Continuous progression is the mantra that Rory McEnhill from Blue Sky Dentistry in Belfast believes drives his career and practice forward. Private Dentistry speaks to the dentist who says you should never rest on your laurels and always look for improvement
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I come from a family of dentists, with my father and all my siblings practising. No prizes for originality in our household!
What or who made you choose a career in dentistry and why did you focus on cosmetic and implant dentistry?
It was always a toss up between medicine and dentistry for me. However, the better quality of life tilted the balance in favour of dentistry. My career in dentistry has always been about continuous progression. I have a low boredom threshold, and in a professional sense, I don’t like to let the grass grown beneath my feet.
Multidisciplinary dentistry is something that I believe very strongly in, and feel that sometimes clinicians can be too narrowly focused on what they deem to be their speciality. As an implant dentist I am charged with manipulating hard and soft tissues, providing an aesthetic, harmonious restoration, and placing this restoration into a harmonious occlusion. When I am providing implants I adopt a biomimetic approach and this can only be achieved by adopting a multidisciplinary approach.
Can you tell us about building your business? How did you choose the location and staff? Any hurdles you overcame? Do you envisage more expansion?
In early 2013, the exhaustive search for the perfect building for the practice came to an end. By accident, I stumbled across a beautiful but unloved Edwardian building in the university area of Belfast. On a picturesque tree-lined street, it emerged from the wintry gloom like a faded beacon of an industrial age. It had lain empty for a number of years and needed a lot of modernisation. It had served as an accountant’s office since the 1960s, which meant that a lot of very dated internal décor had to be replaced; the pebbledash wallpaper, wooden features and industrial carpet squares all had to go. In addition, all of the plumbing, electrical wiring and heating systems had to be replaced. Despite all this, it was very clear to see that this place had a huge amount of promise. It had the ideal floor plan for a dental practice with three floors, and large rooms with high ceilings. Looking beyond the extensive renovation, it was possible to see that this building would offer very bright, well-proportioned and airy rooms.
I started the practice as a squat practice, and was fortunate that a number of staff members who I had worked with over the years came with me. It was a great relief to know that my staff were all proven and reliable. This allowed me to focus solely on the business and driving it forward.
Expansion is already underway. We have put in a second surgical suite into the practice and have sourced world-class, high-quality clinicians to work in the practice. Also, we are in talks with procuring the building next door to us. This will allow us to develop further and will allow us to separate the general and the specialist elements that are co-mingling at present. The provision of a dental laboratory is also on the agenda. This will allow us to centralise our services and provide greater convenience for our patients.
What have been your best decisions? In hindsight, would you have done anything differently?
My best decision has been to set up the practice. It was a big decision to set up a squat, private practice in a very popular part of Belfast. To acquire a lot of debt and to have zero patients on day one of operation can be a stressful and daunting circumstance. However, in business you have got to back yourself and have confidence in your and your colleague’s abilities. In hindsight, I should have opened the practice sooner.
Your practice has won some awards – how important are they to you and how does it help the practice?
Awards are a wonderful vindication for the work that we are carrying out. However, awards are just the end of a long process of improvement. Our strapline is ‘Excellence through passion’ and I feel that this is the driving force in our practice. I believe that every treatment that is carried out should be done to the best of our abilities, from small fillings to a full-mouth implant rehabilitation. The fact that we are passionate about what we do and always improving what we do is infectious, as well as reassuring to our patients. To be fortunate to receive awards for doing what you love is definitely the icing on the cake!
How important is patient communication to you?
Patient communication is the most important thing in the practice. Not least in terms of obtaining informed consent, but also for putting patients at ease. Many patients feel that their concerns have not been heard and understood in the past. Following on from our consultations, we give our patients written, bespoke treatment plans that provide them with all the pertinent information relating to their cases. We spend a great deal of time showing before and after photos of similar cases too. The net result is that our patients feel that they are in control of the situation and very few misunderstandings occur as a result. In addition, our treatment plan acceptance increases too, as patients understand their present clinical situation and their treatment solutions much more effectively. To supplement this, our treatment co-ordinators are instrumental in following these patients up and making sure that they have all the additional information, both financial and clinical, that they might need to make the right clinical decisions.
How do you stay abreast of modern techniques?
Despite my clinical duties, I attend a considerable number of courses/conferences throughout the year. Through communication with contemporaries, identification of courses that can bring an extra element to my practice are sought after. In recent times, I have returned from Christian Coachman’s Digital Smile Design course in Dubrovnik. This has a brought an extra element to our aesthetic dentistry.
There are a number of things that I am proud of. The first is that I am very proud of what I have achieved in terms of my clinical learning. I have worked very hard to get to where I am today to be a safe, ethical and predictable clinician. With regard to my practice, I am very happy to have seen a considerable investment in time and capital pay off in the development of a very successful practice. To have fashioned a well-regarded, high-quality and successful dental practice in such a short space of time is a wonderful achievement and one that I take great pleasure from.
Where do you get your motivation and drive from?
I come from a family of dentists, so initially my motivation and drive was to prove that I belonged in my dental family. In latter times, I have decided that I want to be able to do everything to the highest standard. In clinical terms, this involves adopting a broad picture approach and driving up my standards in all areas of clinical dentistry. This leads to better results in terms of patient satisfaction and of course my own.
How do you relax in your spare time? How do you balance work and family life?
When you run a practice it can be very difficult to walk out of the practice and leave your work behind. However, I feel that proper delegation of duties to staff will allow you to have some semblance of a work/life balance. For relaxation, I play golf, tennis and cycle.
What lessons have you learned in the course of your career so far?
One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that the more courses I attend, the more I realise how much more that I need to learn. New techniques, materials are continually being introduced and it takes drive and motivation to keep pushing out of your comfort zone. So I have learned never to rest on my laurels.
Despite all the postgraduate learning over the years, the biggest development in my progress as a dentist has been able to communicate with patients and to understand their needs. Whilst a lot of this is instinctive and common sense, a lot of this can be learned and results in much more successful interactions.
Do you have any regrets? What has been your biggest mistake?
Fortunately, I have no regrets regarding my career to date. Everybody makes mistakes and it is these that will be more beneficial to you than your successes.
What are your plans for the future?
The plans for the future are for further development of the practice. At present we are in discussion to buy the building next door that will open up a number of possibilities for us. We can have specialist and general dental services in separate buildings now. In addition, the provision of a lab on site will also allow us to provide a better service for our patients.
For more information see www.blueskydentist.com