Dr Nilesh R. Parmar is one of a few dentists in the UK to have a degree from all three London Dental Schools: "about 80% of my work is implant dentistry. One thing I love about implants is if you lose your front tooth, I can replace it in such a way that nobody would ever know it isn’t real, even if they get really close to you."
30 April 2020
What sparked your interest to study Dentistry and why did you choose Queen Mary in particular? When I was 13 I had a part time paper round. I was paid £2.75 to deliver papers on a Saturday morning which my Mum wasn’t too happy about. She was worried about her little boy being outside and alone, (Indian mothers worry a lot). So my father, who is an Orthodontist, offered me £5.00 to work in his dental clinic on a Saturday morning instead. I was basically an errand boy from 9-1pm.
I made tea and developed X-rays by hand in a dark room, before being promoted to main receptionist. This gave me an insight into dentistry, what it involved and the financial rewards available if you were willing to put in the time and effort. For me, it was actually a tie between becoming a dentist or a doctor; I used to watch this medical series called ER which was quite famous at the time, there was a guy in it who was a cardiothoracic and I thought this was pretty cool. Eventually, I leant towards dentistry because I thought the work-life balance would be better and the idea of running my own business appealed to me.
Why Queen Mary? I was rejected from every single dental school and it was only Queen Mary who accepted me! I had a letter of recommendation from quite a well-known consultant who I did work experience with at my local hospital. Off the back of this I got an interview (my only one!) at Queen Mary and although I didn’t get an offer, I was told I would be considered through clearing. I needed an A back then and my predicted grades were three Bs; I remember having an argument with my chemistry teacher, he predicted me a B although I got an A in my mock, which meant I had to sit all my exams with no offers. Funnily enough, that chemistry teacher is now a patient at one of my clinics. Overall, I got an A and three Bs, which meant that Queen Mary offered me a place.
So my tale into dentistry was initially characterised by bad luck and scraping it before becoming quite impressive later on…
Did you feel a certain pressure to follow in your Father’s footsteps? Good question. From an Indian family background, especially my type of family, Gujaratis, there are four main professions that parents want their children to enter into. These are a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist or a pharmacist. My mother was really keen for me to become a dentist whereas my father encouraged me to do whatever I wanted. As a side note, I really wanted to become a racing car driver (this has now become a hobby of mine) and my father insisted that I needed a vocation to fall back on in order to do this. So overall there wasn’t too much pressure to follow in my father’s footsteps; my father was smart, he didn’t push me but he gently nudged me towards dentistry.
What areas of Dentistry do you now work within? My masters are in prosthetics, which are dentures, and in dental implants. I also have a post graduate certificate in Orthodontics from Warwick University, but tend to focus more on surgical / implant work.
About 80% of my work is implant dentistry. One thing I love about implants is if you lose your front tooth, I can replace it in such a way that nobody would ever know it isn’t real, even if they get really close to you. Whereas if someone loses an arm or a leg and they have an artificial-medical replacement, it will never look or function as good as the original. Implant dentistry is the only field of medicine where we can replace a part of your anatomy to make it appear better than the original. It also involves blood and surgery which I love!
You have received many awards, such as Young Dentist of the Year in 2014 and Best Young Dentist in the East of England in 2009. How did it feel to win these awards, do you feel like you’ve garnered a certain level of respect amongst your peers in the dentistry field? I had never won anything before, I was never first at school or football or anything like that. I earned them by working hard; I had a few really good mentors, one of whom was my father and the other was an Irish consultant who I met whilst working as a house officer at Kings Hospital. I fell into this dream role working with one of the most diverse and interesting consultants in the country; he really nudged me towards postgraduate study.
Initially I didn’t get into the programme that I wanted which was implant dentistry. I was offered a masters in dentures instead which isn’t really the sexy side of things, so I decided to do two MScs back to back: dentures and then implants. I kind of had to do the first one to get into the second one as they only accept 4 people every two years and they have hundreds of dentists applying every year. Luckily I was accepted because I had worked for one of the consultants who was interviewing me, and had always made a huge effort with his department. The way I see it, the awards are really humbling and I’ve been fortunate enough to receive all of them; in fact, I now judge the awards which takes the pressure off of me being expected to win each year!
The awards are also great when it comes to my patients and marketing. I have my own waiting room in my practice covered in big canvas prints of the awards I’ve won, which subconsciously instils trust in my patients’ minds. From a professional perspective, postgraduate qualifications make a big difference - the more postgraduate qualifications you have, the more people will take you seriously, they won’t really question your clinical choices and when I’m doing a webinar for example, people ask my advice as opposed to questioning what I’m saying as they respect the process I have been through.
Your website states that you are one of a few dentists in the UK to have a degree from all three London Dental Schools, firstly, congratulations and secondly, what have been your motivations to continually extend your learning in this way? When I look back I like to think I had a plan, I didn’t really. My undergraduate degree provided a foundation and my postgraduate masters in dentures at the UCL Eastman Dental Institute, changed my way of thinking entirely. I had to learn on my own and conduct my own research project; my project involved looking at the prevalence of MRSA on dentures, so I went to hospitals and swabbed patients’ dentures before culturing the bacteria to test which ones had MRSA on them. It was interesting because at the time MRSA was quite a big topic and we found that 19% of patients tested had MRSA living on their dentures and that when they put their dentures back in after treatment, they actually reinfected themselves.
Then when the implant masters came along I thought it would be a huge growth area in the dental industry because not many dentists do it. In the UK there are about 2000 implant dentists and of those 2000, only say 500 do serious cases. I like this because a) I’m not in a lot of competition with people, b) I like doing something that not a lot of people can do and c) I find it rewarding. After securing this postgraduate qualification, I did my orthodontic training at Warwick and then I started running my family dental clinic, alongside doing my MBA as it dawned on me that I had no form of business training. Imperial College offered me a part scholarship and hands down it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding. My MBA has helped me in my personal life, my social life, and in everything I do. I cannot recommend it enough.
How has the current COVID-19 outbreak impacted upon your work and the wider dental profession? All dental practices in the UK are now closed and as of about three weeks ago we stopped seeing patients as dentists are at high risk of catching COVID-19. Primarily, due to the aerosols that we generate through our work. Essentially we’ve all been at home.
We’ve got patients who are in pain but we can’t help them with our usual measures as we are not allowed to carry out any routine services. Instead, we have been doing phone triaging with remote prescribing. There are specific COVID-19 urgent dental care centres opening but we’ll have to see how well they do and what can be done. My clinic is not one of these, so I don’t know when we will go back to work.
We are self-employed and above the threshold so we won’t get any money from the government, but we are coping. I’ve watched all of the Marvel films back to back and every night and I'm now in a dental online Call of Duty clan. Every night from 10-12pm some of the top dentists in the country get together to shoot at each other on our game consoles - we’ve all become students again! I’ve started painting too; it makes the time go so quickly, you look up and two hours have gone. These activities have filled my days so far, alongside spending time in my office trying to appease patients despite realistically not being able to domuch at the moment.
What does a normal week look like for you? My main area is clinical work in my family run practice in Southend, Parmar Dental. I also work in a private practice in Blackheath, Sparkly Smiles, which is quirky - the owner has a really imaginative sense of style, and the décor is bright pink with superhero characters on the walls! I like working there because when people refer patients to me, I can see them in London. I also have an implant training programme with a friend of mine which has a mentoring portion. This allows us to oversee implant treatment carried out by our colleagues to help ensure safety and success.
Saturdays I work in my clinic, but my work varies as I have another part of the business where we run one day courses such as social media workshops, photography and whitening. I also have work advising financial funds in their investments surrounding the healthcare sector. I also lecture, run webinars and write for dental publications. I am able to fit all of this in by being organised; over the years I have trained my body and mind not to need a lot of sleep so I can be more productive with longer days. Instead, I find myself having lots of catnaps like Winston Churchill!
Do you have any words of encouragement or advice for our dental students who are qualifying this summer and who might not have the start to their careers that they were anticipating? Dentistry is a fantastic profession which has a bright future. People will always need their teeth attended to, and I have never met an out of work dentist. The current climate is concerning for us all, but in the long run, humanity, the industry and dentists will adapt and overcome. It may just take a little bit of time.
I always worked in clinics as I was studying, but I did dedicate my 20s to furthering my career. It did require a lot of sacrifices, but I now enjoy a lifestyle and a professional career which I could have only dreamed of. I feel the sacrifices I made were worth it. Don’t be afraid to make your own sacrifices.
What was so special about your time at Barts? Bart’s was a whirlwind and it seems the 5 years at university went all too quickly. I made some excellent memories and have some lifelong friends. My best friend, whom I think you have also interviwed, Milad (aka the Singing Dentist) studied with me. We had some crazy adventures during and after dental school, and continue to do so.
One thing I will never forget is how close knit we all were, the class size was small compared to some of the other universities so there was a real community feel about the dental hospital.
You are extremely busy, combining NHS and private practice with teaching. How do you unwind? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? When I’m not doing dentistry, I usually do something car related, I have my own racing team and have participated in numerous championship races all over the UK and Europe. This keeps me sane. My car and my race suit are heavily sponsored by dental manufacturers, practices and insurance companies. When I was a kid I always used to watch Formula 1 with my Dad and grew up seeing the likes of Nigel Mansell and Michael Schumacher.
It was always a dream of mine to race.
A patient of mine informed me that there was a race championship that would develop you all the way from the beginning to the top, so I thought why not? I started it four years ago and I’ve now raced all over Europe, made a race team, and had four podiums last year and was on track for an exciting race season before COVID-19.
I also try to keep a lot of my courses and lectures car themed. We have had dental events in Porsche and Ferrari garages where we give a lecture and then everyone can take cars for test drives etc. From a business perspective this is efficient for me and the dental companies really like to sponsor the race team because it is something different. I meet so many people in the racing industry and one thing that they all have in common is that they have really bad teeth which means I can pick up more work!
I’ve been lucky enough to have raced with one of the Saudi princes, finished 7th in a 24 hour endurance race in SPA, and completed the Gumball car rally four times driving from Miami to Ibiza and London to Mykonos.
Racing has become such a big part of my life, I actually have two Instagram profiles – my personal one now has a much bigger following due to all my racing and my professional ‘tooth’ related one. As you can tell, I’m not one to sit at home and chill out, I get bored quite easily!
Complete the sentence: If I wasn’t in the Dental industry, I would be… A racing car driver!