“INCREASING QUALITY OF LIFE FOR MY PATIENTS IS MY GREATEST SATISFACTION”
A born pioneer, motivated by scientific curiosity, as well as by the transmission and acquisition of knowledge, in a constant process of discovery and revitalisation. With a remarkable career in Academia, and in the practice of Dentistry, Licensed Doctor Gil Alcoforado is a well-known figure in the area Periodontology and Implantology. Patients are at the centre of his philosophy, as well as his practice, to whom he provides a personalised, careful and meticulous service. This is his vision for the Alcoforado Clinic, a plan that he has always conveyed to his team, and remains as relevant as ever, at a time when he is gradually passing the baton on to the following generations.
DENTISTRY IS A FAMILY TRADITION. AT WHAT POINT DID YOU KNOW THAT THIS WAS THE PATH YOU WANTED TO FOLLOW?
I always had the notion that I wanted to study medicine. At that time, there was no dentistry course, so I joined medical school, completed the first three years, and then started visiting the stomatology service at Hospital de Santa Maria, where some of my father’s friends worked, who later became my friends. By coincidence, the end of my third year coincided with the opening of the Faculty of Dentistry, in 1977. Precisely in time for applications, and so the timing couldn't have been more perfect. I was part of the first ‘batch’, the first group of 16 first-year students who attended the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Lisbon.
WHAT IS THE GREATEST SATISFACTION THAT YOUR PROFESSION BRINGS TO YOU?
It’s definitely being able to increase the quality of life of my patients. This above all else. And also the ability to pass on what I have learned to younger professionals. And now to my daughter Isabel, who recently graduated, which is something that fills me with happiness. I have always been passionate about the transmission of knowledge, as well as the acquisition of new knowledge, which is something I never stop searching for. Even at the age of 65, I continue to take courses and try to learn and improve. In any profession, but mine in particular, where things evolve at incredible speed, this is essential. In fact, my motto on Skype is ‘better than yesterday, worse than tomorrow’.
THERE HAVE CERTAINLY BEEN MAJOR CHANGES IN DENTISTRY SINCE THE ALCOFORADO CLINIC WAS FOUNDED. HOW HAS THE CLINIC KEPT UP WITH THIS EVOLUTION?
I started in my father's office. In January 1987, I limited my clinical practice to Periodontology, after several stays in Norway and the United States. In 1989, I ventured into the area of implants. From then on, my clinical practice became limited to these two areas. We followed the evolution of the science. In 1992, I joined a group with Licensed Dr. Alberto Oliveira Pinto, and in 1997, we created the Alcoforado Clinic, which at the time specialised solely in these areas. Encouraged by the requests of patients themselves, we expanded to other specialties, and this made us keep up with all the advances in the area of implantology as well as the treatment of cavities. We have specialists in the area of root canal treatments (endodontics) on our team, who work with microscopes and were trained in the United States. In the area of periodontology and implantology, things have evolved a lot, and what we do today has nothing to do with what we did 5 years ago (let alone 10!)
WOULD YOU HIGHLIGHT ANY TECHNOLOGY IN PARTICULAR?
With digitalisation, there is now a new iteration, which in a certain way forces us to change the treatment paradigms a little bit. For example, moulds today are made with a scanner, which generates a file that we send to the laboratory by e-mail. In turn, at the laboratory, they collect this digital information and by using a milling machine or 3D printer, the desired prostheses can be printed (whether they are crowns or bridges, on teeth or implants). However, every year we see major technological and biological developments in many of the specialties we provide.
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF ORAL HEALTH?
Oral health can have major implications from a systemic point of view, in areas we did not suspect. I recently moderated a session at a medical congress, where two collaborators were talking about the relationship between periodontal (gum) disease and anaemia. Nowadays, we know that periodontal disease is related to heart problems, with atherosclerosis, with brain abscesses, and related to diabetes. There is a very close relationship between oral diseases and systemic diseases, and often a two-way relationship, in which acting on one means acting on the other.
AND IN TERMS OF PERCEPTION? ARE PEOPLE IN GENERAL AWARE OF THE IMPORTANCE OF ORAL HEALTH?
All of our appointments, in all specialties, are very focused on prevention. And to do this we need to improve oral health literacy. That's why we give a lot of personal information to our patients, one-on-one, especially during the first appointment. We give you information about what can be done, not only in the short term, when there is an emergency situation, but especially in the long term, and by this we are talking about things that can be done from a preventive point-of-view throughout life. The truth is that by following certain types of steps, it is even possible to reduce the number of hours at the dentist, which benefits patients. Things are getting better, there is a lot of information, but the truth is that we always try to convey all of the information we can, in order to improve oral care literacy.
WHAT MAKES THE ALCOFORADO CLINIC DIFFERENT?
One of the temptations that I was always able to overcome was excessive growth of the clinic. That is, the clinic is small, and I am not going to expand it, because this is what allows us to effectively provide personalised treatment. In fact, this personalisation is very important because we would not be able to provide proper treatment otherwise. It is essential that people experience this level of very close follow-up. The team at the clinic includes several people, divided by the various specialties, and I do my best to ensure that the turnover does not become too large. I have people on the team who have been working with me for over 30 years. Obviously, new blood is always needed, but stability is equally important, so that this follow-up is actually possible. In addition to this personalised treatment, we strive to always provide the maximum quality possible, and to be on time too. To be always on time (we have eight offices with six seats in each waiting room, patients do not wait, and they are used to being welcomed at the appointed time, to the minute) is essential for us, and since our patients know this, they play their part too.
WHAT WAS YOUR VISION FOR THE PROJECT WHEN YOU CREATED THE CLINIC?
The clinic has evolved, but my vision was always very patient-oriented, much more so than towards the clinic itself. Things happened naturally, and the clinic grew little by little, but always in a very controlled way, so as to never lose the ability to provide the same personalised care and follow-up in the long run. I’ll start from the beginning, when I see patients for the first time, they will be my patients to monitor for the rest of my life. I have many follow-up patients here, whom I saw for the first time several decades ago. This is what makes it possible to sustain the quality standards that will obviously become more and more precise as techniques evolve.
A WISH FOR THE FUTURE?
It's very simple. That I can keep the team I have, and create the potential to continue with the same philosophy of careful, meticulous and personalised patient follow-up, and prevent the clinic from becoming too large and impersonal.
RECOGNISED FOR ITS PROFOUND KNOWLEDGE IN PERIODONTOLOGY, THE ALCOFORADO CLINIC ENSURES THE PREVENTION, TREATMENT AND MAINTENANCE OF GUM HEALTH AND OTHER TISSUES THAT SUPPORT THE TEETH.