Paul Crichton spent the first few years of his career as a dentist working with the Australian Defence Force, where he learnt to work under pressure and in all sorts of conditions.
He spent some time working in East Timor, where he faced the most challenging conditions and learnt about areas of dentistry that you just wouldn’t learn in general dentistry practices, like forensic identification, for example. Paul has since worked in private practices here on the Coffs Coast and is now the owner of Jetty Dental in Coffs Harbour.
Hi Paul. Can you tell us how you came to be on the Coffs Coast?
In 2004, after five years as a Dental Officer in the Australian Regular Army, I was ready for a change and was fortunate enough to be offered a job in a well established private practice in Coffs Harbour. I fell in love with Coffs Harbour straight away and eventually convinced my wife, Selina that the fishing was too good to leave. After 13 years in private practice, it was time to take the next step towards practice ownership, and in December 2016 we purchased Jetty Dental from Tony and Wendy Kershaw.
How long have you been practicing dentistry?
After five years of study, I graduated from the University of Queensland in 1999 with a Bachelor of Dental Science (BDSc) with First Class Honours. So, this will be my 20th year as a practicing dentist.
What originally sparked your interest in the field?
My decision to study dentistry was more of a spur of the moment decision, rather than a childhood dream. My childhood dream was to be a marine biologist; however, six months into a science degree, a close friend of mine suggested we should take university seriously and threw an information brochure about dentistry on to my lap. The rest, as they say, is history.
Tell us a little about your experiences in the military as a dentist?
I was awarded an undergraduate scholarship with the Australian Defence Force (Army) while in my third year at dental school and after graduation, was posted as a Dental Officer to Lavarack Barracks, 3rd Brigade in Townsville. This was a great environment to learn my trade and improve my skills, as I was always supported and mentored by experienced dentists and highly trained dental specialists.
At the time, Lavarack Barracks had a large eight chair dental
facility that was responsible for the dental health of 5,000 soldiers. It was a busy time for the Australian Military, with the Australian lead INTERFET coalition deploying to East Timor in September 1999. The main Australian combat elements included infantry and cavalry, provided by the 3rd Brigade. Every soldier had to be dentally fit before being allowed to deploy on operations, which meant that the dental facility was working around the clock to enable these soldiers to deploy overseas. I could not have asked for a better start to my career as a dentist and was also fortunate enough to be sent on operations to East Timor twice as a Dental Officer in 2001 and 2003.
How did that work differ from what you do here at home?
My main role whilst on operations was to maintain the dental fitness of all Australian Defence Force personnel who were deployed into East Timor.
The main difference from work in Australia was the environment in which we were required to perform our job. Field dentistry in East Timor was often carried out under canvas tents in stifling conditions.
One of the more interesting parts of my job involved forensic identification, and my skills were put to use on both deployments by the United Nations to aid in the identification of plane crash victims and combat victims.
In 2003 I was part of a larger healthcare team that was also made up of surgeons, anesthetists, intensive care specialists and nurses. The Australian Army at times was providing a lot of humanitarian aid, and I was able to spend part of my time
providing very basic dental services (i.e. tooth extractions) to the East Timorese people in some very remote parts of the jungle.
You have recently taken ownership of Jetty Dental here in Coffs; what made you decide to start your own business?
Practice ownership was something Selina and I had considered for some time and in late 2016, an opportunity arose to purchase Jetty Dental, that was already a well established practice in a fantastic location within Coffs Harbour. After meeting with the previous owners, it turned out to be a very easy decision for us, and we were able to hit the ground running. Since that time, Jetty Dental has continued to grow and maintain its reputation within the Coffs community.
What area of dentistry do you most enjoy and why?
The most enjoyable part of being a general dentist is the variety of procedures that we get to provide our patients on a daily basis.
I think the continual technological advances are the most exciting aspect of dentistry at present. Dental materials and procedures are getting better every year, and I am fortunate to work in a time where we can offer patients such a vast range of treatment options. My main interest is in restorative and cosmetic dentistry, and I enjoy the challenge of saving badly damaged teeth that may once have been destined for extraction.