The Dental Surgery is a cutting-edge practice in the heart of the financial City of London. It has been providing dentistry for 120 years and Shaun Smith and his partner Simon Nocton have been the owners for 22 years. The 14-surgery practice has undergone a huge revamp recently with new technology, a new modern, fresh design and the very latest equipment. The practice has been at its present premises in the Corn Exchange for the past 13 years.
We spoke to Penny Grace, one of the eight dentists working there, who has been working in the practice since 1997. Penny trained at Guys Hospital and graduated in 1992. She has worked in the city for 15 years and has gained, she feels, a comprehensive knowledge of all areas in dentistry. While much of her interests lie in cosmetic dentistry, she has also been placing and restoring implants for the past 11 years as well.
Penny says: ‘We have a beautiful new clinical environment here now, which both the patients and staff alike love. As part of the “big plan”, we were able to create a comfortable waiting zone for patients prior to treatment, but then with a separate reception area in which to do the patients’ postappointment administration, we think this improves the complete treatment experience from beginning to the end.
‘We do feel that having this recent facelift has confirmed our place as a high-quality modern private dental practice. The building transition was a logistical nightmare because we obviously couldn’t stop working during the renovations, but everything went very smoothly over the six-month build period and now we have a wonderful, modern setting to work in. We have also tried to create more of a spa feel to the practice.’ She adds: ‘We have invested in lots of up to date new equipment: the cone beam CT scanner from Kodak – which gives more clarity for diagnosis for our implant work as well as some other surgical and endodontic procedures, the Velscope oral cancer scanner from Optident, new dental chairs and a completely refurbished sterilisation room with state of the art equipment.’
‘With the encouragement and support of Optident, we now have a Velscope, which is our very latest clinical addition and all my colleagues have totally embraced it. We have all incorporated it into our check-ups as a standard adjunct to all our regular examinations – so much so, we are planning to get a second one very soon. We have always, like all dentists hopefully, done a visual examination of the soft tissues under a white light but the Velscope adds to our diagnostic powers and is completely non invasive. If we detect a soft tissue abnormality, we can photograph it immediately and then email it to Dr Ian Hutchinson’s team at Saving Faces Diagnostic Advice Service for a fast-track diagnosis that they will send back to us within three days. They will then take on the responsibility for the referral into the patient’s local hospital and the follow up. I now have patients coming in and asking for the Velscope and I think they feel very reassured that we are properly addressing this increasing issue.
There has been lots of press on oral cancer recently and we do know as a profession catching it early makes all the difference improving survival rates dramatically so anything that helps us in this is a true benefit.’
‘Being in the city means that our typical patient is a hardworking professional, whether it is the CEOs of large companies or their PAs. In general, they are bright people who are extremely clued up and bring with them particular concerns. We see a lot of stress-related tooth wear and TMD which, coupled with the patients being keen to preserve their teeth and look their best cosmetically, brings a whole realm of challenges for us. Because of our geographical position, we do see many international patients, which also introduces its own issues on appointment timing. Luckily, we do have patient coordinators here to help both the patients and us with their treatment journeys. I have never wanted my patients to feel they are just a “case” as every bit of them is important to me, you do need a human element.’
So what is the most satisfying aspect of Penny’s work? She says: ‘I genuinely enjoy the whole process of taking the patient from an initial position of dental disease through the education process and then through their treatment. It could be rebuilding their smile or function using basic dentistry to implants or, even simply, a referral to our hygiene department for some periodontal treatment they did not even think they needed. Gaining and keeping someone’s trust without abusing it – and knowing I have done my utmost to help them in the short and the long term makes my day!
Who have been Penny’s biggest influences? ‘I have to say Lorenzo Vanini, the Italian dentist. He is one of the pioneers of the concept of aesthetic stratification. He really changed the way I looked at restoring teeth with composite. I did the course in 1992 and I found it to be very inspiring, especially the focus on minimal intervention.
We asked Penny what her top tips were in maintaining Penny Grace at The Dental Surgery a successful practice. ‘Communication is important on every level, be it directly with the patients or within the practice, in my experience the greatest issues arise when the smallest concerns are not addressed. It is also important to surround yourself with happy hard-working people, whether its the receptionists or the sterilisation team, there must be no weak links in the whole patient experience and everyone must truly believe that “good enough is not enough”. If you are lucky enough to work, as I do, with extremely talented people who are as enthusiastic about teeth and dentistry as you are, it makes all the difference.’ For more information visit The Dentistry Magazine.