Find your niche and thrive in dentistry, says Dr Sunny Sadhana.
Updated: Jan 19
It’s easy to fall out of love with a career you’ve spent years training for, especially when the reality doesn’t meet your expectations. Or when you feel you are not quite as good as you thought you’d be.
Dr Sandeep (Sunny) Sadana’s dental career is a story of how he found himself in this position early in his career. Moving from the NHS to the private sector was soon followed by thoughts of leaving dentistry altogether, before finding his way back to his first love with a renewed energy and passion for the industry. This culminated in successfully launching his own company, DRE (Direct Restorative Excellence), a unique training program for dentists who want to excel at bonding composite simply, predictably and profitably.
Densura members value Continuing Professional Development. What does DRE offer those looking to improve their skill set further?
DRE is an educational technology company. We train dentists and therapists, predominantly in composite treatments, which can be a complex and technically demanding procedure. We cover a straightforward, predictable way of approaching any composite problem. We go through sales, patient communication, addressing concerns, and the technological applications helping improve dentists' efficiency.
What motivated you to establish DRE and not follow the traditional path of opening a dental practice?
I graduated from Queen Mary University, London, in 2010 and was soon thrust into the glamorous world of NHS dentistry! That was a shock to the system. You study for quite some time, with expectations about what a dentist’s life will be like. The real world is very different. It's quite a disconnect for many people, not just myself.
For the first eight years, I struggled. I could have been better. At the time, I thought I was good, like everyone who had just graduated. But in hindsight, I certainly wasn't very good. I didn't embrace the fact that you need a support network around you to thrive in what is quite an isolated profession. I felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall for many years working the NHS treadmill, as many would jokingly refer to it, but it is still somewhat true. When seeing 20 or 30 people daily, you can feel like you're on a treadmill. You're barely coming up for air.
Then, I got the opportunity to go private, where I really realised that I wasn't that good because there was no infrastructure to hide behind in the private sector. In the NHS, if something goes wrong, you can do it again and get paid again. In private dentistry, the expectations are very different, and the margin for error is much lower. For many people, it is a much riskier place to practise. I certainly found that concerning complaints, things not going to plan, and having to deal with those challenges.
“And naturally, learning from really, really talented dentists, you're going to improve; you're going to get better."
Then, I had an epiphany. I realised I needed to make something of myself at some point, so I did around 150 hours of Continuing Professional Development. Much of that was done in person in a span of 18 months. I really went nuts as I tried to upskill. And naturally, learning from very talented dentists, you're going to improve; you're going to get better. Your communication is going to get better. You don't know what you don't know, and these educators, these people who've walked the walk, are telling you exactly how it is.
However, I still felt like there was this disconnect for me. I still wasn't really happy. I still hadn't found what I wanted to do in dentistry. I wasn't clear on what I liked. I needed clarification on what my strengths were. I was doubting the whole profession in and of itself. I very nearly left, earning a living outside of dentistry. That's another story for another day, but I did try to sidestep dentistry completely.
Fast forward to where my journey took me – to an American forum. I had these preconceived notions that the Americans were ahead of us, and they must know something that we didn't.
“From 2018 to 2020, my dentistry transformed, and I started producing more happy patients. I was enjoying it more.”
For example, when you do a deep filling that goes under the gum, it's tough. It's tough to deal with that. And despite all my education, I hadn't found a way to deal with that easily. I didn't have a framework. I didn't have a way of dealing with that. And I saw many American dentists on this forum, all treating these very, very deep cases easily. I'm looking at it, thinking this is crazy. I noted that they were using a tool from America called Greater Curve. So, I ordered a kit and started using it. From 2018 to 2020, my dentistry transformed, and I started producing more happy patients. I was enjoying it more. It was so very straightforward.
In 2020, I heard on a podcast the American dentist who invented the Greater Curve, Dr. Dennis Brown. He's a very experienced guy, 40 years qualified. And this guy's telling the absolute truth about these problems that we all face. That was very refreshing to me because many people put on airs; we want to put our best face forward. He certainly wasn't. He was pretty much saying, "I struggle with this, this and this …"
As a result, I emailed him, and we soon started a dialogue. He invited me for a Zoom call, which ended with him saying, "Look, bring me your cases. I'd like to see what you're doing."
Which, of course, I did. A very organic mentorship developed after that, and he began training me from 5000 miles away.
Nine months later, I was able to leave associate life and set up a referral service because my dentistry had gotten that good. My delivery was good. I was very confident in terms of what I was delivering. I wasn't worried about litigation anymore. As dentists, we always have that looming doubt, worrying about what would happen if something goes wrong if you were to receive a complaint. So I decided to set up a referral service, meaning I'd approach other practices, and they'd send me the cases that they didn't want to do.
I did this all whilst I was practising my craft, still under the guidance of Dr. Brown. I’m starting to get a little audacious at that point; starting to put my own techniques and workflows together – communication workflows – as well as working on how we can effectively guide a patient towards a decision instead of them being left unable to decide what to do. So I just started experimenting; I'd turned over a new leaf.
“Dental school certainly doesn't prepare you for launching a business of this kind.”
I remember being on a call with Dr Brown on October 21st, telling him how this had changed my life completely. Up until this point, I hadn't really told anyone about this new tool and technique I was using. It's very popular in America, but in the UK, sectionals are the primary method used, which never worked really well for me. While I was on a call with Dr Brown, I explained to him how I wanted to teach this technique I was now using. At the time, there was no official education around the system, no restorative courses. He agreed to it, and two weeks later, I had produced a draft proposal. He was happy to proceed, and we've never looked back since.
Officially, we formed two years ago. But we probably started trading 18 months ago and have trained at least 120 people within that time. And I'll tell you one thing: dental school certainly doesn't prepare you for launching a business of this kind. Starting a practice is probably more of a natural progression, but this is a little bit outside that. There are many things that you need to learn how to do very quickly. There's no teacher like some good old failures.
As mentioned, dentistry can be a lonely profession, more so when dealing with patient complaints or the threat of litigation. How important is it to have the right indemnity provider in your corner?
I'm with Densura. They're my indemnity provider, so I'm bound to be a little bit biased. I'm on very good terms with them. Tom, Kevin, and Matt are just all-around very genuine people. But actually, getting on with people doesn't mean there's going to be a good service. There are many very charismatic business people who don't have a product I'd back.
There are several solid points in Densura's favour. The fact they have an in-house legal team is massive. And they have actual dentists involved in that, that's also huge. The most reassuring thing for most people is that if there is a problem and you call them, you'll be speaking with someone within two hours. That's very cool.
I had a delegate of ours who was going through a tough time with a legal matter and called me about it. I asked if he'd spoken to Densura. He had and was waiting for them to call back. Of course, they did, and to cut a very long story short, they really looked out for him. I appreciate that we're talking about a minimal sample size, but that problem – the complaint – it was dealt with. It doesn't exist anymore. He really didn't need to stress about it. I found it very refreshing. That was really quite important and powerful to see. A friend of mine, a delegate of ours, was going through such a problem, and Densura was really there for him. It allowed me to have faith in them and ultimately partner with them. They're one of our course sponsors. I'm pretty proud about it, to be fair.
At Densura, we work with our trusted partners to support you in achieving your career goals. What’s the next step in your dental career?
Densura indemnity cover removes the worry of complaints and the stress of potential litigation, freeing you to concentrate on career development with access to multiple resources to help you continue your journey in dentistry. Trusted Partners, like DRE Composite Courses, are ready to help you become the best dentist you can be. Our corporate friends can support you with business development. And, with members' access to our growing online CPD Programs, you can further your skill set as and when you are able.
Find your niche, discover your passion and fall back in love with dentistry.
And Densura will be with you every step of the way.