In the first episode of a special two-part show, Prav gets together with dentist, educator and rugby fanatic Dr Ian Buckle.
Ian talks about his early days in a Christian Brothers’ school and finding his feet in NHS practice.
Ian talks us through his conversion to aesthetic, cosmetic and minimally-invasive dentistry, the journey into teaching and his new Complete GDP training course with IAS Academy.
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” – Ian Buckle
In This Episode
01.51 – Backstory
12.35 – Drive and motivation
19.59 – Dental school & education
26.34 – Highs and lows
29.37 – Into work
34.21 – A change of tack
44.51 – Complete dentistry & the cosmetic wave
50.51 – Into teaching
55.42 – Orthodontics and minimally-invasive restoration
58.12 – The Complete GDP
About Ian Buckle
Ian qualified from Liverpool University in 1985 and spent time in NHS practice before setting up Buckle Advanced Dental Care in the Wirral.
He is a prolific educator who has run courses with The Dawson Academy and IAS Academy, who has also designed practical training on the core curriculum.
He is also a prolific international speaker who hosts regular study clubs and seminars.
Ian has committed to spending one-third of his time teaching and the remaining time in clinical practice.
He is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD), The British Dental Association (BDA) and the Association of Dental Implantology (ADI).
Ian Buckle: And so, if you want to be successful at doing beautiful dentistry, you have to make it work well. And I want to… Pete had a lot of great sayings, and one of them was, “We all have a reputation. It just depends what that is.” And so, he wanted to be a reputation that the guy that could fix things, that made things look great, that made them work well, and that would bring in new patients, but also from a practise profitability perspective, in the nicest possible way, he wanted to fix that patient and get them into a hygiene programme and never have to do too much to them again, because what people don’t realise is when you start doing this stuff and it starts failing, it starts costing you big time.
Announcer: 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: It gives me great pleasure to have Ian Buckle on the Dental Leaders Podcast as our guest today, and he’s famously known for running, in my mind anyway, occlusion courses and heading up the European arm of The Dawson Academy during his teaching career. He’s got a beautiful clinic in The Wirral that I can only describe after visiting like stepping into somebody’s home, but then going there and experiencing the latest, state of the art, digital dentistry at the highest possible level in the area, if not the country. And he’s a very down to earth Northerner as well, which is fantastic, so I don’t have to put on my posh London voice.
Ian Buckle: No. That’s for sure.
Prav Solanki: Ian, we usually start these interviews by asking how you grew up. What was your backstory? What was childhood like? So, just take us back to growing up and what that was like for you.
Ian Buckle: I’m sure it was a very normal upbringing in the ’60s. We’re from quite humble backgrounds. My father left school when he was 14 and basically worked at a factory. My mom mainly brought us up and had a little part-time job. We lived in a three-bedroom council house, five of us, with my granddad. It was very cosy, to say the least. We didn’t have much, but we were happy. Didn’t know any better perhaps, and we just went… Growing up, just went along and went to the local school, St. Matthew’s in Clubmoor. And round here, or certainly back in the day in Liverpool, we had the 11 Plus for those of you who remember that, so I was fortunate or unfortunate enough to be smart enough to get through that, and I went to St. Edward’s, which was a good rugby school not too far away in West Derby in Liverpool.
And that was sort of a… I have to say, my mom in particular was very… I don’t think she got the opportunities when she was young, so she was very keen to help us and did a great deal for us educationally with what we could. And then, she encouraged us when we went to grammar school as well. It was a Christian Brothers school, and I know you hear lots of stories about Christian Brothers schools these days, but it was a good experience for me. I don’t think I was a great pupil. I mainly turned up for the sport, and I think like a lot of young men sort of drifted through education with short spells of motivation and mainly just trying not to get the strap as we used to get in those days for not doing our homework.
Prav Solanki: Was that actually a thing, Ian, getting the strap?
Ian Buckle: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.
Prav Solanki: Tell me about it. I’ll tell you what, when I was at school we had a math teacher called Mr. Hindley. It wasn’t back in the day where that was allowed, so as a punishment we’d get lines, right, and you’d have to get your folks to sign it and they’d find out you’d been naughty. But he gave you two choices. He said, “Prav, you can either have lines or you can have the beater bat.” And the beater bat was a plastic baseball bat that had been sliced down the middle, filled with sand, and then taped back up, and he’d stand you in front of the class and absolutely wallop you across the backside. And my god, it stung. I always opted for that, mate, because I didn’t want my dad to find out.
Ian Buckle: Well, it was done then. It was over with as well then.
Prav Solanki: Yeah. It lasted a few days actually, but you got it over and done with. It was hard to sit down after that. So, tell us about the strap? Did you get it much?
Ian Buckle: I didn’t, because it’s only in later years that I’ve become a little bit more non-conformist I think. My parents did too good a job of making me behave. I’d probably go out my way to try and get approval from people, which is not always the best thing, but I never liked to let people down. So, I wasn’t really the sort that would be getting the strap very often. It was there. It was a leather… It was a proper leather strap, probably about five, six millimetres thick. Some of the guys back then, they’d have these ones that were frayed at the edges, so that when they caught you with that, that would really sting, and you’d get little leather splinters in you.
But I have to say that… I can tell you lots of stories about things that went on then, but I fortunately managed to stay away from it all the time. It was really the… I mean, to be honest with you, for me the strap was… When you talk about writing lines, I mean, it’s more of a punishment because you had to do something and you had to let your parents know, whereas you get a little bit of that and it’s over with. I mean, it depends. I remember my dad telling me… I mean, going back even further, he got caught smoking in the toilet, so it was on the school stage. Pants down. Cane on the backside. And that was more about the humiliation of it, I think, in front of your peers that was designed to put people off. Sometimes I think the strap for us had the opposite effect in that you became sort of the school hero for getting a load of it as you did.
The couple of times I did get the strap was related to not doing homework. I was fortunate. I was quite good at sports and I was playing for the school first team when I was 15, so we had different sort of schedules. So, I would be playing rugby, and then being naughty they’d take you for a pint afterwards. And after one pint, doing French homework didn’t seem the best thing to do, and then you turned up and faced the consequences the next day. That was about it.
It was certainly something that would… For those who were brought up that way, no one wanted to have to say that they’d got the strap and whatever else. So, it was a punishment, but thankfully the sort of school that I went to, most of the time most of us weren’t getting it. But some of the Christian Brothers, teaching was not their first profession really. They struggled a little bit. We got up to all sorts of tricks, which would drive them insane. There’s lots of stories, which are probably not for now.
Prav Solanki: Right. Fair enough. What sort of student were you, Ian? Were you one of these kids that was just naturally gifted and talented, so academically it just came very naturally to you, or were you a grafter?
Ian Buckle: I don’t know that I was either really, to be honest with you. Going to a grammar school, all of a sudden I was taken out of this environment where I just turned up and I was always obviously bright enough, and I think I was fortunate because my mother was a great educator for me, and I was sort of the top of the tree without really thinking about it. And all of a sudden you’re plunged into this environment with people who are massively more intelligent than you, and everyone’s got their strengths and weaknesses and they’re all from different backgrounds. I mean, that to me was a proper education then, because I had to learn that you’re not always top of the pile, that some people are good at some things, some people are good at other. And it was interesting to meet people from different backgrounds. I certainly wasn’t the top of the range with the most in that school, but I also wasn’t the bottom either.
So, you met a real range of people, and I think that gave you a good, rounded education, but as far as I would know, I mean, I think… Well, I don’t know. I don’t know these days, but I would say I was certainly a typical boy of the time in that I was far more interested in sports and other things, and I just did my work to get through. And with it being a grammar school I was largely spoonfed, so it got me through pretty well. As I got to my O Levels, as it was in those days, GCSEs, I think I got the hint a little bit and got my head down and did some stuff and actually did quite well with that. And I thought, “Okay, this is what I need to do from now on.” Then started A Levels and thought, “Well, actually, there’s more important things to do,” and dropped off again.
I mean, people say, “Why did you do dentistry?” Well, going to a Christian Brothers school, the careers advisor was a Christian Brother. Now, I don’t know what the listeners would know about Christian Brothers, but they don’t usually have a wide experience of the working world. So, you would turn up with your A Levels or potential A Levels in chemistry, physics, and biology, which was sort of what we had to do in those days, and they would look in the book and go, “Oh, right. Well, you could be a doctor.” “No. Don’t fancy that. Can’t afford the time. Got no money. What else?” “Oh, well, I think you’d be good in a lab.” Well, anyone that knows me knows I have the attention span of a gnat, so that’s not going to work out very well for me. And actually, a couple of my pals had done dentistry and they were quite enjoying it, and I saw it as something… I like working with my hands. I like making things. I like solving problems. So I thought, “Well, give that a go,” and just pitched up and had a go.
Prav Solanki: And so, you mentioned a couple of your pals had done dentistry. Was there any one in particular that had inspired you at the time where you thought, “I quite like that person’s lifestyle,” or they’ve said something about dentistry that’s appealed to you?
Ian Buckle: Honest truth, no. It was just… I mean, the background that I was from, the only professional people that I knew were teachers, priests, and doctors. Everyone else I knew worked in a factory, or a few were at her Majesty’s pleasure. I knew I didn’t want to be a priest. For some reason I wasn’t cut out for that. Although at that time, my grandmother, who was a very religious person… It was still quite common for the eldest son to go to the seminary or whatever. Thankfully, I wasn’t the eldest, and so… I was head altar boy for quite a while, which I think a lot of people could understand with my… Anyway, but that’s a different story.
I liked biology and I liked sport, so you think, “Oh, I’ll be a biology teacher.” And then I just thought, “Well, let me see if I can do something else. I want to do something different. I want to do something that…” I like making things and, like I say, solving problems, so dentistry seemed to be something, but there was no… I hadn’t had any… My only sort of run-ins with dentists was being told I didn’t need braces because I was a boy, because you’re allowed to… Sexism was big in the ’60s. And making me a gum shield, which I thought was quite interesting. That was about it.
Prav Solanki: Right. And so, just going back to influence, you mentioned that obviously your mother was quite a big influence in sort of education and that sort of thing, and you’d come from very humble beginnings. Was there some kind of theme that was going on when you were younger that there was some kind of drive or motivation to do better and there was a push for that? What was that?
Ian Buckle: I think it was… To be honest with you, I think it was very much a working class thing in those days that there was always a drive to do better. People like my mom and dad, they saw opportunity and they wanted you to have a better life than they’d had. I actually see it today and I see it in different communities, and I’m not going to say what communities because you get accused of all sorts these days, but you see it and I think it’s great. It’s based on respect for your parents and their desire to try and get you to improve. And to be honest with you, from our perspective, get you out of the situation that they’ve been in, if you like, and be able to achieve more.
It’s a little bit interesting as well. I mean, certainly from my position now. There’s also a story which I do think people need to know with anyone who’s in that situation. It’s the old rich dad poor dad thing, which is they saw, like a lot of us see, becoming a professional as being the key to success. And I think it’s two things. One was money and two was respect, perhaps. I mean, certainly as a professional, maybe you get some respect, but it’s not always the key to money. I know lots of people who understand money, who make a lot more money than I have, because they understood how to buy something for… Well, let’s say they understood how to sell something for 20% more, which I didn’t have that education. So, it stood me in good stead and I’m certainly not complaining, but I think it’s good for people to understand that professions are great, but you also have to understand the business side of things as well to be financially successful, if that’s something you’re interested in.
Prav Solanki: In a similar light, some things that resonate with me and my upbringing, Ian, because me and my brother were brought up by my dad, single parent, and he always used to drill into us, “Taxi driver. Shopkeeper.” And he always used to say to us growing up, “The reason I’m working so hard is because I don’t want you to do what I’m doing. And if you end up doing what I do, then I failed.” And that really, really resonates with me all the time in terms of that.
And the same thing now, right, that we end up in a fortunate position or situation with our children, and you want them to do better, but for us now, better… I don’t know about you, Ian, but for me, better is not necessarily saying I want my son to be or my daughter to be a doctor, dentist, or professional. I want them to do well in whatever chosen career. I want to make sure if they’re doing their exams, they’re giving it their all. I want them to be happy. I want them to rock up at work every single day and absolutely love what they do. Whereas certainly for me, there was a bit of pressure to sort of be a professional and with that will come money. Did not understand that piece at the time. The overarching thesis from my dad was, “I definitely don’t want you to do what I do.”
Ian Buckle: No, absolutely. And my dad didn’t want me to be working in a factory like him. I think my mom, because I mean, she… My grandfather died when she was very young, so she was raised by just my grandmother, and she had my mom and a brother. Her brother actually went to the preschool for a while. Didn’t survive there. But my mom, terrible thing these days, but because she was female never got the opportunity. And she was obviously bright. She went to a grammar school of the day and did well, but then had to go out and work to support the family. So, she never got that opportunity and she wanted us to have that opportunity.
But as you quite rightly say, I see now, and one of the things as I… I know it’s hard to believe, but as I approach my 60th birthday, that you start to reflect on the things and you can actually see what’s gone on a little bit more. It’s certainly only been in the last couple of years that I’ve sort of been able to maybe connect those dots a little bit more. Steve Jobs said a while ago, “It’s almost impossible to connect the dots going forward. You can only connect them going back.” From my perspective, exactly like you’ve just said. I just want them to be happy. But how much do you push kids at school? How much do you make them go to rugby? How much do you do this? Maybe I’ve been a little bit on the other side. I don’t know.
But you see, my opinion was that we actually… We did stuff and we were fortunate enough to do quite well, but we were actually frightened a lot of the time. We were frightened of failing, which is a great stimulus, but it’s also very unpleasant. But what I was hoping for with my next generation is that they would have the springboard to go on and do whatever it was with the safety net underneath them to feel as though that they… It’s that question, what would you do if you couldn’t fail? And that’s what you’re trying to create, but I think the problem is when you create the safety net you also create comfort, and comfort does not encourage people to move on.
There’ll always be some people who are driven. Without saying nothing about the kids, I’ve got certainly one of them who’s very comfortable. And they’re different characters, and it’s easy to say, “Well, I’m not so bothered. It doesn’t really matter. If they’re happy enough with that then that’s okay,” but for me, that’s what I tried to do, was to create a springboard for them so if they really wanted to, then they could move on and try all sorts of things and find the thing that really floated their boat and then be successful in that, whatever that might mean to them.
Prav Solanki: Yeah. It is a tough one that, and I agree with you there, Ian, that when we give our kids everything it creates complacency, and it’s difficult not to give them everything either because you love them to bits, right?
Ian Buckle: Yeah.
Prav Solanki: It’s a tough balance.
Ian Buckle: Well, I do also think that I’m a bit of a Victorian dad. I’m not there with [inaudible] phones. They haven’t been given so much stuff, but they’ve lived a nice life with nice holidays and always had cars and whatever else. So, I mean, what else do you need? I mean, it’s a comfortable life.
Prav Solanki: Yeah. So fast-forward then, Ian, to dental school. The process of getting in actually, what was it like? What sort of grades did you need to get? What was the process of getting in? And then, what was that like for your parents to experience that news that their son’s just got into dental school?
Ian Buckle: It’s a funny thing. So, what was it like? Well, the grades were less in those days. Dentists were probably considered second-class medics. The grades were a little bit lower, and there also seemed to be a bit more emphasis on the character and what you’d done and whether you were the right sort. I don’t know whether that’s appropriate these days. I see now there are so many people with such high grades that you probably have to rule out a lot of people that I think would actually probably be great dentists and great professionals, because they can never quite achieve those grades, where maybe they’ve got much more of the humanity that the profession really needs.
But yeah, so I was able to get good enough grades. Biology was my main thing, so that was easy. That sounds a bit arrogant, doesn’t it, but I just found that really easy. I found maths quite easy because of the nature of my school. Small school. We had to either do science or maths related, so I had to drop my maths. So, physics and chemistry were not nice for me. Managed to get through them, get enough to get in. Persuaded the university with my sporting skills and other things that I did that I could be a good member of their community and managed to get in.
I have no doubt that my mom and dad were very pleased about that. At the same time, I have to say that no one was shouting and screaming from the rooftops. The most you’d get is probably, “Oh, well done. That’s good. Okay. So, go and wash the dishes now.” It was more that sort of… It was always very much downplayed, although I did find out later on when I met some of my dad’s colleagues from the factory about how he always used to talk about what you were doing and how proud he was of you.
Prav Solanki: Lovely to hear.
Ian Buckle: Yeah, which is nice. But as a young fellow you go, “Oh, shut up, Dad. Don’t be saying those things.”
Prav Solanki: Of course. Yeah.
Ian Buckle: So, I’m sure they were very proud, but like I say. So, managed to get in, and then… I mean, being spoonfed at the grammar school and then going to university, I had no clue what was going to happen. And then you came across people from all sorts of backgrounds. Came across something that’s been a mystery for all of my life, females. People from all sorts of religions, cultures, backgrounds, educational backgrounds, and it was great. Made some good friends there.
And again, I sort of just drifted through trying to do what I had to do to get through. I’m willing to accept that I wasn’t a great student. I can’t say that I was particularly inspired by anyone again. The thing is, I think in education, when you get an education, there are teachers that I would say were inspirational to me at my school who really brought me on. I went from being bottom in history to top in history because of the teacher and because of the way they dealt with you and supported you and did whatever.
Now, it’s that stuff that over time makes you think that’s the way that I… If I’m going to help anyone, that’s the way I want to help them. And also, unfortunately the bitter experiences also make you think, “And that’s the way that I definitely do not want to do it.” For whatever reason, people see this craggy old sports person, but I’m actually quite soft and emotional sort. I got a real dressing down a lot of the time and struggled quite a lot through university. Some of it was what you’d call mental health issues these days, so I’m very pleased that that’s a bit more to the fore, but it was sort of quite old fashioned somewhat. It was, “You’ll do this. We’ll crack the whip.” There was no one for me that really inspired me to get through that experience. I would just hate anyone else’s education to feel that way, to be honest with you.
Prav Solanki: It sounds like you didn’t have the best of times at dental school.
Ian Buckle: I’m also very… I’m sorry to interrupt, but I just want to say maybe I wasn’t the best student either. I think in those days as well, a lot of stuff was very academically based and about behaving yourself and doing that, and I would do what I could to get through, but I liked other things as well.
Prav Solanki: Yeah. So, Ian, what were the lows of dental school? And by the way, where did you go?
Ian Buckle: Liverpool.
Prav Solanki: Liverpool. Oh, so you stayed local then?
Ian Buckle: Well, there’s a bit of a backstory there. My brother’s three years older than me. He was the first one went off to Heriot-Watt University to do actuarial studies and sort of disappeared after about six months, and with that went, I mean, any resources that we had, and also it made me even more terrified about going anywhere. Yeah. Anyway. That’s just the way it is, but anyway. I was playing a lot of rugby and I had a lot of opportunity with the local clubs and things, so I was quite happy to stay there.
Prav Solanki: So, were you living at home or were you living in holes or…
Ian Buckle: Yeah. Sort of one of the… I mean, again, keeping costs down and fear and just not really knowing any better, I stayed at home. You don’t want to have regrets, but I mean, I’d certainly never advise that to any of my children or anyone that wanted to listen.
Prav Solanki: Yeah. Absolutely. So, what were the highs and lows of dental school? You mentioned there were some tough times you went through. Was it mainly to do with passing exams or were there other things going on, Ian, that sort of led to sort of those [crosstalk]?
Ian Buckle: I think most of the time I just sort of kept my head down and managed to get through most of it, and the high spot was escaping and dentist medic sports days and a laugh with pals. Those were the highlights. Totally non-academic. And the one particular time that I remember, I was just having a bad time struggling with requirements and education and whatever and just getting an absolute dressing down when really I needed an arm around my shoulder and encouragement. I actually just didn’t go in for… I can’t remember how long it was, but maybe six, eight weeks, and I mainly just stayed at home, stayed upstairs in my room, struggled with that. My dad was old school. Never said a word. Just let you get on with it. My mom didn’t know what to do, so they just carried on regardless, and we didn’t speak much about it.
And then one day, I mean, again, it’s life’s experience and it’s not something that I would like to see people having to do these days. You’d like to think there’s a lot more support these days, but one day I just got up and thought, “Well, which way am I going with this?” And I had to go in and face up to it and… I’m trying to think of a polite way of saying it, but be a man about it. Face up to it all and crack on. It was an experience. You can look back on those things and say maybe it helped you become the person that you are, but it was also… I think there were nicer ways of getting that experience as well. It’s nice to see… I think there’s an element of encouraging people. I think sometimes we’re a bit soft these days, but it’s also nice to see if someone’s struggling that we can maybe try and help them and help them get over those things and realise a lot of the things are mental issues, and your perception of what’s going on is not the reality.
So, that was a bit of a dark time, but thankfully got through, pulled myself together and came out the other end. And the good thing is today that there are support mechanisms. What makes me sad sometimes is that despite the fact that we have those support mechanisms, we’re not willing enough to support and help each other out as much as possibly we could do.
Prav Solanki: Yeah. So, moving on from there, qualified. First job?
Ian Buckle: Yeah, so back in those days we didn’t have VT or nothing, so I was looking for a job. Got a job in the delights of Crosby Road South in Waterloo, which is sort of north end of Liverpool, moving up that way towards South Port. There was two partners there. One of the younger partners decided to go to Saudi Arabia for tax benefits, which I think was part of the story. Anyway, so there I was, a new kid out of college knowing… I mean, we did a lot more at dental school in those days I think, but came out of college straight into a full list. Was told that boiling water stabilisation was actually okay. I also had a senior partner in the practise who was obviously rather upset about the other person leaving, so he wasn’t very interested in me for quite some time.
I was very fortunate that I had a very well qualified and very clever dental assistant who guided me through. And then thankfully, eventually the senior partner found out that I played rugby and his son played rugby, and then we became good friends. He became a great NHS mentor for me about the 20-minute crown prep and all sorts of other crazy things. We used to have three general anaesthetic sessions a week in those days as well.
Prav Solanki: Oh wow.
Ian Buckle: Yeah. Oh gosh. Yeah. That was an experience. He helped me move on with that, and then after a couple of years the guy came back and I moved on. Went to a practise in Chester, which the first day that I was there, the principal came to me asking me why I’d used more than two paper points to dry a root canal. And I guess I thought, “Well, this isn’t the place for me.” So, that didn’t last long. And then I worked in St. Helen’s for quite a while. All NHS, sort of trying to find my feet.
And also as well, in those days there wasn’t so much in the way of post-graduate educationally. The postgraduate education that there was was the old Section 63 courses, which… I mean, this might sound a bit cruel because there are some good people out there, but were mainly the same people that I didn’t feel had taught me much at university telling me the same thing again. So, there wasn’t much to… There was probably stuff at the [inaudible]. Well, a Northern boy like me wouldn’t know about things like that. And you’re also made to feel that this sort of stuff was beyond you. I mean, there’s one of my inspirational tales from dental school about face bows which was, “Well, a face bow, you want to use that if you’re doing something complicated like a three-unit bridge, and someone like you would never do something like that.”
Prav Solanki: Wow.
Ian Buckle: What tremendous inspiration that is. I mean, like you can see, I probably… I quite like the fact that maybe they see what I’m doing these days and maybe think differently, but it’s not because of what they said. If it is, it’s only indirectly because of what they said.
Prav Solanki: Yeah.
Ian Buckle: I’ll be honest with you, Prav, I was working in St. Helens and a lot of the time I’d go to work. I mean, I had a mortgage, wife, I had a child at that stage, and the first few years I was just finding my feet. And then the next few years you just think, “Okay. This is okay. I’m getting to grips with this.” Actually, I found it quite boring. I was a tooth mechanic, a tooth plumber dealing with people’s problems all day every day, often not in an optimal circumstance as far as I could see. It was nice to help people, but I really didn’t feel as though I was doing a great job. I kept looking to try and move on, but I couldn’t really find anything. And often I’d go to work, sort of get quite stretched out, and there was a… I don’t know if you know Makro. It’s like Costco. On the way home.
Prav Solanki: Yeah, yeah. Used to go there.
Ian Buckle: Yeah. So, sometimes what I’d do then is because I was so fed up of work I’d go there and I’d buy the latest video or something like that, and then I’d get home and for about a couple of hours I was excited about this new piece of kit that I’d bought, and then I’d realise I’ve just spent that money and now I have to go back to work and do the same thing that I didn’t want to do in order to get the money. And so, you got yourself on this dreadful wheel, and often you’d be working to go on holiday and then you’d spend the first week de-stressing and the second week stressing about going back.
I actually got to a point after about 12 years where there was… As I was driving to St. Helens, there was a… I used to turn right to the practise and there was a Little Chef just straight onward, and I thought… It was before the days of mobile phones. I thought, “You know, I think I’ll just go there and no one will know where I am.” I just didn’t want to go. They always say that when the student is ready the teacher appears, and I’ll be honest with you, I was going to pack in. I just couldn’t-
Prav Solanki: Weren’t happy.
Ian Buckle: Well, I just thought, “You know what? It’s not worth it. I don’t want to do this anymore.” And actually, that was when I came across a guy called Paddi Lund. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Paddi. He’s a mad Australian. The mad Australian dentist.
Prav Solanki: I have heard of him. Yeah. Yeah. Was he in the Little Chef?
Ian Buckle: He wasn’t in the Little Chef.
Prav Solanki: No.
Ian Buckle: But Paddi wrote a book called The Happiness-Centred Business, and his story is about basically getting to that point of, in his case, I think almost topping himself because of the situation. He tried to be the emergency guy, the denture guy, the superdy-duper guy, all those things, and he got himself to that point, and then was about to sort of give it all up and maybe even give his life up and thought, “Well, actually, maybe I’ll give it one more shot. I’m just going to be me. I’m going to do what I want, and it will be different, and why shouldn’t it be?” And for anyone who’s listening who is interested, go and look at that. You can find it all on the internet these days.
But it was about being yourself, and that’s what I did. I bought a practise and tried to make it a very family-based practise, and it became pretty successful, still doing mainly NHS stuff. And for a while, that was fairly rewarding. It was certainly… To be honest, it was probably the most lucrative time in my career and certainly a very happy time with young children as well. So, that was always a… Young children. Sport. It was pretty good.
Prav Solanki: Living the dream. Ian, can I just take one little step back? You heard about Paddi Lund, you gave up your job in St. Helens, and you started a new business and bought a practise. Was there some thinking that went on? Was the whole Paddi Lund inspiration that, “Hold on a minute. I’m going to do things my way now, and the only way I can do that is by running my own business,” or what was the thought process during that whole thing? Was it re-inspired by Paddi?
Ian Buckle: Yeah. Well, I mean, that was certainly a big part of it. There was also other things going on in my life and also in the practise where I wanted… I always thought that I’d become a partner in this practise, but I was sort of largely being led on I think. You just have to face the reality that the only way of determining your own future was to do something else, and that’s what I did. So, I knew that I had to determine my own future. I always say the best way to predict the future is to create it, so that’s what I thought I needed to do. I couldn’t see that I could go somewhere else and produce the future that I wanted, and that was a big part of it. And certainly, I’m a sucker for stories like Paddi’s as well, and I thought, “Well, if Paddi can do it, so can I.” And it was certainly a great part of my career.
Prav Solanki: So, when did you make that switch? You were running a predominantly NHS practise, and I mentioned that you were sort of living the dream then. You know, sport, young family, your own business.
Ian Buckle: Well, what happened then is I sort of maybe learned… I was the probably archetypal almost single practitioner. We had a hygienist, a couple of other things going on, but mainly doing that, and I knew every little bit of the practise and I knew what was coming in, what was going out, and I sort of did everything. I had some great staff. We had good fun together. It was very controllable and you knew everything that was going on.
But I then also reached another level where two things happened. One is I was still mainly being a tooth mechanic, a plumber, and also as well, I was seeing patients and they had problems that I couldn’t help them with and I didn’t know what to do. We used to refer them to the dental hospital and we’d usually get a letter back saying, “You should know what to do.” And it’s like, “Okay, that’s not helpful.” And so, you’ve got two choices when that’s happening, which is you either go, “Well, I don’t know what to do,” and just carry on, or you try and do something about it. And I’d always been really interested in… I mean, the only thing that I could see…
Well, there’s two things that actually happened at that time. I’d always been really interested in trying to make things look as nice as possible, and I started to find a few people that maybe were interested in aesthetic things. That was good. And then, I also at the same time went to one of these Section 63 courses where we got rotary instruments, and that was a big change in endo. And I thought… I mean, it was a stupid idea because I haven’t got the attention span for endo, but I thought, “I could do that. I could be better.”
And I went along to this meeting and couple of hours about postgraduate endo and these new rotary files, etc. And I stayed till the end because I don’t like to ask questions and I didn’t like to interrupt anyone, and I said, “I’d really like to get involved in this and get better.” And the answer was, this was from the postgraduate dean at the time, “Well, it’s a three-year course, full-time.” And I said, “Well, I’ve got a practise and I’ve got a wife and I’ve got a family and a mortgage. I don’t care if it takes me 10 years. What can I do?” And the answer was, “Well, give it all up and do this or go home.” So, I went home with my tail between my legs.
And actually, Mike Horrocks… I don’t know if you know Mike. Mike’s a great guy doing simplyendo. Well, Mike was around at the same time. I don’t know if he sort of… I don’t think he really knows my sort of story with that, but Mike took it on and went and did it and got through it, and I admire him tremendously for doing that. But then I think he’s been brilliant in saying, “You know what, I can teach someone to do a better endo and it doesn’t take three years. And you know what, maybe if I show them how to do something really nicely, maybe they’ll start to get interested in the academic side and they’ll get interested in more,” and I admire him tremendously for that, and I think that was…
I was going to say, “I could have done that,” but I don’t mean I could have done what Mike did. I think that’s a great story for him, and I know I still sort of come across Mike from time to time and I think he does a tremendous job in educating people about that and getting them better so that they can help their patients more to the level that they want to be. And he encourages people to do that. And because you encourage people to get better and you can show them practically what to do, they then get interested in the academic side and they get interested in the research side and they get interested in all the other stuff that actually most of us aren’t that interested in, and because of that, they get better and better and better, because of his teaching.
Anyway. That’s me going off track, but I think it’s nice to talk about that. So, that put me off, but as I say, I was fortunate as I was trying to do this. And again, it’s an interesting time because talking to some of the younger people these days and it’s like, “Oh, aesthetics.” Well, this was 20, 25 years ago when we had the cosmetic wave from America with Larry Rosenthal and all those guys, and it was actually… Really, what it was based on more than anything else, it was about veneers, but it was also about bonding and being able to stick things to teeth so much better. When I reflect on my career, one of the things… I’ve seen digital go from nothing to what it is now, and I’ve also seen bonding largely go from something that was pretty ordinary on enamel to amazing things that we can do today.
And so, at that stage sort of 20, 25 years ago, or maybe 20 years ago when we got the sort of fifth generation bonding agents or fourth and fifth generation bonding agents, and we could make nice porcelain and we could stick that on. Some of the composites were getting a little bit better as well. And obviously, we got this sort of smile stuff that came over from the States, and like everything in dentistry we get carried away with it. We take it too far. The problem with that was that yes, there’s great things that we can do, but it needs to be done in the right circumstances, appropriately on patients that need and/or want it. And like everything else, we take it too far. But that’s the story of most trends in dentistry, I think, not just the veneers.
Prav Solanki: So, Ian, you going from doing predominantly NHS dentistry to private dentistry, was that inspired by the Larry Rosenthal movement and that and going on courses or postgraduate courses?
Ian Buckle: Well, I mean, again, people say… Everything that comes in dentistry leaves a trail, and some of it’s good and some of it’s bad. At the same time I was really interested in aesthetic dentistry, I’d also been looking very carefully and read Pete Dawson’s book or tried to read Pete Dawson’s book and tried to understand it, and I couldn’t. It didn’t make much sense really because I’m just not that smart.
Prav Solanki: And for those who don’t know who Pete Dawson is, he’s the godfather of occlusion, right?
Ian Buckle: Well, exactly. This is where we get into that business of is it occlusion or is it complete dentistry? What Pete talked about was what he called the concept of complete dentistry. Pete was one of the great aesthetic dentists of his time, but what he knew, which is what I was just about to sort of start explaining, is that you can’t make things look nice if they don’t work well, and that form follows function. And so, if you want to be successful at doing beautiful dentistry, you have to make it work well.
And I want to… Pete had a lot of great sayings, and one of them was, “We all have a reputation. It just depends what that is.” And so, he wanted to be a reputation that the guy that could fix things, that made things look great, that made them work well, and that would bring in new patients, but also from a practise profitability perspective, in the nicest possible way, he wanted to fix that patient and get them into a hygiene programme and never have to do too much to them again, because what people don’t realise is when you start doing this stuff and it starts failing, it starts costing you big time.
Prav Solanki: And so, fast forward from there because, Ian, I know your story, that you ended up becoming essentially one of the lead instructors for the Dawson Academy. Talk me through how you got into teaching. How did you go from this kid who was always told, “You’ll never use a face bow. You won’t do a three-unit bridge. You’re a load of crap,” to this guy now who actually inspired and continues to inspire a generation of dentists to become better dentists? How did you get into that whole teaching gig?
Ian Buckle: I was very fortunate. As I say, at this time there was this aesthetic wave, cosmetic wave was going on, and I knew that it… I think like lots of Brits and Europeans, we also knew that we couldn’t have the aesthetics without having function. And at the same time, I was really intrigued about what the likes of Larry Rosenthal, et cetera, had to say. And at the same time as that was going on, Schottlander had these… I don’t know if anyone remembers Captek crowns, a particular sort of crown. Anyway, they brought a guy over called John Cranham who was using these crowns, but what he was talking about was the cosmetic occlusal connection. And I always remember that, the lecture that he gave on that, and that was the real eye-opener for me.
The sort of backstory to that was John had come out of college. He was fortunate when he was at university that his professors had been very occlusion based and understood about complete dentistry, and being involved with Pete Dawson, et cetera. And then he came out and he bought a practise, and when he was looking for ways to move forward, the lab that the guy used, a lab called Bay View in Chesapeake, and the guy there, Buddy Shafer, was also a big Dawson enthusiast. So, Buddy, I think… I apologise if I get this wrong, but Buddy actually sent John down to listen to Pete so that they could work together. And as a young guy, John got involved with that. He actually got heavily involved with Pete and started to bring that into the practise. He had the lab support there, which was pivotal to what he was doing.
So, he actually got pretty good at that. And then as the cosmetic wave came, he was able to not just go, “Well, I’m no longer a functional dentist. I’m a cosmetic dentist.” He was able to add that cosmetic side onto the occlusion. You see, because in those days you pretty much had two groups. You had the functional people with gold colours and morphology and things that looked ugly but worked, and then you had the cosmetic people which looked great but fell off. And what people like John did was to bring those two things together. And as I say, because he understood that Pete was actually an aesthetic dentist of the day, now we could take those principles and we could add in these new things that we could do and make it even better still. So, the complete dentistry that we have today, the aesthetic level improved tremendously.
So, John gave this lecture, and I not only liked the fact the way it brought those things together, but it also happened in a very predictable way, step-by-step approach, and I also liked the philosophy of caring for people and doing it right and trying to look after people. So, we became good friends and John helped me tremendously. I was sort of involved with the cosmetic side on one side, and then I was involved with Pete Dawson and John on the other side and sort of trying to bring those two things together, and also being European and being heavily influenced by composite and minimally invasive stuff. I was trying to build those concepts in as well, not just placing veneers everywhere, but also thinking, “Well, if I can get the teeth in the right place and I can get the occlusion right, maybe I can put these little bits of composite on and they’d stay in place.” And I’d do it. You wouldn’t say anything to anyone because it wasn’t really in the book, but it worked. And it’s like, “Oh, okay. There’s something in this.”
And then when you ask the question about how did you get into teaching, so actually one day I was down in St. Pete with one of Pete Dawson’s lectures. And you can tell it was before mobile phones. There was a message on my hotel phone that Dr. Cranham wanted to know if I was around. And John actually flew down to see me and said… He had his little sort of contemporary dentistry thing going on with some education, because he wasn’t involved with the Dawson Academy then, and he said, “Would you be interested in helping me?” Because I’d helped him out with a couple of things over here and he’d obviously thought I wasn’t too bad. So, I did my… I mean, I didn’t have a clue. I wasn’t interested. I didn’t know anything about teaching. I said, “Well, I’ll have a go and see.” In a typical American style he said, “Stop being so British and just say yes,” and that’s sort of how we started.
So, John and I started to develop some stuff and he would come over here and I’d go and help him over there a little bit. And then as Pete was coming to the end of his career, they were looking for someone to take over from Pete. And as I say, long story short, John got the job as clinical director and he said, “Well, I want to bring a couple of people with me.” One of them was my friend Drew Cobb in Washington, and I was the other one. So, that’s sort of how we got involved and how we got involved in teaching. I always like to be very open. John was totally involved in getting me involved in that way.
And I just want to say a word about the sort of Rosenthal stuff as well, because I know people say, “Oh, you shouldn’t do this. You shouldn’t do that.” But everything that you hear you have to take it just for its face value, and when you see people like Larry, you don’t have to do what he does. You don’t have to live his lifestyle. You don’t have to do any of those things. There’s things you can learn from everyone. And there’s one big thing that I learned from Larry and Jay Lerner and Ken Hamlett and those people, was, “You know what, if you want to do this, you can do it.” They actually gave me the permission to do it. I can’t tell you how important that was in my career, rather than all these people who are busy telling you about… Because a lot of people stand up and when they show you stuff, really what they’re trying to do is to say, “You can’t do this. Send it to me.” And what these guys were saying is, “You know what, if you want to get there, maybe we could help you.”
Prav Solanki: So, I guess it was that confidence boost during your career being told, “Well, you’ll never be able to do this. You won’t be good enough for this,” and then someone saying to you, “Do you know what? You can do it.”
Ian Buckle: Yeah. No, absolutely, and that with the background of Paddi stuff. I was fortunate enough to spend a little bit of time with Paddi and that over time, and he was a very interesting character, and then the sort of motivational side of the cosmetic stuff. I like shiny things, so that was nice, and a lot of people wanted nice smiles, so that was good. The philosophical side that Cranham brought and then the real solid background in function that I got from Pete Dawson, that sort of really gave me something that I felt that I could really help a lot of people with.
At the same time, I was also trying to add in my own take on minimally invasive things. I have to give great credit for Tif in what he did, and I think sometimes people forget these things. The reason why people like… Well, I mean, I’m not going to… I can’t speak for Tif, but the reason why many of us started to get an interest in ortho and trying to do some of those things… If you look in Pete’s book, you will see pictures with paperclips and elastic bands trying to move teeth, and the reason that we tried to do some of those things ourselves is because the orthodontist didn’t or wouldn’t do it for us, or you sent them to the orthodontist and the teeth would come back in a place that you had no idea why they were there. No one spoke to each other, and they had their own way, and we’re not going to share with you.
Some of the cosmetic stuff… Well, touch wood. I don’t think I did too much of it, but some of the cosmetic stuff was about taking nice teeth and trying to make them a bit nicer, which is always difficult to say the least. Most of my patients had British teeth, and a lot of them needed complex restorative. A lot of them needed orthodontics even just to get things in basically the right place. And a lot of the teeth, if we could just move them first, then we would be so much better off and allow to do what it is that I wanted to do, which was just get the teeth in the right place and then be able to bond them. And I always tease Tif because he just comes up with great phrases like align, bleach, and bond.
Again, if you look at Pete’s stuff, and I’ve got Pete’s old books sitting over here, 50 years ago his treatment options, number one, reshape teeth. Number two, reposition teeth. Orthodontics. Number three, restore teeth. Number four, surgical. Those are the only four things we can do. And actually, when I saw them I thought, “Well, I like restoration. I’ll do restoration,” but actually he put them in that order because this was the way of fixing people’s problems as minimally as possible, and that’s why ortho was there. And Pete did a lot of ortho to try and get things in the right place, but there was a major struggle back then and in my era to try and get orthodontists to help you. And that’s why people like Tif and others and whatever then started to think, “Well, if you’re not going to help me, maybe I can do some of this myself.”
Prav Solanki: Quick question, Ian. Did you ever manage to shift teeth with a paper clip and an elastic band?
Ian Buckle: I didn’t. I think Pete did. Pete was incredible. I think Tif renamed it an Inman Aligner. I think that’s what it was.
Prav Solanki: Got you. Got you. Yeah. Brilliant. So, just moving on from there, Ian, you mentioned Tif and I know that you’ve recently joined the IAS academy to launch a new course called The Complete GDP. And whenever I ask people what that course is about, so for example people like Tif, they all say, “Listen, Prav. It’s an occlusion course.” When I’ve had conversations with you, Ian… I think you summarised it really well earlier, but I really want you to articulate what it is that you teach, because I think when it comes to education dentists don’t know what they’re getting until they turn up. So, there’s a lot of courses out there that might teach you how to make a sexy smile or whatever it is, right. I think what you said to me earlier absolutely just triggered a light bulb in my head, which is you make stuff work and you make stuff look good, so form, function, and aesthetics. Right?
Ian Buckle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Prav Solanki: So, just tell me about The Complete GDP course and what is it. Is it what you used to teach at Dawson? Is it an upgrade of that? Is there new technology that’s been injected in it?
Ian Buckle: Okay. Look, lots of things to think about there. Try and keep on track with this. So, I have to give great homage to Pete and John and all those people for what they gave me, and this is sort of a new era for me now. So, what I hope I’ve done is to take all the things that I’ve learned, and I’ve also been involved with Spear and Kois and numerous other things. Bio aesthetics. I have a big connection with those. And actually, again, I see people say, “Oh, I’m going to give you the best of everything.” In my experience, actually most of these occlusal philosophies or whatever you want to call them, they’re actually largely the same. There’s a few minor nuances that… But most of my time has been spent on understanding that we’re just touching the same thing, but maybe from a slightly different side.
So, what I set out to do with these courses is to contemporize them further. So, what John did, I think, was to bring in the aesthetic side even more, but these days… And again, it’s something that anyone who had been on the courses that I was teaching would tell you that I used to do some my own stuff a lot as well, which was to illustrate the same principles but in a very minimally invasive way. Because a lot of the time we really like what we’re doing, but then it would be crowns or very invasive, and that certainly wasn’t… I do have lots of patients and they’ve got old crowns and Macedo teeth, and because of that, I do a lot of crowns. That’s the nature of what I do. But also, my real passion is preservation of teeth and… To not let it happen in the first place is the best thing. But when it has happened or is starting to happen, how can we help these people get back on track?
One of the problems with dentistry is that we tend to compartmentalise everything. So, we’ve got the ortho department and the restorative department and the perio department, and no one ever spoke to each other. And what I like about being a general dentist is that I’m sort of, to use the American phrase, the quarterback, the midfield general. Specialists know a lot about very little. General dentists, we know lots of stuff about lots of different things. And when our patients come to see us, they are not just after necessarily what they want. They want our opinion and they want us to use our experience to help them. And so, much as they might ask for a beautiful smile, they usually want a beautiful smile that’s going to last, and that’s going to be healthy and that’s going to be functional. And if someone… I get people and their bites are off or they’re having problems or maybe they want their teeth straightened, but they want them to look nice and to function well and be biologically healthy. No one doesn’t want those things.
And so, this is where this concept of complete dentistry about this complete GDP really comes in, because I think as a general dentist, I’m really, really proud of being a general dentist. I don’t want to be a specialist. I like to see that overview. And my job is to try and oversee, and then I can also… I can do things myself, but I can also involve my interdisciplinary team to help get the best things for my patients, because many of us have experienced if you send them to the implant guy you’ll come back with an implant like this, and you send them to the orthodontist and the teeth might be somewhere else. So, my job is to oversee the total design and then make sure that everything we do fits within that design.
So, in complete dentistry, I think the six main things that we look at these days, teeth. I’m hoping that most dentists know something about teeth, although I get surprised sometimes. Perio. Again, hoping that we know stuff about that. Tissues, mainly looking at cancer and things like that because forget all your fancy stuff. We want our patients to stay healthy and well and alive and be great. And so, those are three of the main things that we deal with, but we don’t talk about them too much because I think it’s fair to assume that most of us know something about those. And so, that’s not really where I’m going with this.
Hopefully we’ve got some information for those who might need something, but there’s three more things that we need to think about, and one of them is if we’re going to make teeth, whether it’s a filling or whether it’s a crown or whether it’s a smile or whether it’s moving teeth, then we need to make that work within the system, and the system is the joints and the muscles and the teeth and how all that comes together. So, that’s what we might call TMJ occlusal stuff, so that’s where the occlusion side comes in. The next part is something we’ve already spoken about, which is aesthetics, and again, I see some stuff today, which… Well, it’s a look. I’m not sure that I like it. I mean, I like teeth that look like teeth. I don’t know that I’m… Well, I’m not the best at doing stuff, but I studied morphology and I studied natural teeth, and my goal is to try and preserve natural teeth, and if I do need to restore something, to make it look and function like a natural tooth.
And then there’s also a new thing that we need to understand, which is about airway, and airway is… There’s a lot of things that we thought were TMD, or maybe there’s erosive stuff or tooth grinding, and actually a lot of these things are related to airway, and we need to at least understand the basics of those. What I see is that there’s a lot of people talking about what I would call old-style occlusion and old-style, full-mouth dentistry, when actually we have a lot more knowledge these days and we need to be thinking about all of those things in order to get a great treatment plan for the patients.
So, yes, there’s a lot about occlusion for those people that want to learn about occlusion and how the mastication system works, but we’re also going to be talking about the impacts of airway for general dentists, and also to help you understand real, good, solid smile design principles that will help you understand how to make a beautiful smile that’s appropriate for the patient, whether we do that in porcelain, in composite, in a combination. And so, that for me is what the complete dentistry is about. So, yes, there is a heavy emphasis on how to make this work so the patient is comfortable and our work lasts a long time, but there’s quite a bit more to it as well.
And the one last thing, which is… So, we’ve taken those principles and we’ve added in a lot of minimal invasion, so that’s where IAS and what we’re doing I think are very comfortable together, because we’re largely using a lot of orthodontics and bonding to get teeth there. But also, as well, this is the digital age and a lot of the things that were a real struggle to do in the analogue world have become much easier to do and much more predictable and much more within the grasp of the general dentist in the digital age. It also allows us to really use digital stuff to motivate our patients, which… Again, I was brought up that if you educate patients then they will do this. I don’t know that that’s actually true, but if you motivate and engage with them, then there’s much more chance of them taking on the treatment. And you can look at that from a sales perspective or you can look at it from a very genuine way of trying to encourage patients to enhance their dental health.
Prav Solanki: So, Ian, take me through. I’m curious to learn about what it’s like being a patient of yours. So, my mouth is knackered. Yeah. I walk in and I meet you for the first time. What happens next?
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