Why prevention is always better
I set up Young’s Dental Practice in Yorkshire in 1981 in premises previously occupied by a shoe shop. Over the following 15 years I was able to develop it into a thriving three-surgery NHS dental practice. With the arrival of a new contract in 2006, I really felt that my ability to deliver high quality preventive care was being compromised by my commitment to the NHS and I therefore made the decision to become fully private.
When you move from an NHS contract into the big and sometimes lonely world of private dentistry, you need to have confidence in your ability to generate a reasonable level of monthly income. As an NHS practice we had a large number of patients, but we needed to be able to predict our income levels while we became established as a private practice.
Having the backing of a dental plan gave me the financial confidence to put my beliefs about preventive dentistry into practice. I looked at several plan providers but DPAS Dental Plans stood out for me, they had the experience, expertise and resources to ensure the long-term success of our plan and because they don’t offer a ‘nationally-branded’ solution this enabled my practice to maintain its own personality. But it’s not just the experience and branding, there are many more benefits, such as the ongoing training and flat monthly fee regardless of the number of patients, which makes a DPAS plan very cost effective.
So, by having the support of DPAS and a predictable monthly income we were able to give the practice a solid start in the private sector.
The move from NHS to private went smoothly and DPAS took care of everything. They sent out letters to patients on our behalf saying we were converting to a private practice and we were delighted by how many of our patients opted into our dental plan.
Having made the decision to convert to a private practice, we then faced challenging times when just a couple of years later the economy encountered its financial crisis and dentistry took a downturn – we were particularly concerned when an NHS practice opened up nearby. However, throughout these ‘lean’ years our ‘partnership’ with DPAS stood us in good stead, and thanks to their continuous support and guidance, we were able to ride out the recession with our practice ethos and identity intact.
My switch to private practice was a good decision for me and one about which I have no regrets. The freedom I enjoy as a private practitioner gives me more time with patients and has enabled me to inject my enthusiasm for preventive care and minimally invasive dentistry (MID) throughout the practice while building-up our reputation. For a practice to encompass MID and prevention it must go back to basics and involve the patient in their dental care. This means before an examination takes place, our patients complete a questionnaire about their lifestyle, what they eat and drink, whether they smoke etc. This enables us to advise them how to amend their diet or habits to improve their oral health.
I believe that preventive dentistry is the cornerstone of good oral health. From a patient’s perspective we are trying to pick up disease before they need a filling, then we give them advice and treatment so they hopefully won’t need a filling in the future. Our ethos is one filling is one too many, and that’s what has made our practice so successful over the years.
We use a specialist scanner and diagnostic equipment to pick up the early signs of disease. If I detect it early enough I can apply non-invasive treatment and often reverse the disease and its effects. I always try and repair rather than replace a damaged tooth to reduce trauma to both patients and their teeth.
My air abrasion unit is a vital part of my surgery equipment, as it enables me to precisely cut out a cavity without the need for drilling, and my Healozone unit is another effective tool that covers any visible decay with ozone, killing the bacteria that causes it.
Gum disease is a very common problem amongst patients these days and we have a process in place to look for the cause and advise appropriately. It could be as simple as changing a toothbrush or refining a brushing technique.
The role of the dental plan
I believe dental plans have a hugely positive role to play in implementing preventive procedures. My plan enables my patients to budget for treatment and because they are paying regularly, they are more likely to attend routine appointments, helping us to pick up any problems at an early stage. Some patients are still struggling financially following the recession, so our aim is to give good value for money. We do this by explaining how preventive care can save them money in the long run, by reducing the need for complex treatment later on.
We also offer a membership scheme that enables our fee-per-item patients to benefit from the Supplementary Injury and Emergency Insurance that is part of every DPAS plan. It costs a minimal amount and I highly recommend this option, especially for teenagers. We see a lot of young people who have had nasty accidents or sports injuries resulting in lost teeth and in these instances the supplementary policy has proved very beneficial.
A solution for patients
In my opinion a practice-branded plan administered by DPAS gives me the best of all worlds. My practice benefits from a predictable monthly income, whilst promoting our own brand, and I can offer patients a solution to budget for their preventive care, which means my philosophy of how to practice dentistry isn’t compromised in any way. I hope my experiences can ‘switch the light-on’ for other professionals and help them employ preventive methods to help push the oral care message home to patients.
Any practice wanting back-up and support to help implement preventive treatments should take a look at DPAS Dental Plans.
Kirkwood Young will be presenting an MID course in Glasgow on 14 November 2014. The day will present all of the very latest developments, technology and techniques within caries management and minimal invasive procedures. The learning journey for the day will introduce the principles of MID with both an evidence based presentation and hands-on opportunity, showing MID in practice, not just theory.
The delegate price is just £125.00 and six hours CPD available. Other practice members are most welcome, and the DCP price is £50. We also have Scottish NHS CPD Allowance approval.
The course is restricted to 25 delegates to ensure that everyone can benefit from the hands-on experience. During this session delegates will be split into groups of five to maximise the opportunity to gain practical experience.
If you would like to participate please contact Debbie on 01405 861600 or email: [email protected]