Such is the pace at which we now live that we are prone to take change for granted. If we pause for a moment and think about the social and technological changes that have occurred in the last twenty five years we may surprise even ourselves.
Talking to Dr Harmit Kalsi, Principal of Sheen Dental, helps bring these changes into sharp focus. It also makes one realise that dentistry neatly exemplifies and reflects the cultural shifts in our society, the advancements in technology and the increased expectations and aspirations of the consumer.
“I qualified from Manchester in 1984” says Harmit, “but found wearing a turban made it difficult to get a job. Eventually I started in a practice in Birmingham, which, bluntly, was soul destroying. Very little of the work I did was valued by either the practice or the patients.”
Keep in mind we are talking about no more than twenty five years ago. Prejudice still rife and patient expectations low. From a personal point of view however the situation helped crystallise Harmit’s thinking, which could be summarised as “the profession could offer more and the patient should expect more.” It is a philosophy that he has steadfastly put into practise.
A change for the better
Harmit joined a practice in Colindale in1985, still as an associate. In 1986 he married and in 1987 joined a colleague at a practice in Ealing. Things didn’t work out quite as planned and Harmit decided to strike out on his own. Although the practice in Upper Richmond Road West, East Sheen was run down. he knew it was right from the moment he saw it. “The decision was instant and I have never regretted it. There was good parking and public transport, plenty of scope for growth and we could ‘live above the shop’. We simply needed to work hard, which we did – sometimes doing paperwork until 3 in the morning” recalls Harmit.
Over the years Harmit has steadily moved away from the provision of NHS dentistry. Like so many of his colleagues this is not down to any disagreement with what NHS dentistry set out to offer. It is simply that he believes the profession can give its patients something better than crisis driven dentistry.
Investment is the key
Harmit is about to refurbish his practice again and add another surgery. He is innovative but shrewd with his buying. His latest investment, the Pax-Duo 3D from Vatech & E-Woo makes the point. Harmit explains his choice like this:
“I have been placing implants for eighteen years and have been studying what the market had to offer in the way of CT scanners for five or six years. So my decision to go for the Pax Duo was not made in haste. In the early days of digital imaging I felt prices were too high and I was not over impressed with the quality and performance of what was available.
“I first saw Vatech & E-WOO scanners in Sweden and felt they offered what I was looking for. A friend and colleague in the Midlands had purchased from Vatech & E-WOO some two years before and the clarity of image was considerably better than anything I had seen. My OPG was old, but reliable and, up until this year, I decided to stick with it.
“Then Vatech & E-WOO introduced the Pax Duo 3D and, quite simply, it ticked all the boxes. I am not a lover of computers, but the Duo is simple to use. The support and training are first class and interfacing with other, relevant, dental technology quite straightforward. The multi field of view ensures the minimum radiation dosage for the patient and allows me to focus simply on the area I need to see.
Patient care… a lifelong learning process
Harmit sees the Pax Duo fitting nicely into his overall patient care strategy, since it facilitates rapid in-house diagnosis. This in turn aids communication with the patient and the rest of the dental team.
“I tell everyone who works with me that I have never stopped learning and that it takes twenty years to become a good dentist” says Harmit. “It can take even longer if you don’t work with and learn from your colleagues.
The lessons I drum home are essentially to develop and master techniques slowly and carefully. Hone your clinical skills and don’t try and do complex procedures too early. Above all, put the patients requirements above your own ego.”
Whilst dentistry is a soft media target on slow news days, the growth of private dental practices such as Sheen Dental Clinic has raised consumer expectations. Where once it was reviewed universally as a ‘distress purchase’ it can now, literally, change people’s lives. Harmit tells a story of one of his patients who had been adopted as a child, but found out about it only when she was into early adulthood. She came to Harmit and told him that she had heard from her natural mother and was going to meet her shortly. She wanted to look at her best, but felt nervous about her appearance because her teeth let her down. Harmit undertook some rapid and very effective cosmetic treatment that she said, gave her confidence and vastly improved her self esteem. As a result the reunion was a very happy one.
Visit Harmit’s practice and you immediately sense the pleasure and enjoyment of everyone there. It speaks volumes for Harmit’s investment in his practice, his equipment, his staff and truly understanding his patients and what they want.
“A patient’s smile is worth a thousand words” is how Harmit puts it. And who would disagree?