Dr Robert Nedelcu

Dr Robert Nedelcu is looking forward to getting to know the WA dental community after making the move from Sweden last year and accepting a position as a Senior Lecturer in Restorative Dentistry at UWA Dental School.

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Like many in the profession, Dr Robert Nedelcu’s early interest in dentistry stemmed from admiration of his own dentist. 

“When I was six- or seven-years-old, I was riding on my bicycle and I had quite a bad fall and hit my mouth and teeth,” he recalls. “My dentist was very kind. She was extremely empathetic and understanding and she turned the incident into something less traumatic.”

Later, while in high school, a tech-savvy Robert spent some time helping a dentist (who was a colleague of Robert’s father) with his computers. 

“I worked there (at the practice) in the summer, and I got to see the other side of dentistry almost as a fly on the wall,” he says. “I saw the interaction between patients and the dentists, the nurses and reception, and I enjoyed it; it was a great experience. 

“I think I disappointed my father, who comes from a long line of engineers. Everyone thought I would go into computer science. I chose dentistry because it felt right. I knew I wanted to work with my hands, I wanted to work with patients, and I didn’t want to sit behind a computer all day long.”

After graduating and working for a few years, Robert says he knew prosthetics was where his heart was and decided to specialise in oral prosthetics at Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm Dental Implant Center. 

It was during his specialisation training that Robert had to produce a research project and he chose intraoral scanning. This was when his passion for digital dentistry was sparked. “I found intraoral scanning fascinating – maybe because it appealed to my technical side,” he says. “I felt there was so much more to do with intraoral scanners, but I couldn’t find the right platform.”

Robert began working with Professor Andreas Thor, from the Department of Surgical Sciences, Odontology and Maxillofacial Surgery at Uppsala University Sweden. Professor Thor took Robert under his wing and became Robert’s academic mentor. 

“The Department of Surgical Sciences, Odontology and Maxillofacial Surgery had some fascinating research on virtual planning and maxillofacial reconstructions, in collaboration with plastic surgery, radiology and engineers at Ångström laboratory. They needed a clinician who understood intraoral scanners. I was offered a PhD position in digital dentistry with a focus on the topic of intra oral scanners, which I finished in 2020.”

A new start

“When I came to the end of my PhD, we decided as a family it was the right time to make a change,” Robert says. “We wanted to experience a country which was culturally and climate-wise different from Sweden.

“As a family, we’ve travelled extensively and visited Australia a number of times,” he adds. “We like the lifestyle here, and one of the best assets you have is the weather – the sun, the beaches, and the blue skies.

“Glen Liddelow (Specialist Prosthodontist) connected me and the UWA Dental School, and after an interview, I was offered the position.”

After some delays because of COVID, Robert arrived in Western Australia in August last year, along with his wife (who is a general dentist) and his children. 

Now he is settled at UWA, Robert would like to build a new platform and network. “I want to build a platform here for research and for collaboration with colleagues,” he says. “My colleagues in prosthetics are all open-minded professionals of similar age, and we have excellent dialogue where we can combine knowledge from four different continents. To build on that experience and skill set is an excellent path forward.”

He invites other members of the WA dental community to get in touch if they share his passion for intraoral scanners and digital dentistry. “It is undeniable that digital dentistry has come to the stage where it is a must to introduce to DCDs and DMDs but also part of the general practitioner’s everyday use. I think there is still a lot to do on the subject so if people have any questions or want to reach out, I’m available.”

Robert is finding teaching in Australia very rewarding. “There are differences between Sweden and Australia – here students pay for their education, while in Sweden, university education is free. That to me makes the students here feel like they really care for their education. On the other hand, the training as a dentist is shorter with only four years instead of five, making the curriculum much more compact.”

When he’s not at the university, you’ll likely find Robert at the beach. “I try to see the sunset every time I get the chance to; you don’t know how blessed you are to be able to take a stroll down to the beach. The beaches and the weather are amazing here. You don’t have this kind of blue sky everywhere in the world – it’s like therapy. I’m defrosting from living in a cold country for many years,” he laughs. “It’s also a new cultural experience being here in terms of food and things to do, so there’s always a lot on the to-do list every weekend.”

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