“5 minutes with…” is our new spotlight on some of the amazing and dedicated dental specialists that we refer to. Specialist treatment is sometimes required for more extensive or complex treatment plans, and at Alphington Dental Care we have curated a comprehensive list of practitioners who deliver excellent treatment.
Dr Sophia Richardson is one of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons we refer to, who specialises in surgical procedures. Aside from having expertise in difficult extractions (such as wisdom teeth), Sophia also completes complex surgery in the facial region. This is often done in conjunction with an orthodontist to realign the teeth and jaws.
Dr Sophia Richardson
Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon
Dr Sophia Richardson, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon
(03) 9036 9053
So, what made you get into Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS)? Did you always see yourself doing this?
I chose to do dentistry after high school as it so beautifully combined art and science; and discovered OMFS as a speciality during Dental School. I had thought dentistry was an excellent fit for me as I have always had good fine motor skills, and loved developing relationships with people. During our fourth year, we rotated through the different dental subspecialties and I was hooked after I watched my first corrective jaw (orthognathic surgery) surgery.
This coincided with my watching an ABC TV special on an Australian surgical team’s Cleft Lip and Palate program in the Philippines. I decided that I wanted to be able to make that kind of a difference in the world. Incidentally, my husband, Jeremy, (who I had not yet met at the time) watched the same program whilst he was in medical school, and decided to become a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon. He has since been on aid trips to Thailand, Yemen, Pakistan, and PNG. We would love to participate on trips together as a family when our children are a little older.
What is your favourite thing about the work you do?
That’s a hard question because there are so many things to like! Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons are very fortunate to have such a broad scope of practice – we operate on a wide range of conditions (from congenital, traumatic, infective, to neoplastic etc); on patients of all ages; in different settings (private and public practice); and under local, sedation, or general anaesthetics. I also enjoy being able to educate daily – both imparting knowledge to patients to enable them to make an informed decision; and mentoring and teaching students and trainees through my hospital and university appointments.
In terms of operating, I have a special interest in corrective jaw surgery (orthognathic surgery). Hence, after I completed my specialist training in 2011, I chose to spend a couple of years completing clinical fellowships at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and at Oxford University Trust, UK, to advance my skills. Nearly all the patients undergoing orthognathic surgery require simultaneous treatment to straighten their teeth, and I particularly like being able to work closely with my orthodontic colleagues; striving together to achieve good results for our patients. I love seeing patients blossom after their procedure, which is usually transformative both physically and psychologically.
Having said that, I also love ‘standard’ oral surgery and performing surgical extractions and dental implants. There are so many tricks of the trade you can adopt to improve the outcome of each operation, and I like the personal challenge of making each procedure as comfortable as possible for the patients. The continual stimulus keeps life interesting.
What is one thing you wish was better understood about your line of work?
It takes a lot of study to become an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon.
I dedicated 18 years to acquiring my special set of knowledge and skills before I became a consultant.
My basic training consisted of:
- Dental Degree (The University of Melbourne)
- Medical Degree (The University of Melbourne)
- Medical Internship (The Royal Melbourne Hospital)
- Surgical Residency (The Royal Melbourne Hospital), and
- Advanced Surgical Training (various hospitals through Melbourne, Victoria)
In addition, I chose to pursue two additional subspecialty fellowships at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and Oxford University Trust Hospitals, UK.
But you never stop learning as a health professional. I regularly participate in hospital and surgical audits, journal clubs, and I set aside time to attend national and international meetings. There are so many astonishing advances in medicine at the moment, and it is very exciting to be at the forefront as it happens.
Surgery is never ‘risk-free’.
We simply mitigate the risks with thorough training, careful selection, thoughtful planning, and skilful execution.
Specialists only perform complex surgery.
Some patients have asked why they have been referred to me for a ‘routine’ procedure. I often give the analogy that even though I hold a dental degree and could technically do a ‘simple’ filling – my restorative skills would pale in comparison to that of their dentist (as an aside, a general dentist is really a specialist in oral care.) The same applies for ‘simple’ surgical cases. My training increases my breadth of knowledge and skill in surgery; which improves clinical judgement, insight, and attention to detail. And as I am comfortable with the actual mechanics of the procedures, I’m better able to focus on refinement of outcome and improving patient comfort. My expertise and understanding of the principles of surgery also enables me to manage any potential complications should they arise. Your referring clinician knows when expertise and extra training are necessary; in referring you to a specialist – they are giving you their best.
If you weren’t an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon what would you be doing?
I really cannot see myself being anything other than an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, but if I were not able to be a surgeon any longer, perhaps I would be a photographer, or an architect.
What is something people don’t know about you?
I completed a Diploma in Music Performance (Piano) at the University of Melbourne at the same time as my Dental Degree. This has been great for my dexterity and co-ordination, and helped with both surgery and life in the modern age (I can touch-type 80 words a minute).
Finally, what quote do you feel best describes your philosophy in life?
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”