Dentistry Online’s award winners – Thomas Sealey

Thomas Sealey of Start Smiling in Essex talks about how it feels to be an award winner – and why he would encourage others to get involvedThomas Sealey of Start Smiling talks about how it feels to be an award winner – and why he would encourage others to get involved.

How does it feel to have won?

Over the last two years we have won various awards. This includes Best Aesthetic Dentist in the UK, alongside Best Aesthetic Practice in the UK in 2019 and Best Private Dental Practice in the UK in 2018.

The team and I have worked incredibly hard to develop our practice and adapt our processes to offer the very best patient journey and dentistry experience we can. To receive awards in recognition of all this hard work has felt incredibly rewarding for all of us.

It’s been the culmination of a four year journey so the emotions attached to the awards are palpable. We really have given everything and put so much heart into the practice. It means the world to us to win.

Did you enjoy the ceremony?

I am a huge fan of the FMC events. I try to attend at least one award ceremony per year as its always a great evening out.

It’s amazing to see the quality and continual excellence presented by the UK dental profession and the various awards offer a platform to celebrate this.

I love the entertainment, food is always great, and catching up with friends from around the country is the best part.  The evenings certainly have something for everyone, and the team and I thoroughly enjoy them.

Why did you choose to enter the awards?

Back in 2014 I won Best Young Dentist in the South.  I had just purchased a private dental practice with my business partner. I entered the awards to attempt to achieve an accolade that we could use to market the practice.

It was also to help validate myself (as a young dentist) to this new population of older private patients that made up my patient base.

After a few years of award-entering it became much more than just validation though. It actually gave the team and I a pathway for development and career/practice progression.

What do you think the awards are doing to the standards within the profession?

When I began entering the awards, I wasn’t successful in a few categories. But it became very clear that the standard of dentistry and the award entries themselves were far superior to what I was producing.

It gave me the insight and the motivation to develop my clinical dentistry. I began taking more time and care with my documentation and photography.

In turn, this developed my clinical skills and enhanced my portfolio. This change in mindset transitioned to more attention to every part of my practice.

The award entry guidelines themselves helped direct the team and I to develop the practice in the areas that we were deficient, to improve the service and improve the quality of the care we were providing.

If this same journey we have taken is representative of how others have developed through entering the awards, then there is no doubt that the awards have the potential to enhance the quality of both clinical skills and patient care provided across the profession.

Why do you think you won?

I am very proud of the practice and the team, as I’m sure most of us are. I don’t think that we are doing anything particularly unique from other practices.

We have, however, spent years taking the time to document all the good things that we do. This is so we can demonstrate our efforts to our patients.

One of my mentors once said to me that if you are doing great things, then you should celebrate these. This will help build your practices reputation and generate new patients for your business.

So, I think that we won as we were able to demonstrate through our entries what we do, why we do it, and how that has positively enhanced both our practice and our patient experience.

Have you noticed a difference in patient numbers/in the practice since winning the award?

Most of our new patients find us and specifically say that they searched ‘award-winning-dentist’ or something similar.

But they then go on to say that it is the website itself that then encourages them to contact us and come in for a consult.

There is no point having good SEO and online presence if your patients are not directed towards a good website. It needs to capture their attention and demonstrate why they should choose your practice.

Will you be entering the awards again this year?

This year I am not entering as it takes an incredible amount of time and effort to build successful entries.

With the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, that time and effort will need to be focused on saving our small business and recovering by increasing our working hours and working more days per week.

I hope that within six months we will be able to return to some normality. Once the team have rested and are raring to go again, we may think about entering for 2021.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Whether you are an aspiring young dentist trying to develop your portfolio, or a seasoned practice owner looking to attract a new patient-base with different treatment needs to your norm, I definitely think that entering the awards can help you.

You may not win, like I didn’t. However, it can certainly help guide you to formulate a pathway for self-improvement and practice development.  Plus, it’s a great evening out so you can’t go wrong!

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