With Hague Dental about to enter its 25th year of business, Jim Hague offers unique insight into how dentistry has evolved over the last quarter century and what the future might hold.
How have you seen private dentistry change over the years?
From my point of view, I think expectations have changed, for both patients and the dental team.
Over the last ten years legislation has gone from having a huge impact to being an every day occurrence in practices. It is now the accepted norm. The last five years or so we’ve seen a big push towards aesthetics, investing heavily in the branding and unique style of dental practices. Particularly on reception, waiting rooms and treatment care offices.
Private practices are looking after their patients clinically throughout the whole process. But principals also recognise they are running a business, that it is in a competitive field, and practices need to stand out from the crowd.
That’s where we have been able help independent practices make their mark, putting their personality and own style into what their patients experience.
On the whole, there are more things and more people to fit into a dental practice nowadays than there was when I started.
People setting up squat practices are mindful of future owners. The flexibility to stay abreast of new technology and any change in what constitutes best practice in the future.
Coronavirus aside for a moment, is there anything that has been a real challenge for dentistry in the last 25 years or so?
In 2008 and 2009, we saw a lot of NHS dentists move over to private care for a variety of reasons that I think everyone is already perfectly well aware of.
That was followed shortly by a recession, and people weren’t spending as much money as they had previously on all sorts of things, including dentistry.
As a knock-on effect during that time, for us at Hague Dental there was a focus on keeping equipment running rather than any new investment. This allowed us to grow our engineering team.
More recently, we’ve worked hard to stay ahead of the digital revolution. Bringing what was once rare and prohibitively expensive technology into the everyday realm of dental care.
Lately the challenge for us in the practice design field is to balance commercial and dental specific legislation, with more ‘content’ than ever, and the need for bespoke aesthetics.
What do you think are some of the secrets to success?
Finding the right location, a suitable property, an efficient business plan, the right long-term partner to create and support you, to develop the right customer-facing team, and lots of hard work!
Finding the right place – it’s important to consider what type of practice you are looking to achieve (are you hoping for a lot of passing foot traffic, or is this a referral site, for example?). Have a good idea of the individual rooms, to separate what’s essential and what’s on the wish list within the layout. Are you looking to share this venture with other fields? To consider both the property and refurbishment costs for any potential site.
Building your team – you need a good mix of personalities, offering a diverse skill set. They should share your passion and will show warmth and reassurance to your patients. In my opinion, that is often what sets successful practices apart.
Where do you see dentistry going in the next few months?
I think people are going to be exceptionally cautious. Most fear a COVID-19 second spike and having to close again for a period. Or perhaps the scientists will make a breakthrough in their search for the vaccine. Either of these two scenarios would change my opinion dramatically!
Meanwhile, the dental profession is still waiting on firm legislation, from the powers that be, that will remove ambiguity and provide a clear path to follow. At the moment, it feels like the responsibility has fallen heavily on the principal’s shoulders, to create their own plan.
All of us need to look at the situation we’re in now in terms of achieving long-term success. We need to use what we have learnt, and continue to learn to make a positive out of what has frankly been an awful time for everybody. People are still making changes, and some of these will be for the long term.
You can’t ignore the fact that people have lost loved ones. It is a terribly sad and difficult time for a lot of people and that will stay with us forever. But I hope business-wise that when we come out the other end of this we will all be more resilient and able to future-proof the profession.
Looking longer term, what’s in store for dentistry, do you think?
You know, I’m always very aware that I’m an engineer. So what I notice is perhaps different to others working in dentistry. I do see that a large proportion of the necessary changes made this year will continue to be in place. For example, air purification, quality of suction, negative pressure, scavenging and the reduction of aerosols will be a permanent feature to name but a few. People are now much better educated about the air they breathe.
Once patients regain their confidence in the profession, I imagine there will be an increase in demand for all dentistry. But particularly cosmetic. People want to look good, and they want the place where they go for that treatment to be safe and look good too. There will be a need for longer treatments resulting in more surgeries and more practices.
The need for squat practices to accommodate the ways of working and the latest technology will only increase. It will become easier with the new long-awaited changes to the planning system.
As for the team at Hague, we’ll still be focusing on our customers and on their specific needs, to offer ongoing support that’s second to none.
Jim Hague is the managing director of Hague Dental Supplies, with an engineering, project management and practice design background.
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