Life is a series of chances and it is up to each of us to decide how we might wish to follow the opportunities that come our way. In my career I was incredibly lucky that I was offered a place to study at the Royal Dental Hospital in the mid 1960’s at a time when many of the UK’s leading undergraduate textbooks of the day had been authored by the senior members of the School and Hospital staff. We were taught cutting edge clinical practice, that patients always came first, and that high standards of clinical performance we required of all Royal graduates. I have tried to follow those principles. Others must decide if I have been successful.

Again, by chance, in my first associate post I was introduced to a laboratory that required prebooking technical work, a practice I have since followed. The advantages are discussed at length in tips ‘A cunning little plan’.

However, by mischance I offered my idea of colour coded pocket measuring probes to a British rather than a US company, only to find that the project was abandoned after public disclosure, a mistake I never repeated. My tip here for colleagues who do have ideas is to get then copyrighted or patented – and insist on a non-disclosure agreement with any potential manufacturer before giving anything away. Also ask for a significant down payment of royalties to seal the deal.

By the mid 1970’s I had an interest in overdentures, which were failing because the posts supporting stud retention were inadequate. Again I was lucky that a position in Newcastle gave me the opportunity to carry out research in this field. Sadly some of the lessons learned 30 years ago are not being applied, and this is dealt with in more detail in ‘Pest Crowns?’.

My big break came in 1980 when I was asked to set up from scratch the Dental Practice Unit for the University of Sheffield; initially as a separate five surgery unit for final year students to put together the skills they had learned in individual departments in the main dental hospital. I am pleased to learn that this unit flourishes and now has 10 surgeries, and that other Dental Schools have followed the format I developed. After 4 years I moved on. In retrospect it was a mistake, but it did lead to other opportunities to develop phantom heads, portable dental equipment and latterly one of the first specialist referral practices outside a major city, and to give many postgraduate hands-on courses.

The aim of all my courses was to pass on to colleagues practical tips I had found worked for me, to improve clinical outcomes, reduce mistakes and share experiences. Clinical experience is a hard won commodity and depends on asking the how, why, where, what and when questions – Kipling’s five good men and true. Clinicians need to find out what works for them but also why. Inevitably, more will be learned for errors than successes.

By chance, an article in Dental Practice in September 2013 emphasized the importance of the post dam in maxillary complete denture retention but omitted details of how to optimise the design of this structure. My suggestions followed and appear in this compilation as a letter entitled ‘The retention of complete denture baseplates’. The then editor Derek Pearson thought this could form the basis of a series of articles for Dental Practice entitled Turner’s Tips and these have been collated into this website. I am grateful to him for his support and encouragement throughout the currency of this project.

I have included, deliberately, both clinical tips and management tips where the latter can shed light on the underlying principles of improving effectiveness and efficiency during our working lives. As humans, we strive to be better. If any of these tips help you to be better and not repeat the mistakes that I have committed during my career, then that will be my reward.

These tips come with my best wishes for your successful practising lifetime together with a quote from Ludwig van Beethoven’s score of Missa Solemnis, ‘von Herz, möge es zu Herzen gehen’ (from the heart, may it go your heart).

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