The digital dentistry evolution

Abbeymead Dental Centre’s Tina Tanna details her technological journey from IKEA to IT

The digital age plays an influential role in shaping dentistry. With the rapid developments in new technology continuing to streamline systems, dentists are benefiting tremendously.

The digital revolution has been hailed a game changer for dentists and continues to raise the bar for practices in many ways, redrawing the landscape of dentist-patient interactions.

In fact, evidence suggests this increasing digitalisation of dentistry is helping practices attain higher patient conversion rates.

For practice principal Tina Tanna, dentistry is all about everyone having access to quality, affordable dental care in a modern, progressive and caring environment.

Looking back

Tina set up Abbeymead Dental Centre in Chertsey in 1998, having worked as an associate for 11 years.

She qualified from the University of Birmingham Dental School in 1987 and strives to stay abreast of the latest developments with more than three decades of practice under her belt.

She recalls: ‘I set up Abbeymead Dental Centre as a cold squat. We celebrated our 20th birthday last October and, in that time, our business has grown to a team of 35, with a fantastic selection of dentists, dental hygienists, specialists and reception and support staff.

‘When I originally looked at buying a practice, I could not find one on the market to fit our needs. Eventually, I decided to develop a sadly dilapidated video shop into a purpose-built dental practice. We haven’t looked back and have since extended to the first floor, now providing a whole suite of NHS and private referral services to the local and extended community.’

Alongside the expansion of services and staff, the practice has also had to stay up to speed with the computerisation of its systems, which can prove challenging for many dentists.

Tina says: ‘Back in 1998, we started with an IKEA bookshelf to store manual record cards. We then found files would go missing and manual appointment books were very difficult to manage. We eventually asked a family friend to design a basic appointment book to introduce us gently into computerisation, but soon found we needed a full clinical system – not only to fulfil all the NHS compliance requirements and targets, but also to help with referrals and keep a track of patients’ treatment coordination.’

She adds: ‘The biggest challenge was to get all the staff on board, as it was a massive change to the way the practice would run. We did sadly lose a receptionist, as she said she couldn’t work with computers.’

Supporting guidance

Key to the smooth running of the practice is, of course, excellent IT maintenance – losing business momentum due to a blip in the system is a fear shared by many.

‘This was my biggest concern,’ she says. ‘Firstly, I wasn’t – and, probably, am still not – very IT savvy, so I needed a company that would not take advantage, but would help, guide and support us throughout our journey.

‘I needed someone to hold my hand and help with basic questions and not make me or my staff feel stupid asking simple questions. We wanted a company that wouldn’t blame the software provider and vice versa. Lastly, we needed an IT partner who would quickly help with maintenance and provide good support either on the telephone or come down to site when needed.’

Tina looked at and interviewed a few companies and even considered using someone ‘very local and small on our high street’ but, she admits, she was ‘worried they may not be in business in five years’ time, whereas we were in it for the long run’.

She explains: ‘Someone recommended we speak to Microminder. They came across as a very friendly, experienced company with a team who knew a lot about dentistry, which was vitally important. They also seemed easy to talk to and explained everything to us in simple terms. They have always provided us with a plan on upgrades and how things could be changed as the practice grew and developed.

‘This makes a massive difference, as we have grown to a six-surgery practice over two floors, providing a private referral service to about 40 local practices. We also operate a tier two IMOS contract for the NHS and Buddy OPG referral service. This means our IT has to be able to support external, internal and NHS referrals and communicate and store that information safely and securely not to mention the processing of NHS forms and paper work.’

She adds: ‘The hardware is constantly challenged, to support software updates requiring ever greater storage capacity, and to provide the speed that is demanded in this modern age.

As a nationwide IT support set-up, ‘it means that somebody can be with us and support us quickly when needed’.

Teething problems aside, Tina says the practice has remained with Microminder because its managing director, Bharat Sheth, has always been responsive and proactive in finding immediate solutions and resolving issues.

She says: ‘We have an extremely good working relationship with Microminder, having been with them now for more than 10 years. Having the premium package means we have access to a special dedicated telephone line that gives us a quicker response time, access to support and advice as needed. If they cannot sort out the problem remotely, which is rare, then a member of their experienced team will come to practice.’

And how will IT further enhance the patient experience in the years to come?

She says: ‘I think we need to constantly be updating our systems to make dentistry faster and safer. Improvements and advances need to be applied in the area of personal data capture and cyber-crime prevention. Patient expectations are increasingly high – they want everything to work instantly and they need to be able to have access to appointment booking when it suits them. This is essential to maintain competitiveness and a key part of our forward thinking approach.’ 

Microminder is a UK IT support provider, delivering IT solutions, support contracts and a comprehensive range of protective services.

Call 020 8799 6883, visit

or email [email protected] for more details.

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