If my friends could see me now

Oh, how we dreamed as final-year Sheffield University students of wafting our chemistry degrees at employers and having them fight to hire us.

We’d settle for nothing less than a fat salary, international travel and an expensively equipped research laboratory.

Dream on (or, rather, off). Last week I climbed through a narrow opening into the loft space above a dental practice.

The week before, I was on the roof of a Harley Street practice. Just recently, I’ve been in more cellars than a fine wine merchant.

As a dentistry consultant with an ‘Attila’ (Attila the Hun – 2:1) in chemistry, I guess it’s no surprise I should add Legionella risk assessments to my portfolio.


The core of my business is working with principals and their teams. Helping them raise treatment plan take-up and improve conversion of new enquiries into long-term patients gives me expertise in the workings of dental practices.

Over time, it has added several layers of knowledge to the broad experience I gained during 10 years as a dental business manager.

I get a quite different insight while doing the Legionella risk assessments. For example, problems often seem to arise when practices occupy shared premises or have an unhelpful landlord. One practice I went to only communicated with their landlord through solicitors.

Older shared premises, while invariably looking charming from outside, can be fraught with difficulties.

In these practices, I quite often struggle to find, let alone access, the water tank and on one occasion neither the practice principal nor I could track it down. These are the times I usually end up climbing into a loft space or descending into a gloomy cellar.

Other incidents can be amusing – afterwards!

I once turned on the tap of a basin and was letting the water run before taking the temperature. Hey, how was I supposed to know it was never used and didn’t have a waste pipe? Yes, I always check now.

While I can’t say I’ve detected Legionella (it’s not a simple test and I don’t undertake it) I have come across many problems to be addressed.

For example stored water that is not hot enough, (i.e. below 60°C)  or not reaching all outlets at 50°C within one minute are both big issues.

Legionella bacteria are present in minute quantities in all main water supplies and thrive at temperatures between 20 to 45 °C (the optimum temperature for proliferation being 36°C). They also feed on any slime or biofilms present in tanks or pipework. High temperatures, above 48°C, rapidly kill them.

Water being sprayed is another potential hazard. Legionnaire’s Disease is not contracted by imbibing water or droplets but by inhaling water aerosol or spray contaminated by the bacteria.

Hence the need to control the amount of water spray released.

My consultancy work focuses on patient (aka customer) relations, treatment plan take-up (aka sales quotation follow-up) and patient satisfaction audits (aka customer fulfilment surveys) – all of which have clear ‘real-world’ business parallels.

Add in the premises, equipment, health and safety requirements arising from Legionella risk assessments and I remain convinced that dental practices (aka commercial premises) are businesses. Or should be…



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