“How To Beat The Fear Of The Dentist”
Interview conducted by Tony Gedge the Purveyor of Pain Free Dentistry & Co Founder and Trustee of Dental Mavericks (Ending Daily Dental Pain for Moroccan Kids)
During this briefing you will uncover new secrets, methods, technology and new ideas to reduce or even eliminate your fear of the dentist that no one else in the dentistry world is talking about. You’ll get some really good insight of why, if you are scared of the dentist, why you need to be coming to see David Hickey and his team at Southport Road Dental Practice.
With all fear of the dentist’s issues it is often a lack of trust from the patient, so this is why we are going to delve deeper, build up some trust and connection and some bonding for the patient.
So David, just tell us a bit about yourself then please.
David: Well, I am a dentist and we are a husband and wife combination at Southport Road Dental Practice, Rashmi, my wife is also a dentist. We have 2 beautiful kids. My eldest is Arin, and he is 3, and we have a new baby Rohan, who is now eighteen months. Neither of them sleep which is very entertaining and makes work lots of fun everyday!
In my spare time I like to do a few triathlons and have the occasional glass of red wine.
Tell Us Why You Wanted To Remove Pain From Dentistry
David: I think everyone has a fear of what they are going to experience when they come to the dentist; it has been a big barrier to a lot of people. And, it was more important for me to provide a service where I could guarantee that the patient would be comfortable for the whole time they are in the practice – from meeting Claire, my smile advisor, at the door to our reception team to our smile advisors and coming into the actual room itself and feeling comfortable.
And then having the treatment and knowing that they wouldn’t feel pain; giving them a guarantee that they wouldn’t feel any pain. From that point of view it has been very important to us as a practice and it has helped a lot of people to access dentistry.
Tony: So you mentioned a guarantee there, tell us about your pain free or your money back guarantee.
David: We see an awful lot of very anxious patients and they don’t believe that they won’t feel anything when they come in. What I mean about not feeling anything, they won’t feel anything painful so we offer them a guarantee. So we say to them, ‘If you feel anything painful, please tell us and you won’t be charged for the appointment.’
Tony: And have you had anyone that has asked for their money back?
David: We haven’t had a single person. In fact, just yesterday, Tony, I saw a lady, a very nervous lady who unfortunately was losing her teeth and I had to take 4 teeth out and fit a denture for her. She was still bracing herself for me to take her teeth out as the appointment finished. I had fitted the denture and she was amazed she wasn’t even aware of me taking her teeth out. It is a bit of a sad story, but it shows how important pain free dentistry is.
Does Pain Free Dentistry Really Exist?
Tony: Tell us then, does pain free dentistry really exist because some people think it doesn’t?
David: It does exist. It exists for everybody and every dentist is capable of doing it. It just involves an empathic approach to the patient, building trust with them and simple techniques such as using a topical anaesthetic, warming local anaesthetic and being caring and gentle about giving it; waiting for it to work. It is not a big secret – anybody can do it.
Tony: You spend more time with the patient then. The challenge for NHS dentists is that they are on conveyor belt, they might get 15 minutes; they don’t have the time to build a trust. So tell us when a patient comes to see you what you and your team do to build that trust all the way through.
David: We are extremely fortunate in so far as we have time, which is the beauty of working in a private environment. I have a number of team members so trust building starts from the day you contact us by phone or by email. Claire, my smile advisor, spends time finding out what your fears are as a patient.
You will come in to see me and I will also talk about your hopes with regards to how we can help you. And we will always talk you through the procedures before we would undertake anything so there are no surprises. We would never sneak up on you with anything and we will as we go through it at all stages make sure you are comfortable.
Tony: So David, I am wearing a tee shirt here and there is a logo with a little chap who has a toothache and he has a big toothbrush in his hand, and underneath it says Dental Mavericks. Now you and Rashmi are big givers, you support the Dental Mavericks every year, tell us what Dental Mavericks is and how you support it.
You Support The Dental Mavericks Every Year
David: Dental Mavericks is a fantastic charity that Cally and you set up. You travel to Morocco every year and look after loads of kids that have toothache and no access to dentistry. It is an amazing charity and I am in awe of you two as a couple.
The way that we support the charity is in a small way really, we turn up at your annual conference and go to the ball and donate to Dental Mavericks. We should do more, we will do more; we just need to get the kids to grow a little bit first.
Tony: We will come onto something called B1G1 which you are heavily involved in, which is Buy 1 Give 1 in terms of charity, and we will talk about that as we go on.
David how many, just an estimate I know, but since you started practicing pain free dentistry, how many patients do you think you have seen with your new techniques?
David: That’s a tough question, I guess on average we see 15 to 20 patients a day, so it would be in the 1000s. And we have constantly got more and more people coming to see us.
Why Did You Focus On Pain Free Dentistry
Tony: Why did you focus on pain free dentistry and not just carry on doing normal dentistry?
David: There are a number of reasons, Tony, one is myself. I fell off my bike when I was younger and broke my front tooth and I experienced unfortunately a painful encounter, and I have also experienced a dentist who gave completely painless injections and the difference was massive. I have chatted to tons and tons of people so scared of coming to the dentist because they are frightened of what they are going to feel when they come. So from that point of view it is very important for me to build it as a model within our practice.
Tony: How would a patient know if their local dentist can offer pain free dentistry?
David: With dentistry it is a trust business, and I think you need to find somebody that you trust and want to spend time with, get on well with and they have empathy with your needs. Pain free dentistry as I said to you earlier, is not a difficult thing to provide, you just need somebody who is a caring professional who wants to look after you. And I always look at my customers and patients here and treat them as if they are part of my family. If you treat them as if you were about to treat your daughter you are going to get a pain free approach every time.
“I’m Now Happy To Go To The Dentist” Says Former Nervous Patient Ian
Tony: Let’s say if some of your family live in Ireland, so if your cousin had to go to the dentist in Ireland and he couldn’t come to see you, what would you tell your cousin to look out for or questioning a dentist?
David: I think when they are looking for a dentist first and foremost we live in the era of the internet, look at testimonials, look at what previous people have said, look at their videos, look at the website and see if you like what is written down there.
Find out if they are trying to tell you about them as a person rather than the techniques that they can provide for you as that is very generic and lots of dentists can tell you about a veneer . But are they telling you about who they are and what their values are as part of their life and what the practice values are? Those are the things I would be directing you to look out for.
Tony: In terms of websites, you had a surprise a while ago, there is a dental phobic’s website called Fear Central, just tell us what happened with that website David.
Dental Fear Central
David: It was something that you guys flagged up for me. There is a website called Dental Fear Central where lots and lots of dental phobic, anxious people would go on and discuss different dentists and their worries about treatment. And we actually found that there were a number of reviews on there from different people who had come to see us and their experience at the practice, and they were good experiences thankfully.
And on the back of that we have actually received a large number of new custom from that site directly because I guess people who were anxious and worried about the dentist have shown that there is a place that they can go where they will be looked after.
Tony: And so what happened was lots of people are saying ‘I have been on to the website it has loads of information and loads of testimonials.’ They actually said it is not a corporate website which is fabulous. It is all about personality and you guys have lots of personality and that is why people trust you – you are very open and honest as well. So whilst we are talking about honesty tell us a mistake you have made, we are not all 100% in life. What mistake have you made David with dentistry, something from your young years, something you can tell us about?
David: I have made tons of mistakes Tony, I guess it is the way you learn in life. I think the biggest mistake I made after training was I didn’t believe in topical anaesthetic it wasn’t something I used in the first 2 to 3 years of my career; I felt I just didn’t need it. But having started to use it, the difference to people’s treatment is massive.
Tony: Tell us what it is.
David: It is a gel that you put on the gum before you give an injection and it takes away the sensation of the injection. It is a miracle and should be used for every single injection because it makes them pain free.
Tony: Your philosophy is if you can numb somebody up everything is pain free moving forward.
David: Yes, exactly. If someone is numb the treatment will be fine and they won’t worry about it. A lot of the anxiety about dentistry is they think they are going to feel something.
Tony: Excellent. You have spent £60,000 on something that can virtually perform no drilling. Tell us what that is.
Drill Free Dentistry
David: I always love it when you tell me how much I have spent on stuff, it makes me very uncomfortable.
Tony: It shows you care.
David: It is a fantastic piece of equipment. It is a laser and it allows us to treat people’s teeth and also help with other treatments like with their gums often without the need for any injections. It is a great way of not feeling vibration etc. It is nice and comfortable and people have given great reports on the back of it and so it has been a great bit of kit to buy.
The laser has obviously made our office more efficient in the sense that if we have patients who want to be seen that day we are able to finish procedures on one patient much more quickly than if we had to numb them and use the traditional drill.
One comment I get from patients all the time is – Wow, that was it! It is not only good, not only painless but it is fast.
The laser that we use is painless, effortless and quick. You’ll be in and out of here in minutes. I want to have patients walking around the town saying, ‘I just had the most amazing dental experience, I had no pain, no swelling, immediate results and I was able to eat and drink the moment I left the office.’ And when we deliver on what we promise suddenly we look like the heroes.
As a dentist our goal is to do minimal invasive dentistry. I believe that the Waterlase is a great experience for the patient. It is a great way to treat our patients better and a great way to give our patients really conservative dentistry and it is a really great way of staying on top of dental technology.
It is a magnificent addition to our practice to be able to do same day services for people. It is not only simpler and faster and easier but you are looking at better patient comfort when you are done.
What I am hearing from patients is that the procedure that they enjoy the most is having the Waterlase procedure done on them because for them not having a shot and being in and out of the office usually in minutes is a profound new experience.
Our patients love Waterlase
Our patients love Waterlase. They are definitely our best chair leaders and supporters. Once they get a great visit from us they post it on Facebook, they tell their friends.
It’s a win-win, the patient has a great experience, the procedure is done effortlessly and they are talking about my office in a positive light. What more can we ask for.
Patients, I think, really perceived that this technology as a benefit to them. I definitely think Waterlase is changing the perception of dentistry.
Tony: David you have also got another fabulous piece of kit which is called the Wand, tell us about the Wand.
David: This was one of the first investments I made after we bought the practice. I have always been looking for different ways of making dentistry as comfortable as it could possibly be.
And a lot of people have fears of injections, and the Wand is a computer which makes injections very comfortable. It doesn’t look like a syringe, another classic fear that people have, it looks like a pen.
And it is designed to give the anaesthetic very slowly and again a great piece of pain free armamentarium.
Tony: Now you are only a handful of dentists all over the world that are helping charitable projects around the world through B1G1.com. Tell us what impact you have had with what you do there.
David: We are very fortunate that we have a good life here, and I wanted to align our business with a charity. It is very difficult to do with dentistry because I would like to be able to connect and help each patient to see the value in giving.
B1G1 is a way of giving small donations to lots of causes, I believe you guys are involved with them as well. I guess, to give you an example, when we do an orthodontic straight teeth treatment, we will give a goat and what that provides is a sustainable income to a family in Kenya or wherever the project is on-going at the moment.
It is a small donation for us but hopefully it will make a big difference to those people as a family when they receive it.
Unusual Customer Service
Tony: David can you get dental fear treatment, pain free treatment on the NHS do you think?
David: I am sure you can. I am sure you can find dentists but unfortunately due to the system I think they are going to be few and far between. Dentistry is a busy business in the NHS and for them to be able to sustain themselves as a business they need to see a lot of people. And unfortunately that doesn’t tend to translate to being able to spend time with people to making sure they are comfortable at every stage.
Tony: Now you are really unusual because you offer extreme customer service. Tell us how you do that and how you can measure that.
David: Customer service is important with any business, but at Southport Road Dental Practice we are, I suppose, from the moment you meet us as a practice you will meet lots of different people who are all here to look after you.
- We measure people’s experiences when they come to see the dentist:
- We measure whether they felt any pain,
- We measure whether they were seen on time which is very important for busy people who come to see us.
- We also measure how quickly the phone is answered because it can be quite fluctuant within businesses and I think again if you phone you want to be answered quickly.
- And we also measure whether people would likely refer us – we measure that on a scale of 0 to 10, and thankfully we tend to get mostly 10s for that.
Tony: You offer 3 promises, so tell us the first promise and what percentage of patients agree with that promise.
David: Promise number 1 is that you will feel no pain. And at our last survey 99.6% of people told us that they hadn’t felt any pain.
Our second promise is that you will be seen on time and I think the figure was 96% of people said they were seen on time. And fortunately our last promise is that our phones will be answered quickly, and that was the one that we were falling down a little bit on and that was 82%. We are actually going to put a new phone system in to try to improve.
Tony: Great, thank you for your honesty we cannot be 100% with everything and that just shows that we can trust you more.
Why is your environment at the practice different than most dental practices would you say?
David: A common worry is the smell of a dental practice, so when you walk into ours, we have an oil-based mist system, it smells more like a spa when you come in. You won’t hear sound effects of the different rooms. Waiting rooms and patient’s lounge are set up so they feel like your home. So all these kind of things are trying to decrease your fear as a person when you come in to see us.
Tony: If you have not been to the dentist for years, there is often embarrassment, guilt, fear, do you judge a patient when they come in?
We Would Never Judge Anybody Who Comes To See Us
David: No. We would never judge anybody who comes to see us. It is one of the first things we actually tell them, because, yes you are right, they are often very embarrassed. They are embarrassed they haven’t been able to access dental treatment. They are embarrassed about what we might find when we have a look in their mouth. We are here to help, never here to judge.
Tony: What is the downside of missing dental appointments over the years? It affects our whole body, tell us about gum disease and what that can do to your whole body.
David: There are lots of effects of neglecting dental treatment. Gum disease has now been aligned with heart disease, diabetes has been found to have a co-factor with gum disease. Other things though that have far more pressing issues: you need to have the soft tissue of your mouth checked because things like mouth cancer are a big worry and if you were showing signs of anything like that the quicker you can get to it, the quicker it can be treated successfully. It is very important to come in and have things like that checked.
Tony: A lot of people forget the mouth is the gateway to the body. So if you haven’t been to the dentist for years bacteria builds up in your gums and it goes directly into your blood. I have seen research that says if you have gum disease you are 28% more likely to have cardiovascular disease. I have also seen research for strokes as well, so don’t forget that this bad bacteria is going into your brain is going into your heart, and also, just as important, I have seen infant mortality, as well, within women, through bad gum disease.
Lots of reasons why you need to be visiting the dentist. Not just to look great and to eat but also your whole body is at risk.
David when someone decides to come in and see you, tell us what your process looks like.
What Happens When You Come In
David: From the moment you contact us, Claire, my smile advisor, will give you a ring and find out a little bit about what you want from your visit with us. We will send out a lot of information to you about us as individuals and there is a booklet in there that will introduce you to all of our team members. When you come to see us we will take you on a tour of the practice.
We will show you what we are about. We will sit down and talk to you about our values. We will spend lots and lots of time finding out about you as a person, your fears of dental treatment and how we can best help you to overcome this. And this is all before you see the dental chair.
Once you come in we will exam your teeth and examine your gums and sit down without judgement and talk you through what is going on in your mouth, what will happen if you don’t do something about it and how best we can help you to do it.
Tony: Imagine guilt free, stress free, judgemental free, anxiety free dentistry and how this will hopefully transform your life: your self-confidence, your career, your relationship, your eating, the way that you look, your life. Now David you have a great quote, do you want to read it?
David: ‘In the future this is how anxious, nervous or fearful people of the north-west of England will enjoy their life more, make their smile straighter, whiter and eat the foods they want, to go out socially again, find a new partner and end their fear of the dentist.