Smile Together chair Maria Cockle listening to a talk

Maria Cockle

Dentist, Non-Executive Director and Chair of the Staff Council to July 2020

In addition to being an unscheduled care dentist for West Country Dental Care (WCDC), Maria Cockle was a non-executive director of Smile Together and Chair of the company’s Staff Council (now our Shareholder Impact Board) until retirement beckoned in July 2020. Maria explains:

“As an unscheduled care dentist my primary aim was to relieve individuals’ dental pain and treat infections and dental trauma for patients who contacted our WCDC service via our dedicated Call Centre. Many people would have put up with toothache for days before they called us, often because they were very anxious about dentistry, and it was my job to reassure them and carry out their treatment so they would leave the surgery happier than when they arrived. Treating anxious patients can be very difficult as the combination of toothache and anxiety often makes people defensive or even aggressive.

My Staff Council role made me the voice of our workforce at Board level where I sat as a Non-Executive Director. Smile Together is an employee-owned social enterprise and I was privileged to hold this role for a couple of years, linking the Board with the employee shareholders and vice versa, representing one to the other.

I thoroughly enjoy engaging with people. Every patient has a story to tell and an individual point of view, and I liked connecting with all the different personalities who came to the WCDC clinic every day. The same went for my Staff Council and non-exec roles, which gave me the opportunity to meet and learn from people from all areas of our business.

Prior to joining Smile Together, I spent many years in general practice working as an associate in my brother’s dental surgery in London. He inspired me into this choice of career, convincing me that I would make a good dentist and that it would be enjoyable. He was right, and I love the fact that at Smile Together everyone makes a real difference to people’s dental health through day-to-day clinical work and as a community interest company making a difference to vulnerable and hard-to-reach individuals across Cornwall. I enjoyed the teamwork and camaraderie – everyone working towards a common goal of creating value in our communities. Smiles at Sea was especially rewarding and fun – delivering dentistry in a mobile dental unit at harboursides across Cornwall and Devon to those who rarely visit a dentist due to the demands of their work. Memories that will stay with me always!

To someone considering working for Smile Together I would say join us!  This company is going places and we want to expand our teams of dedicated dentists and nurses so we can reach more people in the South West. Smile Together has big dreams with plenty of scope for people with vision and ideas.”