Jiří Sedelmayer, an exceptional teacher, acknowledged industry expert and founder of iTOP’s unique prophylaxis training programme, has helped thousands of dental professionals, students and patients to understand the importance of prevention in oral health. Some of those who were fortunate enough to meet and be inspired by Dr. Sedelmayer share their memories and impressions of the respected Czech dentist and teacher.
“He was one of the people in dentistry that I got to know who was really authentic and real. He always said what he thought, and that’s why I liked him a lot. He always tried to keep the eyes on the whole person, not only on the teeth. That’s why I think the dentistry I practice, and that I live, is the kind of dentistry he tried to educate his students on.
“He talked a lot about endodontics, and I specialised in this topic myself, after university. I remember one thing that he always said: ‘No apical violence!’ (laughs) I think this is very important; he taught people to be very soft and gentle when doing endodontics. The risk of mistakes increases when people don’t take enough time to be very careful. He said it in such a kind way that I always remember this sentence from him.”
“My working life as a dentist is clearly shifted in two parts. Before getting to know Dr. Jiří Sedelmayer, I taught the rather rudimentary rules of prevention I’d learnt during my time at university. Then, after the magic encounter with Dr. Sedelmayer and his iTOP seminar experience, during which I was hit with what felt like a bolt of lightning, I could finally enjoy a true renaissance period in my everyday working life as a dentist.
“Jiří gave me the most precious gift of all: the knowledge of how to become the master of my own oral health, and the capability of passing on this knowledge to my patients so they could get to know their mouths much better and even become experts in oral hygiene. The purpose is crystal-clear – to keep one’s own natural teeth healthy for a lifetime.
“He was a true humanist: heart and soul. He was totally devoted to mankind. Understanding, empathy, patience, perseverance, humbleness and a great sense of humour were his favourite weapons. He constantly urged people to push beyond their limits, swim against the stream of conformism and clichés and finally, dare to live life to its fullest extent – exactly as he did!”
“Everything I know, and what I can do, I’ve learned from Jiří Sedelmayer. He was always a good teacher, and a good listener. When I think about it, before he left he gave me his PowerPoint presentations for prophylaxis, and I can’t even count how often we went through these presentations. And he never gave me the feeling of, ‘Why haven’t you understood this yet? We’ve already done this a hundred times.’ It was always ‘Sure! Let’s do it again!’
“I knew him for a very long time. During my training, he helped me to understand many things. Whenever I’d say, ‘I don’t understand this; help me!’, he’d say, ‘Here look, it’s easy … do you want to go over it again?’ I would always wonder, ‘Why don’t they teach it to us like this in school? Why do they have to make it so complicated?’ And he’d answer, ‘Because they haven’t understood it themselves.’ (laughs) He was just incredibly gifted at explaining things, the pictures as well. He explained things so simply to patients and to students.
“His way of dealing with teachers, but also his way of dealing with patients – he was incredibly charismatic. When he was lecturing somewhere, he’d never have to ring the bell to call people back. At the end of the break, everybody would already be back in the lecture hall, hanging on his every word.
“He also didn’t like to be interrupted. If he had half an hour of speaking time, and after 35 minutes someone was wildly gesturing that he needed to finish up, it never interested him at all. (laughs) He’d lecture until he was done.
“Our current professor, Petra Schmage, told me, ‘You are marked by Sedelmayer. And I’m actually very proud of it.’”
“The first time I met Dr. Sedelmayer was almost five years after I attended my first iTOP seminar. He was an incredible person in every sense, whether listening to his lectures or just having a cup of coffee with him, talking about life. He was an amazing storyteller; you could have listened to him for hours. He was a fighter in his spirit and so am I, which brought us many good memories and some challenging ones.
“What I learned from him was that you can only preach what you practice, that you need to repeat the basics and that you have to be not only passionate about your work, but also a person of integrity. Last but not least, he was a living example of the saying that it is not important what you do in life, but how you do it. Not many people get to work with and learn from the heroes of their profession. I had that honour.”
Jiří Sedelmayer (1946–2019)
Jiří Sedelmayer was a Czech dentist, university teacher and researcher. He studied and taught dentistry at the University of Hamburg. Sedelmayer was a founder of the Czech Preventive Society, New School of Individual Prophylaxis and the Individually Trained Prophylaxis (iTOP) programme. In his practice and research he focused on individual prophylaxis, filling therapy and endodontics.
Jiří Sedelmayer and his wife Lucie trained thousands of dentists and hundreds of iTOP teachers from Japan, Russia, the US, Canada, South America, Vietnam, China, Australia and the whole of Europe. In total, Sedelmayer certified around 100 instructors, who continue to convey his messages worldwide and teach his methods using CURAPROX products. He participated in developing a new generation of interdental brushes and toothbrushes.
“Jiří Sedelmayer was a dentist teaching in Hamburg. He discovered our products here in Switzerland in a pharmacy and started to ask me for samples for his students. That’s how Jiří became both my friend and my business partner. And actually, my most important teacher, because I am not a dentist – everything I know, I have learned from dentists and dental technicians. Jiří worked hard on perfecting his teaching method, which today we call iTOP. He was our most influential expert and teacher.”
“Jirka was my life partner whom I spent 25 years with. I will always remember him as a great teacher, husband, friend and father to our son.
“My husband taught me a lot. At first he motivated me to love the field I had studied, but hadn’t enjoyed, because my knowledge was very shallow and I hadn’t had enough practice. He inspired me by his relationship with patients, by his way of communicating, but also by the gentleness and tenderness he used during treatments. I admired also his friendly attitude towards his students who loved him and respected him profoundly.
“He was also very skilled and hardworking. Thanks to Jirka I do not suffer from gingivitis, periodontitis or tooth decay. To myself, his kids, patients and students, he has given the gift of dental health!
“I need to say that the iTOP programme of individually trained oral prophylaxis that he created is really brilliant because it’s easy to understand and put into practice. It has opened my eyes, as well as the eyes of all those who have ever participated. We have gained a meaningful educational programme for our patients that really works, and we have learned that prevention doesn’t have to rely on chaos and poorly defined principles anymore. Thanks to iTOP, we have realised three basic criteria of prevention: acceptance, effectivity and atraumaticity.
“I could write so many nice words about him. Thank you, Jirka! We will miss you forever.”
“Jiří Sedelmayer opened up a new world of prevention and also a new perspective in motivation for me, my friends, my family and my patients. I learned about something I already knew, but I learned to do it in the perfect way with iTOP.
“He changed my life with his philosophy; he brought me better health. With all his knowledge, experience and his humour, he was a great person to know as well as to learn from. I am extremely grateful that I was allowed to know him and to be a part of the iTOP family.”
“For me, Dr. Sedelmayer is still a mentor and a source of inspiration for my professional and personal life. Beside the tremendous dental knowledge I learned from him over the years, he gave me life advice as well. He was there for anyone, at any time, not only for professional reasons – he simply knew how to support people around him. Like the true leader he was, he knew how to kindly empower people with knowledge that would serve their purpose and lives. I admired the sincerity and honesty he brought to even the simplest things … His determination to fight against the most powerful critics with sincerity, his courage in staying faithful to prevention in spite of the time in which he was living.
“I was lucky to have met him when I was a student in my last year and learned at that time one very important thing: clean teeth can’t be sick, ever. Another very powerful concept for me was that ‘the best dental book is the mouth of the patient.’ I’ve proven the value of his words with every day of practice since then, and I will always be grateful to him for opening my path to preventive dentistry, basically for teaching me how to brush my teeth properly, and this is so powerful. iTOP is his heritage to the world and we can only be forever thankful to him for that.”
Illustrations by Patrik Antczak