Specialist orthodontist Bilal Bhatti at the multi award winning Heaton Mersey Orthodontic Centre believes in providing the highest quality clinical treatment and an efficient and smooth patient flow
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
BB: I was born in London, but lived in Dundee for four years when I was three years old. I subsequently moved to Kent where I grew up. I completed my undergraduate dental degree in Sheffield and worked at the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital as a house officer. I spent eight months travelling the world (Asia SE Asia and USA) and came back to work as a senior house officer in oral and maxillofacial surgery. I worked at Manchester Dental Hospital for two years before commencing the orthodontic speciality training in Cardiff.
What or who made you choose a career in orthodontics?
BB: It was the enthusiasm and kindness of Denis Regan at the dental hospital in Sheffield that first sparked my interest in orthodontics. Following qualification, I worked in various oral and maxillofacial units. I came across consultant orthodontists who always looked happy. I decided that this may be a good choice for a specialisation. The entry for training posts was extremely competitive and I really wanted a mountain to climb to gain the satisfaction of achieving the summit.
Tell us more about Heaton Mersey Orthodontic Centre
BB: The practice is owned and run by myself and my wife Tazeen Usmani. Whilst I was completing my training in Cardiff, Tazeen had bought the building and converted it into a fully functional orthodontic practice. We extensively refurbished and extended the practice in 2009. This was a long-term plan to provide clinical surroundings of the highest standards and allow an efficient and smooth patient flow. Being a place where we spend a lot of our time the environment benefits both our patients and everyone working there.
How do you think orthodontics has changed since you first started practicing?
BB: I feel that even since I started practicing, there has been an even greater emphasis on facial and smile aesthetics. Obtaining a class I occlusion has always been a pre-requisite, but another layer of aesthetic goals now comes more into play, such as tooth proportions, gingival architecture and smile arch, among others, which are important to the overall smile aesthetics.
Invisalign treatment has also improved so much over the past 16 years, in the past I used it more as a compromise treatment, but it has become a far more sophisticated appliance achieving more comprehensive results.
What lessons have you learned since you started working at the practice?
BB: People skills, managing expectations and leadership. I’ve had to work hard at all three; especially leadership, once I realised it was one my roles.
How important is patient communication to you?
BB: Building a rapport and making patients feel at ease helps for open communication. It gets to the root of the perceived problems and then the appropriate solution(s). Difficult though it is for me, trying to explain the treatment in a simple but comprehensive way is important. I probably talk too much!
What do you think about all the controversy in orthodontics today and general dental practitioners practicing short-term orthodontics?
BB: I think short-term orthodontics appears to be the product of an increasing demand for dental aesthetics, especially from adults, along with the potential for a new revenue stream. The growth of short-term orthodontics is inevitable. The goals are limited, and as long as patients are fully informed of this and the expected outcome along with any compromises that are to be accepted, it should lead to satisfied patients.
How have patient expectations changed over the years?
BB: As orthodontic treatment has gained more acceptance, patients now want treatment with aesthetic appliances, excellent outcomes, in the shortest possible time and with the least cost. I also find more and more patients ‘researching’ orthodontics on the internet and asking for often inappropriate goals or questioning how the treatment is being undertaken.
How do you stay abreast of modern techniques?
BB: I spend a lot of time attending courses, study groups and conferences nationally and internationally. Discussions with colleagues as well as reading professional journals.
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
BB: Building the practice up from scratch and developing an amazing team who work with us to continually do the best we can.
Where do you get your motivation and drive from?
BB: My motivation comes from a belief that striving to be the best you can, leads to satisfaction and happiness. I find orthodontics immensely rewarding. It’s not life and death, but we can change peoples’ lives by significantly changing their dental and facial appearance.
How do you relax in your spare time? How do you balance work and family life?
BB: Shaolin Kung Fu – I have been practicing the art for many years. I also play squash with my 14 year old; I can’t beat him anymore and he just plays me around the court. Most importantly Tazeen, my wife and partner never lets me work too much. She literally stops me working, books the holidays and days off.
Do you have any regrets?
BB: No. I have made mistakes along the way but they are so important in helping you to learn, change things and move forward.
What are your plans for the future of Heaton Mersey?
BB: Continue to improve and strive for excellence. Considering training a third orthodontic therapist and continuing to aim for customer care excellence.