The Greek word, “Meraki”, describes what happens when you leave a piece of yourself (your soul, creativity, or love) in your work, essentially when you love doing something so much that you put your whole self into it and discover your purpose. For Dr Martina Lavery (ML), that “something” was being introduced to the world of Dento-Facial Aesthetics, pioneered by the Australasian Academy of Dento-Facial Aesthetics (www.AADFA.net), and it has transformed not only her practice, but it has ignited a passion for the profession that was previously the missing link.
ML: I kind of fell into it actually! I have an interest in facial pain management and the impact that grinding/ clenching can have on your teeth, joints and facial muscles. I believe that everyone clenches to a certain degree, so I am an advocate of occlusal splint use to protect the teeth and reduce facial pain. However, I found this was only helping my patients to a certain degree and they continued to experience facial pain.
I researched and discovered that AADFA conducted a course to train Dentists on how to incorporate muscle relaxant injections into treatment planning for patients with facial pain. I felt this was the missing link in my approach for this group of patients. So, off I went with no expectations, as previous dental courses I had attended usually did not equip me with the skills and practical knowhow to introduce what was learned on a theoretical basis into practice.
The “Fundamental” course covered the TMJ pain reduction injections that I was searching for, but it also introduced me to the world of anti-wrinkle injections and dermal filler lip techniques and how this could be built successfully into dental practice. I thought wow! Of course, a dentist ‘should ‘be treating the peri-oral area in addition to the teeth and gums. I felt so comfortable and competent in this arena and quickly realised that I had a great aptitude for this type of treatment.
I loved that my training was ‘by dentists for dentists’, a truly unique training platform, and that AADFA are the pioneers of dento-facial aesthetics globally, having just won a global award for innovation in facial aesthetics and having developed the facial aesthetics program at King’s College, London. The atmosphere at the course was really positive, encouraging and unexpectedly fun! Given dentists intensive training, head and neck anatomy knowledge, skilled injecting technique, awareness of cross infection and ability to use our hands and eyes to work to exacting standard, it makes sense for a dentist to carry out these treatments.
Initially I treated patients for their TMJ and facial pain only, but quickly progressed onto other areas of the face as I found that I was getting such great results and patients were curious to see if I could help them with their facial wrinkles and lost volume in their cheeks and lips they were experiencing due to ageing….and let’s just say the rest is history! I was hooked!!
ML: Where do I start? Immeasurably! At the time of the course, I was in a real rut in my career. I felt stagnant and unchallenged, I wanted to grow professionally but felt stuck and without passion and true love for what I went to work to do everyday. Then suddenly AADFA had helped me discover a way of practising that I fell in love with, had a flair for and was truly passionate about.
I felt such a strong attraction to the new skills that I was developing and the feedback from patients was so extremely positive - they were delighted about looking good and feeling good by the subtle procedures they were having, not to mention the safety and convenience I could offer them as a Dentist providing these services - there was no going back. I now had a vision of how I wanted to practice and what I wanted my future to look like, so I set about creating it.
So here I am five years on from the “Fundamental” course, having founded Martina Lavery Dental and Skin Studio in 2017 and Face Acumen by Dr Martina in 2018, where alongside traditional dental treatments, I offer a plethora of non-surgical rejuvenation treatments such as anti-wrinkle injections, cheek augmentation, lip sculpting, PDO thread lifting and collagen stimulation therapies like micro-needling, PRP, LED Light Therapy, bespoke facial peels, fat dissolving injections, Carboxytherapy, and Ultrasound Technology. We also offer medical grade cosmeceuticals after skin assessment with the newest technology digital skin analysis, meaning we are now a practice that can truly cater to all of a patient’s aesthetic and health concerns across the entire head and neck region.
ML: Our days are a mixed bag, patients often ask prior to making their appointments what day can I book in for my skin treatments but we don’t operate like that, we integrate patient’s rejuvenation procedures with their dental appointment.
Our patients can bring the children for their check up and clean whilst having their skin concerns addressed at the same time. And what’s not to love about that?! Given how time poor we all are this these days, patients are delighted. It’s a win/win! Many patients incorporate their maintenance anti-wrinkle injections, skin needling or resurfacing facial peels with their regular dental appointment. The natural and subtle results that our patients have experienced, with a strong emphasis on team delivered excellence in a spa like boutique environment, has resulted in many referrals of new and existing patients for facial rejuvenation procedures.
Above: Dr Martina’s practice in Sydney truly embraces the “Dental Spa” concept, offering traditional dental treatments alongside skin rejuvenation services.
My approach is subtle, respecting the proportions and golden ratios of the smile and the face, having a global approach to treat all the layers of the skin and not just chasing lines and wrinkles, but enhancing the health and quality of my patient’s biggest organ – their skin.
The ratio of teeth to skin/facial procedures varies in the practice, but can be as high as 80% facial aesthetics in any given day. From a business perspective it has enabled my practice to diversify and thrive in increasingly competitive times and to have a point of difference that patients love you for - who doesn’t want to look and feel good by a professional they already know and trust?
ML: I’m sure every single dentist has heard at least once in their lifetime, ‘I hate the dentist’, ‘I don’t like needles’, but now I’m starting to feel some love back! Patients are really receptive to the notion to having a professional they already know and trust for many years to look after the facial rejuvenation needs, as well as their intra-oral requirements.
I hear all the time ‘I just didn’t know what I needed!”, “I just didn’t know where to go!”, ‘I don’t want duck lips!’ ‘But I know you and I trust you and you and your team look amazing so I want what you’ve had’. With the use of social media and our really informative, website new patients seek out our subtle, ethical, safely delivered and global full face treatment philosophy. Some patients have questioned why I’m doing this as a Dentist, so it’s a great conversation to have about the reasons why dentists belong in this arena and that’s when I like to say that I’m a little bit of a pioneer in the industry.
Once I explain that dentists hold their place firmly in this world of facial aesthetics because of our intense training, hands-on practical experience and injecting technique, safe sterilisation protocols and attention to aesthetic detail working, patients quickly understand and it makes sense to them.
AADFA have an amazing training pathway culminating in an Honorary Fellowship with The International Academy of Dento-Facial Aesthetics in New York, for professionals who demonstrate commitment to aesthetics in the field of dentistry. Last November, I received the huge honour of receiving my Honorary Fellowship at the prestigious Harmonie Club, NY, where the likes of Albert Einstein frequented. It was pretty special and uplifting that all my hard work was recognised.
AADFA also offer team training, to make implementing these procedures into your practice more streamlined and successful. My team is outstanding, we all speak the same language and are equally passionate about facial aesthetics which makes my life so much easier and patients respect the fact that we truly “walk the talk”.
Learning the injection techniques is the easy part, but when starting your journey in dento-facial aesthetics, you really want to align yourselves with the pioneers in the industry, the ones who have worked for over a decade with insurers, regulators and industry to ensure Dentists are safe, supported, mentored and successful – that group is AADFA.
I now wake up every day with passion and drive for my work, sincerely grateful that AADFA helped me find my true calling and Meraki in the dental profession. It’s never too late to begin your own dento-facial aesthetics adventure.
AADFA: Thanks Dr Martina for showing us around your stunning practice! It's wonderful to see AADFA Certified Practitioners truly succeeding in the Dental Spa sphere! This officially kicks off the AADFA nationwide "Australia's BEST Dental Spas" tour! We're excited to hear from other successful "Dental Spa" practices around the Country! Next stop FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND, let's go!!