Looking towards the future with Pearl

Alan Clarke shares why using Pearl is such a game changer for his clinic, and why it’s only a matter of time before patients start expecting that level of technology in dentistry.

Please can you introduce yourself?

My name’s Alan Clarke. I’m the clinical director and lead dentist at Paste Dental. We’re a really new, disruptive and, in my opinion, cool dental practice that’s based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

We’re really keen at embracing new technology, looking at the dental landscape in the UK, taking international influence and taking a new approach to optimise our patients’ health. 

How has your experience been using Pearl so far?

Pearl is such a game changer for our clinic. A lot of our patients are Millennials and Generation Z patients, so for us it’s important to provide measurable data for them. 

They Google everything. They already know what they want before they come in. After we give them a treatment plan, they go and Google it because they feel that they have a take on what they want to do for their own health. 

Pearl has been a great tool for us in being able to show them objective data to say ‘this is what’s going on with your health’. For us at Paste, we then follow up with, ‘this is what we’re going to do about it. And if you’re on board, let’s take that journey’.

Since Covid-19, people have started to take more control over their own health. They want to know and get involved. How has Pearl benefitted Paste Dental?

We can pick up carious lesions and diagnose sooner. We can pick things up so much more quickly. It’s something that our entire team is on board with. We all use the technology because we’re taking X-rays, we’re using it to look at bone levels and to look at the percentages. 

I think what’s great with Pearl is that it can give a measurable percentage of a lesion, and then we can look at it and say, ‘this is what this is and what we could do about it. And if we don’t do it, these are the consequences.’ 

The team’s been fully on board, and it’s been a great way to educate our team and refine our systems. It’s something that’s now built into the way the practice works, and we want to make sure that we’re using objective data for that Gen Z generation. 

They want to optimise their health, so being able to show caries to them in such a clear way – it’s really cool. It also sets us apart as a practice while fitting in nicely with our brand and narrative and the care that we want to give to our patients.

It not only benefits the patient, but also the practice and each team member. Why should other practices book a demo with Pearl? 

I think with Pearl, once you start using it, you’re going to realise there was a gap in your knowledge. There was a gap in working to the fullest of your capabilities. It’s not something that’s scary. And it’s not AI that’s taking over the world and making you look at the job market for something different. 

It’s something that just enhances the way you work. It gives you this objective data rather than you saying to the patient, ‘this is my opinion on it’. You can look together and co-diagnose and say, ‘this is what this is flagging up to us, what do you think about it? This is what I think, how do we narrate a pathway forward that works for everyone?’ 

I think it’s something that practices will start using and then will realise that it’s part of their key tools that they need every day to function and do their job. 

You’ve clearly integrated Pearl successfully into your practice. How have patients reacted to it?

They love it! They love some of the features where they can see their tooth and the different annotations, and it’s so immediate, they can see it in real time. All the data that we take within about 30 seconds is up on the screen in front of them. 

They engage with it, and they can see, ‘if they’re telling me there’s pocket depths of so many millimetres, I can see the bone loss. I can see that’s an area that they’re finding hard to clean.’

 They can pick that up on it, so it’s a really nice way to inform and educate them. It’s a great way for them to take ownership and be empowered to take care of themselves. 

Also, case acceptance soars because whenever you show them objective data to say, ‘this is what’s happening, this isn’t just our opinion. This is looking at a data set comparing 12 million radiographs on the basis of this and growing, and this is what this is flagging up,’ suddenly that objectivity gives them that peace of mind that it’s not just one clinician. 

Do you think this is something patients will be seeking out in the future?

One hundred percent, I think it’s this generational shift. As you move from baby boomers all the way through to the alpha generation, we can see that there is this increasing autonomy that patients want over their own health and taking steps to control their health, but also to optimise their lives and experiences. 

If you can give them measurable data and say, ‘this is what’s happening, this is what you can do about it’, they then take ownership, and that really works into their lifestyle plans.

It’s something that’s going to be a function of dentistry, and I think as dentistry moves forward, it’s important for us as clinicians to embrace change, not to fear it. And we can recognise the benefits that it can do to enhance our professional abilities and the level of care that our clinics provide. 

Gone are the days of a nationalistic world where everything’s separate. We’re a global economy. 

People are moving all the time. So many of my patients are travelling multiple times a year, so they’re being exposed to new technologies that their friends have in the US or in the Middle East. They want to know that they can access that care and that level of care in the UK. 

What is next for Paste Dental?

We’re really keen on looking at this concept of health optimisation. We do a lot of cosmetic dentistry, and we love giving people their ideal smile – that’s our tagline. We don’t want to give them something that’s out of the box. It needs to be bespoke for them and we want to lean in on this concept of personalised medicine. 

We’re looking into doing some salivary sampling to find that objective data regarding gum disease and inflammatory markers that are flagging up so that we can say, ‘this is what’s happening in your mouth. It’s not just our opinion. If we go through this course of treatment, we can measure that again and see the difference’. 

I think everything is moving towards having the curated experience for a patient and a patient-led experience so that they feel empowered to make their own decisions.

For more information www.hellopearl.com.

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