Here, Philips has conducted an interview with dental hygienist Melanie Pomphrett, who is also a professional educator for Philips. She discusses the ways the delivery of lunch and learns has changed in recent weeks.
The Philips lunch and learn programme is a training session offered to dental practices, for the whole team.
The Philips team can deliver it during a lunch hour or at a time that best suits the practice. It allows practice members to receive one hour of ECPD, personalised education on oral health or tooth whitening.
And Philips can tailor the session to suit the way the practice operates and bring in every member of the dental team.
Can you tell us about the new way you are delivering lunch and learns and one-to-one learning sessions?
Until earlier this year we were invited into the practice to deliver an hour of learning on tooth whitening or the science of Sonicare.
The main difference now is that we deliver the session virtually.
Anyone interested can also request a one-to-one learning session with one of the Philips team of educators. We can tailor the session around their practice and needs. All they have to do is get in touch with us and let us know what day and time suits them.
I have found that this new flexibility makes a huge difference. People are also more engaged and more receptive.
We run sessions about oral health and the whole Sonicare portfolio. However, tooth whitening learning sessions have definitely been much more frequently requested in recent weeks.
Can you tell me more about Zoom and the surge in interest? Why do you think people are increasingly enthusiastic about Zoom take home and chairside whitening?
I get asked about tooth whitening all the time. There is definitely a lot of interest, more now than ever in fact.
Practices are telling us that patients are now willing to invest in the way they look and the way their teeth look. It makes them feel better.
Spending months at home not feeling their best, they are now keen to work on their looks and the way it makes them feel.
The concept of self-care is very strong these days.
The ability to offer a non-AGP cosmetic procedure is a bonus. And there is a lot of interest in Zoom in-chair treatment. It delivers visible results quickly.
There is a good deal of publicity about the risks of unregulated tooth whitening recently.
Zoom is a well-known and trusted brand. Patients will often request it by name, as opposed to asking for a generic whitening procedure.
So both practice and patients are reassured they are benefitting from a clinically-proven procedure.
I have also found that practices now work far more intensively on ways they can utilise the whole dental team in the whitening process. From gathering interest at reception to the consultation appointment, the impression taking, the whitening procedure itself, the review afterwards.
This makes business sense. It is more profitable to harness the team, and get every member involved in some way. This all adds to their job satisfaction levels.
What is the level of knowledge on whitening?
To my knowledge, there is no training on whitening in dental schools. So dental professionals aren’t taught how to carry out the procedure before they qualify.
It is up to them to do their own research and engage in their own training post qualification.
Without that initial training they would not necessarily know the whole chemistry of how whitening works, or the different products out there.
This is why it is really good that Philips can offer that training to them for free.
We get lots of questions about what solutions suit which patients best, and why.
Why do you think dental professionals are not all offering whitening? What are the perceived obstacles?
Tooth whitening is considered a cosmetic procedure. So some dental professionals struggle with the idea of selling something. Especially if they are practising in a predominantly NHS setting or in an area where patients are seen as not having a high disposable income.
But actually, if this is something the patient wants, it is a great ‘entry’ treatment. It can lead into a dialogue about other treatments.
You cannot assume just because someone doesn’t have much disposable income that they are not willing to invest in the way their teeth look.
I don’t personally like the hard sell either. I find it uncomfortable because I want patients to have something done if they want it.
But if the whole team has the right education and understand how the procedure works, can talk about it eloquently, and has the right marketing in place, they often don’t have to push the sell too much. Patients tend to ask for it themselves.
Another perceived obstacle for the hygienist and therapist is the fact that they need a prescription from the dentist in order to carry out a whitening procedure.
There is a bit of uncertainty out there.
The good news is that hygienists and therapists can carry out whitening. And in the Philips education session we run through how to do this effectively and safely.
Practices also find it reassuring to learn that offering tooth whitening is no hassle. In fact it is one of the easiest procedures to set up.
We teach practices about two forms of tooth whitening and discuss which would best suit the ways they work, and which would suit their patients.
Philips believes it is important to offer a tailored treatment portfolio to each patient. One size does not fit all.
If the patient wants fast results or has a busy lifestyle, chairside whitening allows them to seize the moment. Whilst others may have time to use a tray-based system.
The gold standard is a combination of the two. And I explain how both systems work in my sessions.
The take-home whitening procedure, where patients get the impressions taken and custom made trays fabricated for them and are then provided with whitening gel to apply at home. Either during the day or overnight.
The practice can either make their own trays or the IAS Academy can produce them.
Alternatively, (or in combination) they can have the chairside whitening with the LED lamp. That cuts the overall whitening time down quite significantly.
For this, they need a specific Zoom lamp and someone available in practice who can carry out the procedure. Some dentists may not wish to carry out the treatment themselves. But may not realise either that they can actually use a hygienist or therapist for it.
The LED lamp is an investment. But they can make their money back very quickly. It is possible to charge a premium if there is an appetite for this amongst your patient base.
Take-home whitening is a more affordable alternative delivering the same great Philips Zoom results.
In your view, what is the main stumbling block to offering whitening treatment?
A lot of dentists don’t want to undermine their main role which is to improve oral health and treat disease. Not necessarily to whiten teeth all day.
It is understandable. However, it is definitely a treatment that patients want. If we don’t want them to go to beauty salons or hairdressers, then it is something we need to offer, safely.
I also explain how they can work in tandem with their hygienist/therapist to offer the treatment. And how this time sharing is both ethical and profitable.
If a hygienist/therapist wants to offer whitening treatment, what is the typical step by step you recommend?
Hygienists and therapists need training, and become confident and competent to undertake it. That is what the GDC states.
We can offer them training for free, either on a one to one basis, or with the rest of their team.
With the take home system, it is a simple procedure.
Hygienists and therapists can already take impressions. You don’t need any official certificates or qualifications to do the whitening. It is essentially about confidence.
Training might benefit people to know the differences between whitening brands and relay that information to patients.
For the chairside whitening, we need to show the process. Ideally a full demonstration in practice helps, and one session should suffice.
If necessary, a staff member could volunteer for a whitening procedure to give the hygienist or therapist some initial practice.
Philips also has training videos to provide virtual training. We are also running training webinars with Megan Fairhall, which are very popular.
What are the advantages for a dentist to work closely with a hygienist/therapist for tooth whitening?
It frees up the time for dentist. Particularly for the chairside procedure, which takes about 90 minutes.
Dentists are more likely to not want to spend that time doing whitening. They can do more advanced complex cases and build up more revenue that way.
It therefore makes perfect sense for a hygienist or a therapist to carry out whitening on their behalf. The practice still gets the income from it, but they don’t have to spend that time doing it themselves.
Take home whitening is also an additional treatment option the hygienist or therapist can offer. It creates variation through their working day and increased private revenue potential.
In my own experience many patients request tooth whitening at hygienist appointments. On many occasions patients will ask me about it rather than the dentist because they assume it comes under our role.
If your hygienist is offering whitening, then you may find you can book more treatments in. They can pick up on the initial interest.
It also definitely boosts morale amongst hygienists and therapists. It adds to their scope of practice, gives them variety and breaks up the day. So they are happier in their job.
As whitening is a non AGP process, would you agree that offering tooth whitening treatment is an opportunity for business growth and ideal to help with practice recovery?
Practices are currently catching up with treatments. But once it gets back to a bit of normality, whitening is definitely something to look to as a way to grow their business and generate added revenues.
A lot of patients are going to ask for whitening once we sort the backlog of appointments.
Demand for whitening is definitely increasing. In the last few months, people have spent time on their personal development and are feeling better in themselves and they want to reflect that in the way they look.
Others look at images on digital calls and now start to think about aesthetics a little bit more. Or maybe they have saved money by not commuting.
Investing in self-care seems very prevalent at the moment.
Of course practices need to be mindful that AGP procedures should follow the local guidance.
Any other advice you would like to give?
For dental professionals who have got a bit more time on their hands, whilst they are not back to full capacity in practice, there is a good opportunity to make the most of any free education and training. The more information you have, the more confident you will feel about talking to patients and expanding the treatments you can offer.
You can book a lunch and learn via Philips [email protected]. Sessions are available at a date and time to suit the practice. Or direct message Melanie via her Instagram handle @melaniepomphrett.
For more information visit www.philips.co.uk/dentalprofessional or call 0800 0567 222.