Simon Chard explains how visionary investment in his dental hygiene department is helping to provide patients with the highest-quality care and secure the future success of his practice.
How important is preventive care to your practice’s oral health offering?
I think a focus on health is incredibly important for a clinic to move forward successfully. I can also see that the link between oral health and systemic health is becoming increasingly better understood. As is the need to treat holistically.
Naturally, no matter what high-end treatments you provide, and to whatever standard you provide them, without solid maintenance everything will fail very rapidly. So, prevention is of vital importance to me as a clinician.
At the end of the day, our aim as dentists is to stop things from happening. As opposed to just putting out the fires once they’ve started. That begins with patients from a young age. Requiring us to develop our practices around oral health intervention.
To what extent do you consider prevention as the gateway to other treatments?
I think the interesting thing for me as a cosmetic dentist, whereby I get a lot of my patients making contact as a result of social media, is that oftentimes they actually haven’t seen the dentist for a number of years. It’s the desire for cosmetic dentistry that drives them to come in and see the dentist. Even if they’re actually quite nervous.
What that tends to mean is that I have to reverse engineer the inclusion of oral health and an oral health routine involving seeing the dentist and dental hygienist regularly into their mindset based upon having a smile that looks nice.
So, I often call cosmetic dentistry the Trojan Horse of oral health. It’s the thing that actually drives these individuals to come in to see us. Whereas otherwise, for example, they may continue with severe periodontal disease for many, many years. And only realise there’s an issue once they start to get mobile teeth.
Inevitably, sometimes a patient will present with a bad situation. It’s great to offer those patients, especially the nervous ones, something that is focused on comfort. But that also delivers the highest quality of outcome. A champion of that ethos, for me, as one example, is Airflow.
How does your dental hygienist or therapist fit in with the dialogue you have with the patient?
In our practice, the hygienist is normally the first port of call after they’ve seen me for a consultation. I need to hear from the hygienist that the patient wants to maintain their oral health.
I would rather they didn’t have expensive and extensive cosmetic dentistry if they weren’t committed to maintaining it to a satisfactory standard. This is especially significant where a patient hasn’t been to the dentist for a number of years.
So, the hygienist is always the bedrock of that. I maintain a very strong dialogue with the hygiene team, as well as the perio team in the practice. That’s vital to the success of the treatments I provide, I think.
In terms of having access to the best, evidence-based equipment and materials, what difference does that make to your dental hygienist’s working day and mindset, and patients’ perception of care?
I mentioned Airflow earlier, and my hygienists love me now that we’ve got that in the practice. They know the difference it makes.
Dentistry is all about details. It’s all about the little variations that make a big a difference; we work in a micron world.
You may say you get the same outcome with hand scale versus Airflow. In a laboratory setting, you may be able to, but in the reality of day-to-day life where we’re dealing with real humans who jump around in the chair and who are comfort-focused, I think it makes hygienists’ lives a lot easier. I think they get a lot more job satisfaction using Airflow, too.
Also, speaking as someone who’s experienced Airflow, I’m not great with the regular ultrasonic. When you visualise the problem for the patient with the GBT (Guided Biofilm Therapy) protocol, actually it really does highlight the issues in a much more straightforward and patient-friendly manner than the traditional way of just saying: ‘Oh, you’re missing that area,’ or ‘you need to floss more’.
I think it’s much more illustrative. We really have seen a great improvement in our patients’ oral health since investing in the technology.
If your hygienist came to you armed with a rationale to invest in something new, how would you go about deciding whether it is worthwhile for the practice?
I’m perfectly happy to make investments that I think are either going to improve outcomes or improve the patient journey.
I think it’s quite short-sighted sometimes to think just: ‘What’s my ROI on this and how is this going to immediately improve my bottom line?’ It’s more about, how do I ensure that I’m providing the best service for my patients that maximises patient retention?
If I could put it this way, one of those things for me is digital dentistry and providing restorations in-house with my CEREC machine. The beauty of that is not just an immediate return on investment. It’s actually that it’s very difficult for a patient to find the same level of service and comfort elsewhere. They haven’t needed a gooey mould and they don’t have to have temporaries for a number of weeks. In 95% of my cases, they can have their restoration on the same day.
And I put Airflow in that same category; once you’ve experienced Airflow, and you’ve had what, in essence, feels like a spa for your mouth, it’s very, very difficult to go back to the old way of doing things.
Obviously, finances are still important. How do you work out if something is financially viable?
Realistically, at some point there’s a cap on that. But you can push it to some degree when you think long term.
I do think the hygiene department is the powerhouse in the practice. It continues to provide a positive revenue stream at a very constant level.
And I think that an investment in that powerhouse is going to be of benefit to any practice. I would describe buying things like Airflow as a customer journey investment.
Have you experienced improved attendance in such patients following treatment with Airflow?
Absolutely. With GBT, I do genuinely feel that it’s considerably more comfortable than the more traditional hygiene procedures. In the way that GBT warms the water, and the ultrasonic technology is designed not to trigger sensitivity. Plus, the outcome feels outstanding.
So it’s an easier conversation for me as a dentist to say: ‘Okay, you may have had a hygiene appointment before, and it may have been uncomfortable. But don’t worry because we’ve invested in this pain-free technology, which is a lot more comfortable for you.’
If you were giving advice to another practice that was considering making this investment, what would you say to them?
I would say that Airflow is an investment in your team. It’s an investment in your patient journey and, long term, it will be an investment in your practice’s success. Because it provides something that differentiates you from the large majority of dental practices.
I do believe that investing in technology is the only way we can continue to evolve and improve as dental practices. As dentists, we have to look to the future. For me and the hygiene department in my practice, moving to Airflow has been the innovation that I was after. And so far, it’s been incredibly well received.
Airflow and GBT
GBT is the systematic, predictable solution for dental biofilm management in professional prophylaxis using state-of-the-art air flow technologies.
It consists of treatment protocols based on individual patient diagnosis and risk assessment in order to achieve optimal results.
The treatment is given in the least invasive way, with the highest level of comfort, safety and efficiency.
The therapy also includes oral hygiene instruction, patient education and motivation to maintain natural teeth and implants for as long as possible.
This user-friendly treatment can be adapted to all age groups and individual patients. Helping even the most anxious patient to overcome their fears.
With all that in mind, if you would like further details about what EMS Dental has to offer dental professionals in the UK, please visit www.ems-dental.com.