Dr Safa Al-Naher firmly believes that everyone can enjoy a trip to the dentist.
At her family-owned and run Care Dental practice in Hammersmith, she and the rest of the team take nervous patients seriously. Taking a holistic approach, they have created, and trademarked, the does-exactly-what-it-says-on-the-tin Enjoyable Dentistry Technique. Involving ‘gas and air’ along with mindfulness, it’s the most fun you could ever possibly hope to have at the dentist.
So does she manage to channel this calm and tranquillity throughout her hectic days as a full-time dentist and mum-of-two? Here’s a day well spent with Dr Al-Naher…
I like to do a mindfulness exercise as soon as I open my eyes called ‘waking up’. I spend about 15 minutes lying in bed (or as long as I can get before the kids wake up) focusing on each body part, starting from the feet up, feeling gratitude for the functions they enable me to perform and allowing me to watch the thoughts as they come so that I am more in control of them and can set the tone for the rest of my day.
Before eating I have a glass of warm water with manuka honey and a pinch of natural salt to rehydrate and clear out toxins. The very popular lemon in hot water is actually really bad for your teeth so I steer clear! I’ll then have some fruit, protein such as eggs, salmon or fat free yoghurt and wholemeal toast or oats.
Since having my second child and going back to work pretty much full time a week later, I haven’t had much time for the gym. Running around after two boys under four is a never ending workout in itself! On weekends, my husband and I try to walk everywhere and let the boys loose in the park. Being active as a family is becoming really important to allow us all to have fun, de-stress and build strong connections with our children. I have just started attending hot yoga classes which I find immensely relaxing and therapeutic for both body and mind – it makes me feel alive.
I’m currently on an Obagi Nu-Derm skin transformation course. This is a medical grade skin system to tackle most skin problem areas such as hyperpigmentation, dull skin, acne prone skin, fine lines and wrinkles. It can only be prescribed by a trained medical professional because of the use of the active ingredients such as hydroquinone, Tretinoin (4 x more powerful than retinol). It consists of a 5-6 step regime involving cleansing, using a toner, then a lotion containing hydroquinone to even out skin tone, and then an exfoliating lotion. Finally, my favourite Obagi moisturiser Obagi Hydrate Luxe (this is a potted cream which is so luxurious and soothing) and, of course, an SPF 50 (Obagi Sunshield Matte).
If I’m on a sunny holiday, or have an event coming up where I don’t want any chance of peeling, I will stop the active ingredients for a few days prior and use a few drops of 20% professional vitamin C serum before moisturising, which has a skin brightening effect and is full of anti-oxidants to combat the effect of daily pollution and sun damage.
I am currently studying for a qualification in mindfulness and teach it to other dental professionals as dentistry can be a tough and stressful profession. Many colleagues face or have experienced burnout and I find that mindfulness is an excellent way of monitoring your thoughts and gaining some control over how they make you feel. It’s especially important to allow me to stay organised, focused when I need to and help me juggle kids, work, career progression and social life.
I race to work after school drop off and work through to 2pm when I have to rush back to pick up my son at 3pm, so I rarely have time for a proper lunch. I will generally prepare small snacks which I graze on between patients or in the car, such as crudités, turkey slices, boiled eggs or will pick up a tuna salad on my way out if I’m really struggling. I also have sachet miso soup to keep my stomach warm (great to keep away IBS symptoms) and to feel satisfied quickly instead of reaching for a milky coffee or tea.
I like to get up from my dental chair every hour or so to have a stretch even if it’s a long treatment. Most of our patients receive complimentary conscious sedation even if they aren’t nervous so they are very chilled out and don’t notice (or care) if I stand up and stretch out. I also schedule in at least one-two meditation and gratitude sessions lasting about five minutes each. This really helps me to refocus, reset and gain perspective in the middle of my day. I find that I am able to empathise better with my team and my patients which is paramount in my profession and how I want to be with my patients.
Dinner is a family affair and normally consists of something I’ve had to cook in less than an hour. I love reinventing traditional Middle Eastern dishes so that they are healthy, contain less or no saturated fat, less meat and are super-quick to prepare. We also have a lot of grilled fish and chicken with plenty of steamed or roasted veg and always a large mixed salad. My kids love their veggies which is great. I don’t drink alcohol and never have.
My nighttime routine is similar to my daytime routine, but I really like to concentrate on cleansing the skin of all its impurities and will sometimes use a gentle scrub like gentle pore refiner from Clarins. I wear a lot of eye make up and I use Clinique Take The Day Off to remove it as it’s very gentle. It’s so important to remove all traces of eyeliner and mascara to prevent conditions such as blepharitis or contact dermatitis.
After brushing and interdental cleaning with floss or an interdental brush (normally both), I will also use a very low concentration teeth whitening gel inside my night time retainers to ensure my teeth stay white. I have very sensitive teeth so using a low concentration gel such as white dental beauty 5% carbamide peroxide to help avoid any potential discomfort but ensure my teeth stay bright and stain-free. Please remember teeth whitening is considered a dental procedure and should only be carried out by a dental professional.
I try not to work after 10pm after a very dear client told me that any work after then can be done more efficiently and better the next day – she is absolutely right! I will also prise my phone out of my hand and physically move it away so that I can enjoy the last hour or so of TV or catch up with my husband. I will go up to bed before him and carry out my skincare and beauty ‘rituals’ as he calls them. My last few moments in bed are of gratitude and asking my muscles to relax and switch off for the night.
I take a range of supplements recommended by my nutritionist Kamilla Schaffner, including Betaine HCL to support my stomach function, iron, kelp, omega 3, and a multi nutrient. The amounts have been very specifically prescribed for my lifestyle and particular nutritional requirements so I highly recommend seeing a nutritionist to help you with yours.
A luxury spa day or weekend with family or friends is my go-to if I have any opportunity. I am quite picky when it comes to spas and will thoroughly research the services and reviews before going. I like utter luxury (who doesn’t?), so a place that goes that extra mile is essential. My favourite spas include Spa at the Mandarin Oriental in London and Talise Spa at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray in Dubai.
I am an aesthetic practitioner and trainer so I have been known to perform my own ‘baby Botox’ treatments every six months to prevent my forehead, frown and smile lines developing over time.
I love the freedom of having lash extensions and not having to wear mascara and use an amazing practitioner called Anna from the app Secret Spa.
I have done the Tony Robbins ‘firewalk’ where you walk on 6ft of hot coals three times in my life and I loved it every time! Tony’s ‘Unleash the Power Within’ weekends were always a great source of motivation, personal power and physical wellness for me.
I have been a massive fan of yoga in the past and have recently enrolled for a course of hot yoga to help with flexibility and muscle tone and relaxation. I also see an osteopath when I’m feeling particularly tense. My parents are both qualified hypnotherapists and I use some techniques from time to time for visualisation or to overcome times where I feel nervous or anxious. We use guided meditation and hypnotic relaxation for our patients to ensure they feel relaxed during their dental treatments.
My approach to wellness has evolved and matured. I was always health conscious as a teen and young adult, but since my responsibilities have grown as a professional and as a mother I have had to streamline my approach and engage in activities that will help me more directly. I’m also noticing the facets of age in my metabolism, skin and general well-being. I‘ve become acutely aware of how resilient the body is, but also how it needs more and more maintenance as the years go by.
To find out more about the Enjoyable Dentistry Technique visit caredentalplatinum.com/