoye: No, you can’t just take the childcare thing out. That’s-
Payman Langroud…: Oh, oh, oh, okay, okay.
Uchenna Okoye: That’s a huge thing, because the guys should be involved in the childcare as well. Nobody asks the dude, “Oh, who’s looking after the kid here whilst you’re in your work?” And all that nonsense, do they?
Payman Langroud…: But my point is, if we just crop children out of the equation, yeah?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.
Payman Langroud…: Children out of the equation, because obviously to have a child you have to have maternity, you have to look after kids. And kids, a lot of them tend to look to their mother and all of that. But I’m saying let’s just say, let’s leave childcare out of it in terms of career progression. Just as a man dentist, as a woman dentist, where are the problems?
Uchenna Okoye: Number one, you can’t leave children out of it. So, sorry, I don’t agree there at all.
Payman Langroud…: No, but let’s say before you have children. If you’re a 25-year-old who’s never had children, a guy or a girl, there’s no children, so-
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. But still, because I think as a women, generally I think a lot of the things that women are really good at is not… what’s the word? I don’t
Payman Langroud…: [inaudible 00:14:38].
Uchenna Okoye: Huh?
Payman Langroud…: Confrontational stuff.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. Women, we’re into… we’re nurturers, we’re team-builders. If I’m in a room and we’re discussing a problem, my natural thing is to ask everybody and get everybody involved and all that kind of stuff. And that’s not something that is… I don’t know if encouraged is the right word, or admired or whatever. It’s the bloke that doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, but opens his mouth first and shouts out whatever, is then perceived to be like, “Oh yeah, he’s got something to say and he’s making a contribution.” Whereas women, we tend to sit back, and we tend to be much more inclusive and want to try and involve people. So, I think that can create a problem.
Uchenna Okoye: And I think in dentistry, so how can you have a profession where the majority of… even at my time in dentistry, it’s 50% women. Now it’s probably more. Women are the key elements that’s going to keep things going. But you don’t see women up there on the podium. You’re one of the few people that… Like when I did a couple of things with you and it tends to be more… you tend to have a few women smattered in there. But a lot of times the women aren’t there, but I don’t think it’s necessarily because… It’s just like not being aware. It’s like the Black Lives Matter thing. It’s just not even-
Payman Langroud…: Listen, it’s been levelled at me. I think Berty was the one who said it to me. We had a conference, The Minimalist. I spoke, Prav spoke, and there was nine speakers and there was only one woman amongst them. And I hadn’t really thought about it. I wasn’t really thinking about that question. And Berty said to me, “You should have had half and half.” And I found it a bit difficult, because I wanted to make the best conference I could make, and I was thinking, “I want someone from orthodontics.” It was minimally invasive. “Someone from orthodontics, someone from crown and bridge, someone from whitening, a marketing person.” I’m thinking, “Who are the best people I know for it?” Rather than trying to find a woman. So, there’s that. But the other thing is that, and I’ve discussed this before as well, is that if you really cared about women in dentistry, wouldn’t you look at nurses, hygienists, receptionists? They get a really rough deal in dentistry, yeah? They’re the ones-
Uchenna Okoye: Are you asking me?
Payman Langroud…: Yeah. The fact that you’re not seeing dentists on the podium, that’s not the big issue about women in dentistry. The big issue about women in dentistry is that that group, the ones I said, the DCPs, are overwhelmingly women, yeah? And their career prospects, what happens to them? The way they’re talked down to by their bosses, all of that stuff, yeah? That’s the real problem with women in dentistry.
Uchenna Okoye: No. [inaudible 00:17:57]. I don’t know what you’re talking about, mate.
Payman Langroud…: Really? Go on The Hygienist Forum, see the way some hygienists are treated by their bosses, right?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, but that’s just… I think it has to start from the top. Because part of the thing of having more women on the podium, one is from an inspiring perspective, but two, to reflect the reality of the profession. Even within dentistry, dental school.
Uchenna Okoye: So, I mean there’s a slightly off the cuff relevance this, but I had this fall out with quite a well-known journalist from a national magazine, where we were talking about… I was flicking through the magazine one day, stick with me, there is relevance to this. And I was just suddenly thought, “There’s nobody in this magazine that looks like me.” I get this magazine all the time, and I love it and I love the articles and all the rest of it. And I just flicked through the whole thing, “Where am I?” And there were like about two adverts or something that had somebody with colour.
Uchenna Okoye: And so, I knew her, and it was like about midnight, I must have been quite grumpy or something. So, I sent her an email, a message, and I’m like, “Dah, dah, dah.” And she replied, and so we got into this altercation. I mean we’re friends, where she was like, “I can’t believe you’re trying to say that I’m racist.” I’m like, “I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying I’m going through your magazine, I can’t see anybody that looks like me.”
Payman Langroud…: Was it fashion magazine or something?
Uchenna Okoye: It was a Sunday magazine type thing, like Style, Stella, whatever.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah.
Uchenna Okoye: And so, she was so affronted that she went through all the trouble of getting all the magazines, sending me a PowerPoint of all the things that had pictures or articles of people, of black people. And so, I smiled, I’m like, “Yeah, there’s Beyonce here, there’s Will Smith, there’s whatever.” I’m like, “That’s all great. But I’m talking about people like me. I’m talking about doctors, dentists.”
Uchenna Okoye: And then that particular week, it was interesting that there was a feature about lipsticks, and they’d put lipsticks on loads, it was like a whole page of different lips, and there was not a single black, brown lip there. There was just nothing. So, I’m like, “It’s about this. It’s about the fact that nobody has thought about this. That I’m not…” I know that you’re all wonderful or whatever. You’re just going for that which you know and that which you’re around.
Uchenna Okoye: So, you obviously don’t hang around with enough fabulous women, that when you put on your lecture, they didn’t even occur to you. Or maybe if you’d hung around them more, you’d know it was more of an issue and you’d do something.
Payman Langroud…: I do get it. I’m not rejecting it outright. I do get.
Uchenna Okoye: I know you do. I know you. That’s why I love you.
Payman Langroud…: I do get it. But what I’m saying is that I couldn’t find the best people. That was my-
Uchenna Okoye: Oh, that’s a load of rubbish. No, no, sorry.
Payman Langroud…: No, no, I didn’t engage even the best men, yeah?
Uchenna Okoye: No. You didn’t look hard enough.
Payman Langroud…: I looked. I looked.
Uchenna Okoye: No, no. You just went to your buddies that you knew. “Hey, can you…” The guys that you hang out with, all the rest of the… And this happens so many times. And I will… no, I won’t, so.
Payman Langroud…: No, go ahead. Go ahead.
Prav Solanki: Go for it. Go for it.
Payman Langroud…: We’ll cut it out, go on.
Uchenna Okoye: I will go there with for example you did ask me before about VAPD, and that they’re doing a great job and all the rest of it. And I’m not going to go into it. But that’s a classic one of what you’ve just said. So, this group of great guys who I know most of them, nobody… you know that picture? That picture where there was all these men, that they’d had their conference when the organisation first set up. And I’m just like, “There is not one single woman there.” And none of them saw that. And then you ask what the hell happened, and it was like, “Yeah, we’re all buddies. We all hang out together. And some of us just thought, ‘Hey, guys.’ And we just happened to have this conference call.” And nobody there was thinking about it at all.
Uchenna Okoye: So, that’s why the conversation needs to be had, because it’s scientifically proven that an organisation that’s got that diversity is so much better, is so much more effective, it just functions better, than just people that all… Yeah, anyway. So, that’s all I’m going to say about that. So, that’s why. And even when you’re talking about the thing about DCPs or hygienists or whatever, it’s again having the women there that will bring their problems to the front so to speak. So, I don’t know if it’s Facebook. What’s her name? The woman that’s… oh, brain’s gone. Huh?
Payman Langroud…: The woman that what?
Uchenna Okoye: Oh, what’s her name?
Payman Langroud…: The woman that what? What did she do? I’ll tell you.
Uchenna Okoye: No, isn’t it, is she one of the CEOs of Facebook now? It’s not Arianna. Is it Arianna?
Payman Langroud…: Oh, the one that came from Google?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. Anyway, her.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah.
Uchenna Okoye: We’re talking about the fact of it wasn’t until she got pregnant, so she suddenly realised that there was no parking, she had to park for miles to waddle to wherever she needed to be. And so, it was something that affected her, none of the guys had thought about it, none of them had, it wasn’t there at all. And so, that affected a change because she was there and she had something about it.
Payman Langroud…: Sheryl Sandberg. Sheryl.
Uchenna Okoye: That’s it, Sheryl Sandberg, thank you.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. She’s one of the people that I would love to sit and have a coffee with.
Payman Langroud…: Definitely, definitely. When did you stop becoming just a regular general dentist, and look to cosmetic dentistry? Because that’s definitely what you’re known for.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I mean I still consider myself a regular dentist. I am a regular dentist that just happens to be on TV. I didn’t go seeking to be doing what I’m doing. I think I got involved with cosmetics because, one, I’m dental phobic, I’m afraid of… I had some really bad experiences. And going to AACD, and I can’t remember how I got to AACD the first time. And it just totally blew my mind. It just opened me up to a whole world that I wasn’t even aware of, and that kind of started my journey.
Uchenna Okoye: And I started with quite a lot of people. It’s why sometimes, it’s the thing that dentists do that I get really cross with people that behave as if they’ve always known what they know now. They forget what it was like to know nothing. There was a time I didn’t know what a Zenith was. And sometimes I’ll see some well-known people putting other people down. And I’m like, “I was on the same course as you when you didn’t know any of this as well. So, you need to be kind to each other.”
Uchenna Okoye: And so, yeah, that kind of started the journey and I’ve just loved it. And I’ve always gone to America because I find it’s more forgiving, more… I’m not a dentist dentist as you have told me many times before. And in fact, I was saying to one of my team that if you had a yearbook of Guy’s, I’d probably be the person that people would say least likely to succeed. But they are quite amazed I’m told apparently with my success, which is a bit irritating, but a part of me is like, “Neh, neh, neh.” But it is.
Uchenna Okoye: I was a nerd at dental school. I was a Mr Bean kind of dental student. If you’re disclosing somebody’s teeth, I would be the person that would drop the disclosing tablet on the patient’s white shirt. That was me. So, I have a lot of affinity and empathy for people that don’t know what they’re doing. That whole imposter syndrome thing, it’s always something that I always struggle with. I’m told it keeps me humble, so that’s good.
Payman Langroud…: You’re definitely humble considering everything you’ve achieved, that’s for sure. But how did the TV thing happen?
Uchenna Okoye: Just busy minding my business doing what I do, and they just approached me. It wasn’t because I was sleeping with the producer, as one very well-known dentist told me.
Payman Langroud…: Is that the kind of thing you mean about women?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. I mean, who would go and ask a guy that kind of ridiculous question?
Payman Langroud…: [inaudible 00:27:18].
Uchenna Okoye: So, they just came one day and they-
Payman Langroud…: But why you? I mean, did you have a PR working for you at the time? Why you? I mean, they could have gone to anyone.
Uchenna Okoye: No, I think there was stuff in press about me.
Payman Langroud…: Okay.
Uchenna Okoye: So, I had a part-time PR person. Did I have her then? I don’t think she was with me then. I can’t remember.
Payman Langroud…: You were very strong on your own PR weren’t you? Because where the practises are, they’re very near journalistic centres.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.
Payman Langroud…: And you’ve always… well, what’s always surprised me is how strong you are at PR yourself, without using professionals. I mean, it’s almost like you treat these people isn’t it? That’s the… The rest of us have to get PR people to bring these journalists in.
Uchenna Okoye: Them in.
Payman Langroud…: You’re just their dentist.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. But the thing is though, it’s the thing that I say to people, especially now in this whole Instagram era where don’t do the work for the picture or for the PR or for the article, do it because it’s the right thing to do. So, the reasons that I have a lot of journalists and people at my practise is because they might come…
Uchenna Okoye: Like I had one, Hannah, who came for a whitening feature for I think it was The Telegraph. And she’d had whitening before, like about three years ago by another dentist who I knew, and she was quite nervous, and she was like, “It was so painful before.” I’m like, “This one had so much recession. It would have been like pouring acid in a wound. I don’t understand how anybody could honestly.” But this person, the remit is, do whitening, one hour of my time or whatever and have articles.
Uchenna Okoye: So instead, I did buccal composites everywhere, sealed everything off, she was like, “Oh, my God, so this is what people that don’t suffer with sensitive… This is how teeth are meant to feel?” Then I did the whitening. It was only the whitening that appeared on the article, but that’s okay. And I didn’t charge her for the bonding because it’s a PR thing. But that’s the right thing to do, so.
Payman Langroud…: use the right whitening system for that.
Uchenna Okoye: You haven’t come along then. And that’s why they’ll stay. And that’s why, even though they might do an article, then they come back. And so, with the 10 Years Younger, they just came, they came, they spoke to patients, they look at pictures I’d done, they did a screen video thing et cetera. And then they just turned round and said, “We really want you to do it.” And I’m like, “Yeah, sure. So, is it going to be both of us?” Because at that time [Serinda] was also doing it. And they were like, “No, no, no, it’s just you.” So, I was a bit… They came to me saying that they were going to change the format for it to be a magazine style, so I thought they were going to… And I know that they were talking to different dentists at the time.
Payman Langroud…: For a while there you were the most famous dentist in the country definitely. And it was kind of before the internet properly took of, right? How famous were you? Did you used to get recognised? I remember once we were having dinner and someone recognised you.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.
Payman Langroud…: [inaudible 00:30:40].
Uchenna Okoye: But I’m not a very good famous person, whatever that means. Even with the show, I could have done it smarter, or if I was more millennially, but I would do the dentistry. And so, there’d be somebody, and I’m like, “But she’s a stable hand. I know having bright bleach shades isn’t going to work for her, she’s just going to stick out like a sore thumb.” Making sure that she can manage it afterwards. To me, the people is key.
Uchenna Okoye: So, I was so busy doing all the dentistry, I don’t know, I think I told you. Did I tell you that story about the guy? Me coming out of the station, it was so funny. It was on the Sunday morning, and I looked rough, man. I’m like real Sunday rough stuff on. And he was like, “Aren’t you that dentist from the show from 10 Years Younger?” And he actually goes, “You look rough, man. Can’t you afford a car?” He’s like, “I thought you’d be in a proper… You look like you’d be in a BMW or something.” It was so embarrassing, it was just… But for me that meant that I’d… even now, I don’t consider myself famous. I find the whole
Payman Langroud…: Do you get recognised quite a lot?
Uchenna Okoye: Not now, because the show hasn’t been around.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah, but back then, you used to?
Uchenna Okoye: But I do get recognised because it’s easy to recognise me, it’s the black woman, there are not many kind of… So, I’ve learned to just smile at everybody. So, yeah. But I feel very blessed to be doing what I love doing, so yeah. But it’s not easy.
Payman Langroud…: Uchenna, one thing about you that I’ve over the years gathered yeah, is that you’re not interested in fitting in. So, when you say you were the oddball whatever in dental school, just for the sake of the argument, you used to say to me, “I’m never going to use website people that dentists use.” You’d always look outside of dentistry. Your practise, I remember when I came there, everyone’s talking about guests, no one’s talking about patients. And I remember you saying you recruit from outside dentistry. And it’s kind of fashionable now, but you were talking about this 15 years ago. You used to recruit from hotels or wherever it was. Give me a little, first of all, why’d you do that? Does it work well for you? And secondly, why are you that cat that’s trying to be different?
Uchenna Okoye: But I don’t think… I’m not trying to be different. I’m not purposefully trying to be an outlier as they say. I mean I kind of say to people I am incredibly shy, as I told you, and everybody just laughs. But actually I really am. So, to be one of the worst things anyone could ask me to do is [inaudible] into a room that people I don’t… I’ll just find the one person and stick to them like a leech. But then I will notice people that are uncomfortable, and I will force myself to overcome whatever to try and make them feel better, if that makes sense, yeah.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah.
Uchenna Okoye: So, I think that’s part of what drives how I am in practise. And which is why most people assume… I always find it so weird where people who have never met me just have these preconceived ideas. I have people that are friends now, that they were like, “Oh, we just heard or we assume that you’d have an attitude or that you’re really aloof and you don’t hang out with…” And I’m just like, “But why? Why would you say that?” But it is what it is.
Uchenna Okoye: So, I like the non-dental thing because dentistry. Now it is, as you said, but before it never used to be about customer service. So, I had to go outside of dentistry in the UK to get that kind of vibe and customer service.
Payman Langroud…: You were definitely one of the first. You were definitely one of the first that was looking at it directly from the customer perspective. I certainly felt that. Everything about your practise. From the morning huddle, to the decorations, to the way you talked about your patients, was very much patient-focused. Which is, as I say, very fashionable now, but you were ahead of the game on that. Was that partly to do with the phobia? And some people get into dentistry and forget what it was like not to be a dentist. And as others, and people like Rhona now, Shaadi’s another one that I’m very interested in, who completely want to take it the other way and just talk to the public and demystify. But you were definitely one of the first who did that, yeah? And you still do I guess?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I mean for me it’s I’m interested in people. So, it’s always been about the people. And I’ll be the first one to be like, “There are so many dentists with much better hands than me.” That I’m like, “I can only aspire to do the kind of work that they do.” Me, I’m kind of like… don’t get me wrong, I do good work, and I invest a lot in courses, I know my limitations. But I’ve always been about the people. So, it’s about making people feel good about themselves, making them be the best that they can be.
Prav Solanki: So, just talk me through your patient journey. I’m a patient walking into your practise for the first time. Just talk me through the entire experience from walking through your door, to actually having a conversation, consultation with you. What’s your consultation process?
Uchenna Okoye: Gosh, I’m still trying to redefine it in the COVID-era. I’m actually struggling with it because I’m a hugger and a kisser, so I-
Prav Solanki: Let’s go pre-COVID. What would happen?
Uchenna Okoye: Pre-COVID would be schedule the appointment, and I guess [inaudible 00:36:56], but most people come in to see my know it’s going to be an investment, and they are looking for me, or they’re asking for me. So, they’d come in, they’d come to reception, we have a bag, all the forms they’ve got, what kind of lip balm they want and all that kind of stuff that I’ve learned from… So, everywhere I go on holiday I always hang out with the HR people, so Ritz-Carlton and all the rest of it. And I pick little bits that will work. I’m always thinking about what will work when I come home. So, we have that, the service menu, then I’m always the one that comes and meets them, brings them in, we sit at a desk in my surgery. I don’t have a big, posh space. My surgery’s from IKEA, that kind of thing. I’m a proper [inaudible] girl. So, we sit on one side, talk about how can I help you, what’s going on? Just that engagement.
Prav Solanki: What do you do to cater towards phobics? Because you mentioned earlier on that obviously you had a bad experience earlier on in your life and you’re a phobic. Do you cater to their needs? Is there anything different that you do to help people who are nervous about dentistry?
Uchenna Okoye: I think just be interested. All that old adage of nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Is just literally being interested. I am so interested. I have friends that will be like, “I’ve known this person for 10 years, and you’ve found out in five minutes more about them than I have.” Because I genuinely love to find out about people. So, once with the trust.
Uchenna Okoye: I mean, they love the fact that I am a phobic, so that’s always a good thing. And I address that right from the onset. So, I always say when we’ve finished talking and we go to the chair, and I’m like, “I’m going to do this. You’re in control. If I’m wittering on, you want me to stop, you just let me know.” And all that kind of stuff. And then I’m just always, “Are you okay? Let me know.” It’s just it’s a two-way. And so for most of the time, just that in itself is enough.
Uchenna Okoye: I’ve never had… And I had one woman that it took us about six weeks to get her up the stairs. So, each appointment she’d go up two steps til she got to the top. It’s very rare. I’d say that maybe two, three people that we need to have to do sedation or anything like that. But for most patients, just the appointment’s longer, and it’s just time. I mean, we’ve got the DVD glasses and iPhones and all that stuff for them to listen to music, that helps.
Uchenna Okoye: So, finish talking, sit them in the chair, do all the normal stuff that one would do, take pictures. Then we go back to the side table, show them their pictures, talk about what I see, what they see. And then do a treatment plan. And I’ll-
Payman Langroud…: Do you do it there and then? Or do you do it at a different time?
Uchenna Okoye: The treatment plan?
Payman Langroud…: Yeah.
Uchenna Okoye: No, what I always try and do is find something small to bring them back with. So, if it’s so they’re coming back for the hygienist and maybe I’ll do one filling, and then I’ll give them the treatment plan then. If it’s something really straight… if it’s, “Hey, I know that this is going to be a Smile or whatever.” And I will give them the fee for maybe doing the articulated models or something. And then they’ll come back for that, and then I give them the… yeah.
Payman Langroud…: And what kind of treatment plans are you doing? I mean in terms of value, are you hitting the 20, 30 grand numbers?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.
Payman Langroud…: And are some people just completely shocked by that? What I mean by that is there’s a lot of people who don’t know you could spend 30 grand on your teeth.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I had somebody today actually.
Payman Langroud…: Did you?
Uchenna Okoye: And I was so angry in fact that I was going to do a video about it, where this woman had juvenile periodontitis, she’s been wearing a partial denture since she was 21. She’s head downcast, doesn’t smile, saw me on the show, wants to come and see what can be done. She’s lost her job, she’s an office worker, she hasn’t got a lot of money. And I’m just like, “But has nobody talked to you about implants?” She was like, “No.” But she has tried inquiring with her dentist, but he kind of said that it was really expensive and she shouldn’t bother. And she’s divorced, and she’s just hasn’t had a new relationship because she doesn’t want to have to address that thing.
Uchenna Okoye: So then, she’s like, “How much is it going to be? What do you think?” And I’m like, “Well…” I mean, I used the analogy of a car, because she had no idea. And I said, “If I told you it was going to be like a car.” And she kind of looked at me in shock. And I said, “You should ask me what kind of car.” And we had a laugh about that. And then I said, “If it’s going to be 25, £30,000.” And she was like, “Oh, my God, I don’t have that. How can I?” And then I said to her, “Look, even the so-called celebs. Nobody has money. I don’t have that money. Everybody uses finance.” And she was like, “Oh, I can do finance? Really?” And the conversation just changed. I mean, I guess that comes with confidence. But to me I was angry on her behalf at this person that judged her.
Payman Langroud…: No one had ever told her anything.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, no one told her. So, she’s going to go ahead and have treatment. I mean, I’ll be referring her, so it’s not that I’m keeping the money or anything like that. But I’m just like, “Oh, my God, you’ve been wearing a denture since you were 21.” And I guess that’s part of the thing of the passion. And I’m like, “If you were my sister”, I was like, “You have to have implants. I’m not going to make you a new denture, you have to.” And she’s going to do that because that’s just the best thing for her really, it’ll make such a difference to her life.
Payman Langroud…: You’ve done a lot of the Spear.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I love Spear.
Payman Langroud…: Tell us about that. I mean, if I’m a young dentist who wants to be like you, is it a good idea?
Uchenna Okoye: 100%.
Payman Langroud…: And how soon and how quick and how much?
Uchenna Okoye: I mean, all the Spear courses like the workshops are about $10,000. And the thing that I will-
Payman Langroud…: Each?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, yeah. And the thing I will say, because I still remember, because I started with Larry, I’m part of the Larry groupies.
Payman Langroud…: Me too.
Uchenna Okoye: I love Larry.
Payman Langroud…: That’s where the car thing comes from.
Uchenna Okoye: Yes. And so, honestly I remember paying for this with my credit cards, not knowing if the cards would work or not, that kind of thing. So, a lot of people… and I have to say, this is me. I’m not saying this is what other people should do. I admire people that sit there, and they work on a plan, and they save up, and that is seriously the best thing to do. But I didn’t want to wait. I just had this thirst for knowledge. So, I did all my things in America. I didn’t want to be in England because he was there and it was a totally different experience. So, I did that. I did all of Pete Dawson’s stuff.
Payman Langroud…: Did you? Did you?
Uchenna Okoye: I did the whole thing up to master’s. And then Frank, oh my God, he is just amazing. Teaching occlusions so that literally it’s like, “Yeah, they’re just these dots here. And if you get the dots around here then occlusion starts.” I mean, I know I’m exaggerating, but it was really there. And Scottsdale’s an amazing facility. And every time I just love it. And there’s [Garridy] Wood. And it’s just such a great.
Payman Langroud…: Because I don’t know anything about… I mean, I’ve spoken to people who do it, but I’ve never been there. But I’ve seen pictures, yeah? But how do they keep people coming back and spending another 10 grand? I mean, is it the quality of the teaching is so amazing that the penny drops and you’re like, “I need more”?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, absolutely. Because even me, I’ve been doing Spear for 10 years, more than 10 years, maybe 12, 14. And I’m still spending 10k on new courses that are evolving. And it’s the combination, it’s a safe space to learn, it’s a great place to be away and to learn, the quality of the education.
Uchenna Okoye: I mean the Kois, I know that there are people like Scheniqua loved Kois, and I’ve never actually heard him. But both Kois and Spear used to work together. And like lots of boys you all go and fight with each other and things happen. But it just means that there’s even more choice for people.
Uchenna Okoye: So, I would say to somebody, “Hone your craft. Do your dentistry at least two, three years before you start jumping into all these courses and all the stuff.” Because you… I remember, actually I think it was about a year or two years after dental school, I did the Mike Wise course.
Payman Langroud…: Oh, well done.
Uchenna Okoye: Well, it was a waste of time and money. I didn’t know what the hell… I didn’t know what they were talking about.
Payman Langroud…: It was like another planet, yeah.
Uchenna Okoye: It was just… And I was at the course at the same time as Koray I think. And it was like way… I mean, it was good because it started me on that journey. But I’d have gotten more out of it if I’d waited a little, done a couple of years of things failing.
Payman Langroud…: So, how much of your work is the simple align, bleach, bond type? How much of it is porcelain aesthetics? And then how much of it is the full-mouth rehab, that kind of work?
Uchenna Okoye: See, I so desperately want to do align, bleach and bond. It would be so much better for my back. But I was saying to somebody that my niche is middle-aged menopausal women like myself. So, their mouths are complicated. So, it’s all multi-disciplinary. So, if I’m doing all my Invisalign is comprehensive, it’s part of implants, it’s part of whatever else.
Payman Langroud…: Do you place implants as well?
Uchenna Okoye: Oh, God, no. I hate implants. Ugh. Meccano. No, no. I send implants out. Fillings I do.
Payman Langroud…: To Koray?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. So, to various people. Each time I keep thinking I should get somebody in-house, but I quite like it being somebody else’s problem. So, bread and butter dentistry for me generally tends to be part of bigger treatments. So, I’m still doing the fillings and all the rest of it. Although at the moment I’m probably thinking of getting an associate so that I can have somebody a day or two a week that I can do, because all the plans take so long to do.
Payman Langroud…: How do you handle the fact that people want to see you, and they don’t want to see your associates? I mean, how many practises are you on now?
Uchenna Okoye: Two.
Payman Langroud…: You were three at one point, right?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, but that one, so the Harley Street one is kind of the best day of my week, I just sit there and chat to people.
Payman Langroud…: So, you’ve got [inaudible 00:48:56]. I remember Jasmine used to work for you as well.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, yeah. She’s.
Payman Langroud…: So, how do you get round that issue of people who want to be seen by you? Are you able to deflect them into associates, or is that not…
Uchenna Okoye: No, it’s fine. So, I did a thing which I learned from I think it was Frank. I don’t know if it was Frank or Garry, where so all your guests initially I see first. Because what I was finding was like maybe they were having routine treatment, then I might see them for something, and then I’d be like, “Oh, have you thought about having braces?” And then he’s like, “Oh, really?” And then it’s that kind of thing. Whereas, I guess I have the confidence to do that, so it became a thing. And I learned it from somebody, I didn’t think of it. So, everybody walks in and I see them. And then I’m like, “Okay, you’re going to go and see this person, or you’re going to go and do that.” And it’s fine. And I think for me they don’t know any better. It’s a matter of fact. It’s like this is how we do it here, and they trust me, so they’re okay with it. As long as it’s in-house, they don’t like going out, which sometimes can be a problem, they want to just stay in, because then it means that-
Payman Langroud…: Is the price the same if you do a veneer and if one of your associates does a veneer, is the price the same?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. I don’t do the two-tier thing. We’re the same, yeah.
Payman Langroud…: I like that. So now you’re a single mum.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.
Payman Langroud…: Tell us that story.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. That’s actually the hardest thing that I’m doing right now. And maybe if I was a mum earlier, I don’t… no, it would have been okay. But I’m a late mum not by choice. You assume it’s going to work, and it didn’t. But she’s awesome. She’s the best thing ever. But it’s hard. It’s hard because you’re constantly juggling. You just don’t switch off. You’re here, you’re there, you’re trying to…
Uchenna Okoye: I remember, this is funny, so we were filming, and it was in the middle of filming, and so I have to have my phone with me because I don’t know what’s happening with her. And something happened with the nanny, so I’m seeing the person, the camera’s there, the phone’s here, I’m texting trying to find another babysitter. In the end I had to say, “Look, you guys need to down tools.” And they had to bring her to the surgery, and then a babysitter came and took her home, because we were running late and it was just… So, that’s just the nature of how things are.
Uchenna Okoye: And it’s nice now because I think people are more forgiving. So, one of my first ever mentors, Linda Greenwall, I know you’ve had Linda. And she’s so inspiring. And I still remember her, she opened her practise a few days after she’d given birth, and the kids were there. And that’s way ahead of her time. That can happen now, but in those days that just was not.
Payman Langroud…: She’s a superwoman with four kids.
Uchenna Okoye: Oh, hugely.
Payman Langroud…: And then everything else. Tell me about being a single mum. I mean, it must be difficult, right? So, you must rely heavily on nannies and the like?
Uchenna Okoye: It is hard. And some days you just think what’s the point, where… So, we’ve just finished filming, and for a week I didn’t see her.
Payman Langroud…: Wow.
Uchenna Okoye: And I would leave at 6:00 in the morning, and I’d get back and she’d be asleep. And so, it’s quite off-putting finally actually on the Saturday of that week when she comes in. Because what I used to do was I’d leave a note and a present. And she was really disappointed that I was there. “Oh, no present today, mummy?”
Uchenna Okoye: But I think that’s one of the thing where you talk about women, men, type thing. Is a feeling of guilt. I feel like I’m guilty of stuff all the time. Patients are hounding me because I haven’t done their treatment plan, or I’m supposed to do appraisals or something with team. Or the other day there was something I was supposed to have put in her schoolbag that I forgot about, so I’m like, “I’ve failed there.” Or at the school gate and she’s refusing to go to school, so now I’m like, “They’re all judging me because I don’t drop her off enough here, and that’s why she’s clinging to me like a limpet and she won’t go.”
Uchenna Okoye: But the nice thing about doing it as a late mum, is that there isn’t anything else I’d rather be doing. It’s just she’s amazing. She’s my world. And because she was chosen, so she calls me, I’m her heart mummy, because she was adopted. Yeah, that makes it all… Every time I want to moan to a friend, they’re like, “You know you chose this? You wanted this, enjoy it.” So, I’m trying to. But it’s the most rewarding thing. So yeah, love it.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I love my life. I love everything I’m doing. I mean I think it’s hard. It’s so hard. There’s some days that you’re just like, “What’s the point of this? There’s only one of me.” But there isn’t anything that I would drop. I just feel beyond blessed. It is hard work, and it’s constant. And sometimes people say things like, “You’re so lucky.”
Uchenna Okoye: There were days, I remember the early days that I would literally, I’m not kidding, sleep in the surgery. It’d be like 2:00 in the morning, and there’s no point going home, and I would, I have a shower here, [inaudible] now, and you just wished I had a flat upstairs because you just so much work to do and all that kind of stuff. And you just do what you have to do. But I’ve always had that kind of work ethic. You just have to do what you have to do.
Prav Solanki: What’s the typical day for you, Uchenna? Day in the life. What time do you wake up? How does it all start? How long are you at work?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. Typical day. Normally wake up about 5:00, so if I’m asleep at around 6:00 that’s a lie-in and I feel behind. So, I wake up, I’m a Christian so I pray, I try and stretch because my back is having issues. And if I’m lucky I can do all that. If I’m unlucky, a little person comes in. She’s an early bird, so she normally wakes up between 5:30 and 6:00 as well. So, right at the moment we will spend about half an hour together, so she’d be reading or I’d be reading to her. She generally just wants to watch something, but I don’t let her. And then I will leave home about 7:00, quarter past seven, come to the practise. I like to have the first hour for myself, so to just catch up on stuff and determine what’s-
Payman Langroud…: But does the nanny come in at that point or does she live with you?
Uchenna Okoye: No, do you know, COVID has made me more resilient. Because before that I’m like, “I don’t want anybody living with me and all the rest of it.” The nanny used to come in. But me and a four-year-old for all those months, I’m sorry, it was hell, I cannot lie. It was just so hard. And because she was so little she wouldn’t leave me alone. There was all these people having all these conference calls and all the CPD things, I didn’t get to do any of that at all, I was so jealous. So, she lives with… she’s in there with me, so that’s really helped.
Uchenna Okoye: So, I leave, I come here. We have a morning huddle. Normally the team would have sent me the night before, we do what’s called a day list, so my nurses write, I have a list of things, the occupation, what happened the last time they came in, what they’re coming in for today, any problems. So, I read first beforehand. Then we have a morning huddle, and then the day starts. And each day is different. Sometimes-
Payman Langroud…: And what time do you get home again?
Uchenna Okoye: Now I try and get home by 6:30. So, my job is to… it’s funny how I’ve changed. I used to be like, “I have to get home in time to give her her bath.” But that’s actually really boring, and I’m tired. So now the nanny does the bath, and I read the stories and put her to bed, and then collapse.
Payman Langroud…: And what time do you go to bed?
Uchenna Okoye: Usually about midnight.
Payman Langroud…: Wow.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, so.
Prav Solanki: Midnight to 5:00 AM?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.
Payman Langroud…: Every day?
Uchenna Okoye: Well, my dad growing up. Yeah, I’ve always done that. My dad used to say sleep was practising death.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah, I agree.
Uchenna Okoye: So, you have eternity to sleep. So, we’ve always in my house growing up, no matter what time you went to bed, 6:00 AM, morning prayers, everybody’s dressed, seated round for breakfast kind of thing. So, friends didn’t like coming to my house.
Payman Langroud…: Uchenna, I’ve got a couple of other things I want to address with you. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re a very, very strict boss, right?
Uchenna Okoye: Oh, terribly so. I’m told I… well, I know that you know that I’m known for that.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah. But tell us about… The last time I asked you this was a while ago, but you went, “Yeah, I’m a dictator.”
Uchenna Okoye: No, no, I’ve been told I’m a dictator. I don’t.
Payman Langroud…: It’s hard work. Maybe it’s that Nigerian work ethic thing. That to you might seem like a normal, but you’ve got very high standards.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.
Payman Langroud…: And people do it exactly as you tell them to do it or they’re out.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.
Payman Langroud…: Not even denying it.
Uchenna Okoye: No, I’m not. What I say is I honestly, the God’s honest truth is, I could not afford to see me. I could not afford to be treated by me right now. So, somebody’s coming in for, and they’re going to spend 20 grand, even if it’s five grand, they’re people that have saved for years to even get something like whitening, we have to be on our game. You can’t come in and say, “Oh, the reception was perfectly pristine, it’s just that one moment with that one patient.” Because that’s their experience. And part of why I’m like that is how I was at dental school. So, I don’t want the control thing. And the problem is people come in and they don’t realise that it’s for their benefit. So, I have a new nurse say, the trainee or whoever, and I’m like, “Look, you need to do this and this and this.” Because if you’ve prepared and there’s a problem, you can address a problem. Hopefully you’ve over-prepared, so there’s not going to be that problem.
Payman Langroud…: I get the military side of it.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.
Payman Langroud…: Of course, yeah? But the bit I don’t understand is that the staff have to be super happy in this high-end place, right? Because you want to be happy for the patients. And how do you manage that tension between bloody strict boss and happy staff? And you’re going to tell me some people want that, right? And you… Yeah.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, yeah. It’s finding that. It’s difficult. I think it was one of the team talked about… Like Patty Jameson talks about a championship team, and we used the analogy of Team GB. You want to be part of the Olympic team. There are thousands of great sprinters, and just think of how many people they have to get through to pick the people that are going to be in the team. And I consider us as Team GB.
Uchenna Okoye: I mean, I am the best boss from a nurturing, I notice if people are poorly and I will look after you and all that kind of stuff. What the problem is that, I now know that the term is emotional intelligence, being able to separate the loving, kind Uchenna that will lend us lots of money and take us to America and whatever. With the Uchenna who’s like, “Okay, right, it’s time to deliver what we need to now.” And that’s often hard. And yeah, it’s work ethic.
Uchenna Okoye: I remember saying to one of the girls, and we were talking about me growing up for example. So, I failed my A-levels, so I had to resit my A-levels. And my parents didn’t have the money to send me to a Crammer’s college, because I had read that that’s where to go to get the best learning to do it again. And I was here with my brothers and sisters, so I was looking after them. I would wake up in the morning about 3:00 AM, get on the night bus, it was the bus 25, at that point I was working in the warehouse in Harrods, so I chose well. So, the bus would go from Ilford to Harrods. I would do the job there, I would go to school, I would finish, I’d go home, cook for everybody, put them to bed, then I’d go and I had a cleaning job in Tesco’s, which I would then do in the evening.
Uchenna Okoye: So yes, I get it, that I have a really strong work ethic and not everybody aspires to or understands. But I make it very clear that this is what you’re singing up to. And sometimes people say, “Do you actually want me to work here?” And I’m like, “Yeah, but if you’re going to go to Oxford and Cambridge, you know what you’re up against. You don’t have to come to Oxford and Cambridge, you can go somewhere else. But if you want to join us, it’s not easy. And I know that it’s not easy.” So yeah, I don’t know, does that make me an evil witch?
Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah. It does, yeah.
Uchenna Okoye: But I love the fact that, because just for the listeners you had… was it a nurse or receptionist? Who was the person that used to work for me that came and worked with you?
Payman Langroud…: I think it was an ex-nurse of mine who came to see you for a while, something like that.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, but then it made me really happy that you turned round and you said, from talking to her and from working with her, that I walked the walk and didn’t just talk the talk. So, when she came to you and she was talking about guests.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah. Oh, that one. Yeah. It was a different one. That was a different one. That was the one who came from you to me.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. One other question. Look, I’ve always maintained you’re particularly strong om marketing, and you always claim you’re not and all that. But you certainly, I mean in the print age and the TV and print age, you’ve dominated. I mean absolutely dominated. You really were maybe the highest profile dentist in the country. Now that we’re in the internet age and the social media age, and we can see all these youngsters dominating because they’re… I mentioned Shaadi before, I don’t know if you’ve come across her, she started her TikTok account in lockdown, yeah? In lockdown. Now has 100,000 followers.
Uchenna Okoye: Oh, wow.
Payman Langroud…: And TikTok is that kind of platform. It’s got massive reach. What I’m saying… By the way, I don’t know anything about it myself. But my question is, how have you transitioned? Do you think marketing’s less important than it was before? Have you transitioned? I myself have a chasm, yeah? While Prav became one of the most important marketeers in dentistry because he’d mastered Google, I myself had a problem when we went from print to digital. I was very good at the Joop age spread ads in dentistry magazine, and then when it came to digital I didn’t know what the hell to do.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. I think marketing… they’re coming for me, the police. Is vital actually, especially in this day and age. I don’t think you can fight it. The world has changed. It’s just like, “Just embrace it.” I mean for me, I love Instagram. It’s like this black hole that you can just get sucked into, so you need to be careful. And I recognise if I’m feeling insecure and bad about myself, stay away from Instagram because it just makes you feel worse because everybody just best.
Payman Langroud…: It’s the highlight reel isn’t it?
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. And for me it’s interesting, because I treat all these journalists and people are sitting there, and maybe they’ve just finished sobbing in my chair, they’ve just had a breakup, they look rubbish. And then you just see, “Hi.” And it’s just 10 minutes later and I’m like, “This is so fake.” But as long as people are aware of that. But the thing about the digital age is it’s allowed… There are people that I’ve met that I could never have met, whether they’re in Egypt or Syria or whatever the case may be. So, it’s made the world a smaller place.
Uchenna Okoye: How have I adapted? I think the thing I find challenging is just finding the time. It’s finding the time to do the things, to learn how to do it. I’ve dabbled in having other people do stuff, but it’s never the same, it’s not authentic, it needs to be my voice. And I’ve learned, I like doing lives because people are there. It’s a bit like this, you’re just chatting to them and you don’t have to do all this hashtag type stuff.
Payman Langroud…: It’s interesting because a lot of people are very uncomfortable in lives. I am myself. But I’ve noticed you’re living all the time.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I like live. But I don’t know why you don’t like lives, because looking at you, you’re doing great.
Payman Langroud…: No, because this is audio, yeah? If this was video I’d be like…
Uchenna Okoye: Really? [inaudible 01:08:13], you’d be good at it. Yeah, I don’t mind that, because I can… I guess that’s why I do the TV well, because I can switch off. I can forget that there’s a camera there because I’m so interested in the person that I’m engaging in. And also, I now realised that I’m taking it much more seriously because it is actually starting to bring patients, which it didn’t before, not my kind of patients, number one.
Uchenna Okoye: And then the DM thing is amazing. I mean sometimes I think I give people too much free info. Because people are asking me questions and I’m like, “You need to ask your dentist to do blah, blah, blah.” So, somebody yesterday was like, “Thank you so much.” She started Invisalign, she’s up somewhere in Scotland, “And you encouraged me to do it, and I just wanted to let you know it’s going well.” So, that’s-
Payman Langroud…: I think there’s a massive opportunity for someone like you, yeah? In terms of the multiplatform story. So, if someone’s seen you on TV, then DMs you on the mobile, that is a different level of engagement, in terms of awareness engagement, than someone who’s only found you on the internet. And so, there’s a massive opportunity. And then the other side to it is what you just said, that clearly you’re comfortable talking to the camera, which I’d say 95% of people.
Prav Solanki: Are not.
Payman Langroud…: 99% of people, are not. I’m certainly. I don’t pick up the mobile and start talking to it, I just don’t do that, man. Prav does, right? But those two things. The fact that you’re comfortable talking to the camera, and the fact that you’re on other media, makes it just a really important thing for you to go all-in on I think.
Uchenna Okoye: I mean I guess for me, the USP has always been about education. I don’t want people to feel about the dental experience the way that I do, because I hate it, everything to do about dentistry is just awful. So, it’s kind of to empower people, to give them knowledge, to be able to make their own informed decisions. Because you’ll notice on my Insta, I’m not a tooth-posting dentist.
Payman Langroud…: Why is that?
Uchenna Okoye: Because that’s not what… I mean I can’t say that’s not what I’m interested in or whatever. But my thing is, I would hope that people would know that if they were going to come and see me, that the work would be okay, that it would be good work. So, I might be wrong, I don’t know. Maybe I should be posting more stuff.
Payman Langroud…: You should, because they work well, that’s the thing.
Uchenna Okoye: They what? Do what?
Payman Langroud…: They work. They work really well, the before and afters.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. And also, I judge. I’m like, “Nothing is good enough to post.” There’s that aspect as well.
Payman Langroud…: That perfection paralysis thing, that’s a whole story of its own. So, Uchenna, you listen to this podcast don’t you? Tell me you listen.
Uchenna Okoye: Yes, I do.
Payman Langroud…: Oh, thanks.
Uchenna Okoye: I do, it’s very good actually. The other day I sent a DM to… you did one with [Kunal 01:11:25], and I loved his story about Prague. I was like, “I didn’t know this about you. Oh, my God.”
Payman Langroud…: Yeah. So, Prav likes to end it on his question.
Prav Solanki: So, Uchenna.
Uchenna Okoye: Said very much, Prav. Sorry.
Prav Solanki: Pardon?
Uchenna Okoye: I said we’ve been wittering on without you.
Prav Solanki: I’ve been listening. I’ve been listening.
Payman Langroud…: You know he’s been dieting, he’s not eating for 21 days, you know this?
Uchenna Okoye: No. Really?
Payman Langroud…: He’s… yeah.
Prav Solanki: Yeah, I’ve not had a meal in nine days.
Uchenna Okoye: Why?
Prav Solanki: It’s just something I’m giving a go.
Payman Langroud…: It’s what he does.
Prav Solanki: It’s a 21-day fasting challenge. So, no food, just black coffee, water, electrolytes, salts.
Uchenna Okoye: Are you sure coffee is meant to be part of it?
Prav Solanki: Black coffee’s good.
Uchenna Okoye: Ah.
Payman Langroud…: He’s done a lot of research into it.
Prav Solanki: Yeah.
Uchenna Okoye: But do you feel good? How do you feel?
Prav Solanki: I feel fantastic. About this time of day over the last couple of days I start flagging, start feeling tired. But other than that I’m feeling great. I’m productive at work, I’m still training in the gym.
Uchenna Okoye: Maybe I should try it.
Prav Solanki: After day three it becomes really easy.
Uchenna Okoye: Really? Okay.
Prav Solanki: Yeah. Hunger just disappears.
Uchenna Okoye: Really?
Prav Solanki: Completely disappears.
Payman Langroud…: But he has a lot of vitamins and things, I don’t know if that helps.
Uchenna Okoye: Okay.
Prav Solanki: It doesn’t help with the hunger thing.
Payman Langroud…: Does it not?
Prav Solanki: No. No, no, not at all. But it helps with the fact that I’m not going to be nutritionally…
Payman Langroud…: Challenged.
Prav Solanki: Challenged, yeah, yeah. So, makes sure I get all my vitamins, minerals. The main thing is the salts. If you don’t have the salts, you don’t have the magnesium, your neurons are not firing, you start cramping up, all that. And that’s what I did. The first time I did it I really messed up, right? So, now I’m drinking six to seven litres of water a day, 10 to 12 salt capsules. My vitamins are all packed in here so I just rattle my way through them throughout the day. And it just works.
Uchenna Okoye: Oh, can you send me details? I’d love to try it.
Prav Solanki: Absolutely. Yeah, no problem.
Uchenna Okoye: Okay.
Prav Solanki: I’m actually at the end of this 21-day fast I’m going to write a blog, because I’ve had so many questions about the supplementation, about the process, the mindset, and the reasons that I do it, yeah? And the reasons that I do it are multifactorial, right? So, on one of them is building mental resilience and mental toughness, and the fact that if I can function and go without food for 21 days, then it opens my mindset up to other challenges, right? And also, when I get smaller challenges in life, then I should be able to handle them quite easily. So, a part of it is about… And then the other part of it is I’m probably a little bit crazy as well.
Prav Solanki: But Uchenna, onto more important things, which is the final question. Imagine it’s your last day on the planet, and your little one, or not so little one at this time is next to you. And you’ve got to part giving three pieces of advice. What would they be?
Uchenna Okoye: Oh, yeah. Three pieces of advice. I’d say stay in your lane. Just be you. I know it’s that thing of just be you.
Prav Solanki: Focus on yourself.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. Well, it’s not even focus on yourself, but just be the best that you can be, rather than trying to please anybody else, because you never will. So, just be true to yourself, listen to your gut. Which I’ve not been very good at, but I’m getting better. Surround yourself with positive people. That’s so important. People that will lift you up, that will encourage you. Yeah. I don’t know. I guess the last thing would probably be, a bit of my mantra, which is from the bible, which is nothing is impossible with God. So, if you just try it, and even if… That for me there’s no such thing as failure, it’s just another opportunity to do the thing better.
Prav Solanki: Of course.
Uchenna Okoye: So yeah, I don’t know if that answers the question?
Prav Solanki: It does, it does. And just to finish that off, Uchenna, how would you like to be remembered? Uchenna was…
Uchenna Okoye: Uchenna made a difference. At the end of the day that’s the thing I want on my tombstone. Whether it’s a difference with the patients that you’ve affected, with the team. It’s funny being really tough. I get team that have left all the time sending me letters saying, “Oh, now I understand what you were trying to get me to do 10 years ago.” Or family, friends, kind of thing.
Uchenna Okoye: But I lost my sister about five years ago unfortunately. She’s like my best friend and it just came out of nowhere, and it really helped… you realise that when all’s said and done, all you have is the memories of the things you did, the people you touched, and nothing else matters. It’s that. So yeah, that’s what I’d tell my daughter as well. Make good memories
Payman Langroud…: Did you question your belief at that point?
Uchenna Okoye: No, not at all. I mean I was angry. I was angry with God because I just didn’t… She I would say was the heart of us. She was the best of us. And even now… people say it gets better with time, but it doesn’t, you just… I feel, just thinking about her. Because she helped run the practise for a while, so whenever I’m here there’s always reminders of her. But you just get used to the whole being there all the time. So, I just have to trust that God knows why, and when I get to heaven I’ll find out.
Uchenna Okoye: But yeah, I would never be like, “Oh, it was for the best or whatever.” Because it was pants. It was horrible. And she was gone too soon, and it was hard. But I still trust Him. And just like a parent isn’t it? That’s the whole premise of a relationship, or my relationship with God, in that in the same ways my daughter will get upset with me, deep down she knows I love her, she knows it’s for her best, and she has that trust whether she likes what I’m doing to her or not.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah, that’s really well answered. Thank you so much for doing this.
Prav Solanki: Thank you.
Uchenna Okoye: [inaudible] been on the phone for an hour and a half.
Payman Langroud…: I knew you’d be good at this. We’ve always enjoyed talking to you. Maybe that’s the reason why Prav couldn’t get a word in. Hopefully when times are a bit better we can have a nice drink together or a dinner together.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I miss your parties.
Payman Langroud…: Yeah, exactly.
Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. And it’s nice to see you, Prav. I think you guys are doing a really… this is my favourite podcast I have to say, because-
Payman Langroud…: Oh, thank you.
Uchenna Okoye: No, it’s true. Because it gives a different insight. There are very few, in fact I can’t think of any that’s not just about not dental-based. I think the thing that we as dentists need is to just try and get to know each other a little bit better and forget… I mean there’s enough teeth. I don’t understand the jealousy and all that nonsense. There’s enough teeth for everybody. It’s just like support one another and just build each other up. So, thank you, keep on keeping on.
Prav Solanki: Cheers. Thanks a lot.
Payman Langroud…: Lovely to have you, Uchenna. Thanks a lot.
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.
Prav Solanki: Thanks for listening guys. If you got this far, you must have listened to the whole thing. And just a huge thank you both from me and Pay, for actually sticking through and listening to what we had to say and what our guest has had to say, because I’m assuming you got some value out of it.
Payman Langroud…: If you did get some value out of it, think about subscribing. And if you would, share this with a friend who you think might get some value out of it too. Thank you so, so, so much for listening. Thanks.
Prav Solanki: And don’t forget our six star rating.