Empowering patients (Dr Chris McConnell)

Dr Chris McConnell is the owner of two very different dental practices in Cornwall. The first is St Piran Dental located on the rugged Northern Coast of Perranporth where, with Chris at its helm, it’s been very successfully providing treatment for more than 16 years.

The second is Dental Logic, a practice on the high street among the hustle and bustle of the city of Truro. Launched in September 2018, the latest addition to Chris’ business looks less like a dental practice and more like you’re stepping into an Apple store – an intentional feeling Chris says was inspired by his 14-year old daughter and her views on dental practices lacking desirability and, in her words, not being cool.

Here Chris has invested a six figure sum kitting out the practice with all the latest digital technologies to transform not only how he and his team perform dentistry (he’s a huge advocate of no-drill treatments and additive dentistry) but also how he empowers his patients to take an active, hands on role in transforming their smiles, dental health and yes, their lives too.

We talk to Chris about this new venture and why he believes dentists need to move quicker to respond to the wants of a patient rather than just their needs…

The concept of ‘dentistry by design’ which is a line we use to describe what we do at Dental Logic

has been something we’ve been developing for three years or more. We could see the changes

in the patients coming to us and a rise in demand for treatments such as implants, facial aesthetics and veneers.

We spotted a trend that made us think -  previously a patient would come to their dentist with a need, now they have wants too.

Patients who have a need, a failing tooth for example, tend to visit their regular dentist. But those who have a want - “I want to be able to smile in my wedding photos”, “I want to stop being self-conscious”,  “I want to be able to eat out at restaurants like everyone else without worrying if I’ll be able to chew properly”, tend to shop elsewhere for a different type of experience.

Traditional ‘workhorse’ dental practices have a structure and workflow that meets the demands of the needs. But, it struggles to adapt to the wants. In fact, just recently we’ve had a number of patients book in at Dental Logic for teeth whitening treatments. When I asked who their regular dentist was I knew they all offered whitening – so why aren’t they using them?

Patients no longer want a passive role in their dentistry. They want to be part of it

Patients are more educated and informed about cosmetic dental treatments too. The majority of the patients we see at Dental Logic have a good idea of what they want when they come to us and I think that level of patient empowerment can only be a good thing for dentistry. Patients don’t just passively want dentists to treat them, they now, in growing numbers want to be part of the process too.

And that’s where digital technology and digital workflow in dental practices really come into their own.

If a patient wants a smile make-over for example we have the ability to work with them to get the results they want before any work begins. They can not only see the result virtually on our screens, but we can take the experience of making a decision to undergo treatment even further by creating an impression so they can also feel the results in reality. And that’s powerful – after all, having cosmetic dentistry can be a significant investment and who commits to something without firstly experiencing it or secondly, knowing what the end result will be?

During this process the end result can be refined too. We’re working to create the precise feeling and look the patients wants rather than our interpretation of it. This empowers the patient immensely and also manages expectations.

Gaining a greater perspective  

Gaining a clear understanding of what the patient wants is vitally important. In a workhorse practice the time available to listen to the patient and discuss their options can be limited – that makes it harder for the patient to feel like they’re participating in the treatment and another reason they often don’t commit. Combine that with a dentist throwing in lots of technical or medical jargon and it only makes the patient feel less informed.

We think that a better way is to take time to get to know the people behind the smile and really listen to their wants and needs. And that takes time as well as the desire to do things differently.

In Dental Logic we’ve built a dedicated room for learning. Here, patients can see what a treatment involves, watch a digital scan being made, or see how their smile can be transformed.

We also make sure that we have time for each patient to make a decision and ask any questions they have in a private and relaxed space.

What’s more the scanning technology we use doesn’t just serve to point out to us areas where we can help the patients meet their goals. We’ve found it gives patients a perspective they’ve never seen before – the view a dentist gets.

It’s funny, sometimes when we show a patient their scan they point out things before we’ve showed them. In some way I feel it helps them take ownership of their dental needs because they’ve been able to see them from another perspective.

Do things differently

Opening Dental Logic allowed us to expand our business in a way we simply couldn’t at St Piran Dental. For one we didn’t have enough space to bring in all the new technology we wanted. And, although demand for this level of patient experience is rapidly growing, we had to be in a more city centre location. I like to say, if you want to catch a fish then go to the right place at the right time with the right food. Don’t just chuck your line in anywhere.

We decided on a high street location and agreed we didn’t want to replicate the stereotypical dental practice environment patients are sometimes put off by. We wanted to do things differently. When I was pondering the design of the practice my teenage daughter said something that stuck with me, ‘it needs to be cool, it needs to be funky’. Two words that you don’t usually associate with dentistry, but she was right – it needed to show an evolution of what we offer and how we behave.

Final thought – stop, collaborate and listen

Digital technologies have without question helped to transform parts of dentistry. I’m a huge advocate for their use and we use them across both my practices in varying degrees. They offer a new way to engage with patients and deliver results through greater precision and speed.

But the transformation we’re witnessing in dentistry isn’t just about the technology. It’s not enough to simply invest in the software and kit and expect the patients to come running to you. Patients demand a new experience, one where they feel listened to, part of the process and empowered.

For more information about Dental Logic visit www.dentallogictruro.co.uk. Want to find out more about digital dentistry? Speak to our experts at Dental Directory on 0800 585 586.