Championing progress reports back from the Henry Schein Dental Innovation Symposium, where practice transformation was top of the bill.

It promised innovation, and as ever, Henry Schein’s flagship UK event delivered.

Held over 7-8 June at the perennially-impressive Pullman Hotel in London, Henry Schein’s Dental Innovation Symposium was the self-confessed home of ‘all the insight you need to grow your practice’. And the several hundred delegates who converged on central London found an event that walked the talk, hosting nearly 30 speakers on topics covering all aspects of dentistry. 

As the Friday session opened for business, the pressure was on the opening speakers to get attendees motivated and ready for the day ahead.

Putting the entire event into context, Ben Flewett, managing director of SOE (a Henry Schein One brand), explained how important dentistry is in today’s society. Heart disease, diabetes, dementia and many other diseases are now being linked far more clearly with oral health, he explained, adding: ‘Could our calling as an industry be any more clear?

Despite this, there are a number of problems currently facing the dental workforce. Ben pointed to statistics that have made the headlines in the last 12 months – more than half of dentists want to leave the NHS in five years, 58% want to go private, quit or retire, and 26% of practices missed their UDA targets by more than 4%. Dentists’ earnings have dropped in real terms by a third since 2007, 89% of dentists fear getting sued and they’re twice as likely to get sued. Indemnity costs have gone up significantly.

‘It’s no surprise that there’s a recruitment crisis in our industry,’ Ben pointed out.

Hearing those statistics, it’s easy to start feeling a little pessimistic about working in dentistry, he acknowledged – but arguing that pessimism is the wrong response.

‘I’m actually hugely positive about the future of our industry,’ Ben continued. ‘We stand right at the start of a revolution in healthcare. The revolution is coming from our mobile phones.’

He pointed out that it’s up to the profession to use the technology available to help educate patients about their oral health. Mobile phones provide huge access to patients at all times of the day – and the younger generation in particular.

‘People in this room can really do something that no government policy has achieved,’ Ben said. ‘Together we can get patients to actually visit the dentist using their mobile phones. Once there, dentists have much more opportunity to give them the treatment they need. If you do that, heart risk, diabetes, dementia, the risks of all of those will diminish. Those diseases are the plague of our generation and we can actually have a material impact on them.’

The 149 effect

Next up was inspirational speaker Steve Head, who spoke to delegates about people, behaviour, performance and mental wellbeing.

Steve’s main takeaway point was best explained with his 1, 4, 9 rule. He asked for the audiences’ feedback when faced with the following:

1 x 1 = 1

2 x 2 = 4

3 x 3 = 9

4 x 4 = 15

Delegates quickly pointed out that the number 15 was wrong and should in fact be 16.

But Steve encouraged delegates to stop focusing on what might be wrong and start congratulating the parts that are correct.

‘Stop focusing on the 15,’ Steve said. ‘You want a culture of “149s” – encouraging, supportive, positive, communicative and open. That’s what we want to create.

‘When I go to a hospital, “never events” – the events that shouldn’t ever happen on a ward – always turn up on “15 wards”. Nurses don’t talk, nobody opens up. We need to create a 149 culture.’

Steve went on to explain how that culture can affect the way everybody treats a patient through every touch point.

The future of dentistry

After a break the delegates were free to attend any of the breakout sessions. Dr Barry Oulton was one of these and he spoke about the future of dentistry and where dentistry is heading.

He predicted a growth in corporate dentistry, anticipated that the corporate’s percentage of market share will increase, which will also increase competition for patients – which is not necessarily a bad thing, he argued.

‘Get your patient journey right: there are enough patients around for everyone,’ Barry pointed out.

Communication with patients is another area that he argued would evolve over the next five years, with digital innovation within dentistry playing a huge role in this.

Barry pointed out that many practices could now be dealing with five generations of patients, and we have to communicate different benefits, in different ways (eg digitally or using letters) to each generation.

Finally, Barry highlighted the importance of corporate social responsibility. He said that nine out of 10 of us expect businesses to be doing this anyway, so this will only grow in importance.

Increasing return on investment

Andy Sloan, director business solutions, UK and Europe kicked off the afternoon’s breakout sessions, pointing out the importance of understanding the full return on investment of new dental products.

‘What happens in an average dental practice is, dentists propose treatments and the acceptance rate is between 20-30%,’ Andy explained. ‘If dentists increase their treatment acceptance to 60% they’ve doubled the revenue of their business.’

But return on investment is more than this, he warned. By creating more efficiency in the practice workflow, dentist have the ability to see more patients in the same time frame, while still increasing the treatment acceptance rate.

Andy encouraged all attendees, before buying any equipment, to see a return on investment calculator, which will show them how long it will take for the equipment to pay for itself. More than that, he also explained that it’s important dentists receive adequate training before and after making their purchase. ‘People go on a training course and then can’t get patients, but there’s no ongoing regular training,’ Andy pointed out. ‘We provide online training, all of our reps can also train on an ongoing basis.’

Digital momentum

As the event headed into its second day, the momentum showed no signs of slowing, teeing up delegates for rounds of sessions with a pronounced clinical flavour compared to the previous day’s decidedly more business-focused sessions.

The audience spread out across a multitude of different workshops through the day, throwing up topics as diverse as tissue grafting and innovative orthodontic systems.

For all that, there was an undeniable focus on dentistry’s movement de jour – namely, digital workflows – with speakers queuing up to talk about the power of modern technology.

Whether delegates had had their heads turned by the power of Primescan and wanted to find out more, or were looking to get their teeth into digital treatment planning, workflows, and integration, there was plenty to sate the hungriest digital enthusiasts.

Julian Caplan lead a breakout session that dived deeply into the world of intraoral scanning, while Ian Buckle went into detail on improving case acceptance and patient engagement with 3shape solutions. Sinead McEnhill took a wider view, discussing ‘how to go digital’ but offering up her own views on engaging the team and increasing ROI at the same time. 

Future ADI president Eimear O’Connell gave the assembled audience an introduction to the digital implant workflow, shored up by her own experiences of continually embracing technological innovation within her own practice.

A self-confessed ‘early adopter’, Eimear explained: ‘It’s not a waste of money to be educated in these things! Every time I’ve invested in technology, it’s paid off for me. Digital dentistry is about two big things – patient outcomes and patient comfort.’

Education from root to tip

With 20 sessions to choose from, the lectures had plenty of other topics to offer delegates who wanted to hear about the more physical side of dentistry too.

In that respect, day two of the Dental Innovation Symposium delivered in spades.

Orthodontists were well catered-for with two sessions on the Carriere appliance, a device designed to help speed up treatment of Class II cases.

Specialist orthodontist Francis Scriven, leading the sessions, explained: ‘Carriere has been a real game-changer for my practice. I use it all the time now because it’s so much more efficient.’

Discussing how the saggital correction device fitted in with his practice he referred to the ‘moments of clarity’ he has experienced when assessing his clinical practices.

‘If you give patients what they want,’ he explained. ‘They will buy without you every having to sell to them.’

Elsewhere, implants drew plenty of attention too. Chris Lefkaditis’ in-depth talk on 3D printing surgical guides for implants sat comfortably next to an overview of the digital implant workflow from Professors Cemal Ucer and Simon Wright.

The day didn’t let up as it wore on, with Pynadath George heading up a double-length discussion on pterygoidal implants. He opened the floor to questions as he went, resulting in a session that felt more like an intimate tutorial than a classic lecture. 

He challenged some of the audience’s assumptions on pterygoidal implants, explaining: ‘It’s important to understand that there is a ton of literature on these implants.  They are very safe, and simple to place – provided you follow the proper protocols. Anatomy can be challenging and confusing: you absolutely must have an understanding of the structures.’

While the subject area was ostensibly tightly focused, many of the takeaway lessons had applications beyond pterygoidal implants, focusing heavily on treatment planning, a refresher on prosthodontic classifications, and the importance of patient psychological assessments before offering treatment.

With such a wide range of content on offer, covering so many aspects of modern dentistry, it fell to John Maloney, director of equipment for Henry Schein, to explain the importance of events like the Dental Innovation Symposium.

‘Despite all the technology we have available to us, without the proper application of a sound business model, team approach and ethical delivery, we’re unable to realise its benefits to the full,’ he said. ‘Therefore, more than ever, there is a need to focus on delivering quality clinical and business outcomes.

For more information on Henry Schein or its educational events, visit

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