Dr Gautam Herle has been a pillar of the Geelong community, and as their resident dentist, he wants to dispel some myths about his profession.
We sat down with Geelong-based dentist Dr Gautam Herle, who as the son of a plastic surgeon, turned his attention to teeth.
After more than a decade as a valued member of the Geelong community, he’s got a message about dental care, and he wants you to smile with confidence.
Tell us something about your background – where you’re from, your family, and what started your interest in dentistry.
An Indian by origin, and I come from a loving and caring family which holds high values on honesty, integrity and caring.
Even from a young age, I used to accompany my father (a plastic surgeon) when he treated his patients at the hospital. His empathetic and caring approach to his patients had rubbed off on me. I knew by year 10 that I would be doing something similar to my father. Two years later, I was at university doing my dental degree.
My upbringing was influenced by my parents and grandparents. They used to run an old age home, which catered for old, homeless people, who have been thrown out of their house, and have nowhere else to go. It was completely free to them, and they would spend their last few years over there.
Apart from the old age home, they also ran an animal shelter, of which the majority of animals present were cows. As cows are revered in India, any cow that wasn’t serving a purpose either in the field or producing milk, would be rescued and they would out its life in that shelter. I was also part of an organisation like the RSPCA, helping to rescue animals.
What brought you to Australia, and why did you decide on Geelong?
In 2005 I had the opportunity to help in setting up a curriculum in paediatric dentistry for a university in Sudan. After spending two years in Sudan, I saw an opportunity to move to Australia, and at the same time my wife was accepted to do her Master’s in Clinical Psychology at Deakin University.
Since 2008 I have called Geelong my home, and the first thing that I was shown, the night I came to Geelong, was Kardinia Park. I was told it is where the 2007 Premiership cup resided; being a loyal supporter of the Geelong Cats, I try to get to their home games whenever I can.
Tell us about the relationship you have with your patients – you’ve been part of a successful practice for more than a decade. What do you think it is that makes your patients come back to you?
When I joined Myers Street Dental back in 2008, I had the privilege of treating some amazing people, who I still see. Some of them have married and now bring their kids along. Some have retired, and they share their retirement adventures with me. I cherish the journey they take with me.
I believe in the philosophy of “Do to others as I would have it done, Or as I would have done to my family”.
One flaw that I have, is that I say things the way they are, and straightforward about it. I don’t like to beat around the bush. I prefer to call a spade a spade.
Is the journey of a dentist over once you have your DDS, or is the more learning to be done?
Absolutely, there is always more things to be learnt. One of our practice’s core values researching the latest advances in dentistry, so we might constantly be enhancing our knowledge and expand our range of skills and services. I’ve lately been doing some advanced laser training with my friend and mentor Dr Ilay Maden, who is one of the world’s leading experts in the field. He’s a specialist Periodontist and head Implant surgeon at the On Clinic in London.
I’m working my way towards obtaining my Masters in Laser Dentistry, and I am in the process of getting advanced training in implants as well – I am on the journey of getting fellowship in implants by Australian Society of Implant Dentistry.
What’s the easiest, best advice you’d give anyone about caring for your teeth?
Start thinking as to where you want your teeth to be in 15-20 years. If you want your teeth in your mouth to chew and smile without thinking if they would break, then you need to start discussing your options with me. I can help you reach your goals, the emphasis is on ‘your’ goals, not mine.
How often should I see a dentist, and is that a different figure depending on if you’re an adult or a kid?
That depends. There are different ways that people can manage their teeth. One way is to deal with their teeth as and when they encounter a problem. Or they could come with a plan that gives them the control of their mouth, time and budget.
You can compare this with building a house. You can get up one day and say, “I am ready for a new house,” and not have funds or plans to build a house. You can start by building a garage, and as when you feel like it, you can decide where you want to add on a living room or a kitchen, and build parts of the house, one by one.
It means the house is being built without realizing how the house will look like in the end. Will it be a home you want to live in? Or would you prefer to plan it out in the beginning, so you have full control of the budget and how you want it to look like?
What’s one big myth or misconception you hear about teeth or dental care that you’d like to dispel?
Pain is a bad indicator of the status of the mouth. Almost like the high cholesterol in our blood. Most people don’t get pain when there is high cholesterol, but when they do get pain, it is a bit too late to repair the damage in the heart. Same way with the teeth, when people to do get pain, it is too late to do anything simple, and they are either losing their teeth or spending more money to hang on to their teeth.
Is your advice that prevention is better than a cure?
Prevention is always better than cure. People understand that based on how they treat their life. Some prefer to be reactive and some proactive. Some prefer to drive around with a bald set of tyres and deal with consequences, and some prefer to deal with it before they crash into a tree.
Prevention is always better than cure. People understand that based on how they treat their life. Some prefer to be reactive and some proactive.
It’s never too early, you’re never too young to get in good dental habits, then?
I always hear “I wish I had met you decades ago, so I could have taken control of the deterioration of my teeth”.
There are so many things we would have done differently in hindsight, yet it doesn’t help the current situation if we mull over it. History is important to figure out why it happened and look at how it can be controlled and prevented. Getting into good habits and sustaining those habits is the key to success.
So, people should be proactive and getting into the habit now to ensure long-term good dental health?
Being proactive allows some degree of control of the wear on the teeth. Quoting H. D. Gordon (and tweaking it), in the end, we all die. This is not a question. Inarguable. No mystery lay here. The mystery dwells in these questions: Do you want the confidence to smile and chew as long as possible, or do you want the unpredictability hanging over your head?”
Getting into the right habits early would ensure predictability.
And flossing, of course, is important? That goes without saying by now, surely…
Let’s not get started on flossing! The one thing that a dentist would ask every time a patient comes in is the one thing that most hate doing.
So, when there was one research that came out in 2017 saying flossing doesn’t help, many got on board that message, disregarding the thousands of examples of research that showed positive effects of flossing.
I am sure everyone is waiting for one research to come out saying seat belts don’t help, so they can stop using it, disregarding the overwhelming evidence supporting it.
So, YES – flossing, interdental cleaning devices, do help in reducing the acid-producing plaque between the teeth, thereby reducing the risk of the acid damage on teeth.
Dr. Gautam Herle, BDS, MDS, is a principal dentist at Myers Street Dental Clinic in Geelong. He has been practicing dentistry in the Geelong region for more than a decade and is currently earning his Masters in Laser Dentistry.