Dental hygienist and practice principal, Joanne Knox, explains how she came to open Pure Dental Hygiene, her hygiene-only practice in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.
Dental hygiene has always been my passion and even as a child it was my dream to be a dental hygienist. I not only enjoy the meticulous clinical work but also building up lasting relationships with my patients and educating people on the need and the benefits of seeing a hygienist regularly.
Dental hygiene treatment is often either loved or loathed by patients. But one of the most rewarding things is being able to win someone round who was initially nervous or unsure about treatment, and the right care in the right practice environment can go a long way in making this happen.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
I was fortunate to work for many years in a practice that was very proactive in terms of dental hygiene, especially when in 2013 the government changed the rules allowing the general public access to a dental hygienist without the need for a referral from a dentist.
They were happy to support me in pioneering independent access to hygiene care under the umbrella of the practice, which worked well for a while, but I increasingly felt I wanted my independence and started to look at setting up on my own.
I had always wanted to open a surgery in Coleraine, County Londonderry where my family are based and a building had become available there that I thought would be ideal. Unfortunately, at the same time my mother was taken seriously ill and my focus was only to care for her, so I thought no more about it.
Sadly, my mother died in August 2020, but totally unknown to me she had left money specifically in her will so I could go ahead with pursuing my dream of an independent practice. The building was still available and knowing this is what she would have wanted, I decided to go ahead.
I signed for the building and we started renovation work in October 2020. At that time not only was I dealing with the loss of my mother, we were also in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just for good measure I also got married! The work all had to be done under COVID-19 restrictions and nothing about the build was straightforward, but I had a focus and an endgame.
The level of investment needed to set up a practice is significant, especially when you’re starting from scratch. My husband, who is an electrician by trade, took care of the surgery design and build and I found myself on a steep learning curve of project managing the operation as well as dealing with everything from the accounts and sourcing my equipment to finding ways to attract my first patients.
MARKETING THE PRACTICE
Most of my practice marketing was initially done through Facebook, working on building up momentum and a waiting list for when I was ready to open. Of course, not everyone uses Facebook, so I also looked at getting publicity through magazine articles to reach a wider audience. In that time, I featured in Ulster Tatler, Northern Ireland’s longest established and most widely read monthly and Local Women magazine, the No. 1 selling magazine in Northern Ireland and I was very fortunate to gain a good number of patients from that exposure.
I established my practice website so people could contact me in that way and I’m looking to offer online booking so patients can choose an appointment at a time that suits them without having to call the practice, saving me a lot of administrative time.
One significant benefit of opening during the pandemic is that we were able to build the practice around the needs of the pandemic so the practice is probably nothing like it would have been if I had opened two years ago.
I have two surgeries which means I can alternate to allow for fallow time, air filtration systems have been installed and there is a ‘donning and docking’ room with a washing machine and tumble drier so all our gowns can be washed and changed for each new patient.
Of course, the pandemic has also meant there is a new focus for dental practices on scrupulous hygiene measures to protect both patients and staff. I have purchased an NSK Iclave plus autoclave which is ideal for fast instrument sterilisation plus it has a USB data logger which means I can download and store all cycle data for total traceability.
I rely mainly on ultrasonics for my work and for that reason I use the NSK Varios Combi Pro. I love the Varios because of its versatility. It’s easy to move between surgeries, there’s a wide variety of tips available and you can change frequencies and the air/water flow which patients find gentler and easier to manage.
I get fantastic support from NSK’s local product specialist, Jonathan Singh, who is always there if I need him. I’m learning as I go about my equipment and I did have a few teething problems but Jonathan has been superb in helping me get through them. Having that sort of backup and customer support available to me is priceless.
MY DREAM FOR THE FUTURE
Opening Pure Dental Hygiene has been my dream and just a few months in I really do feel I’m living it – I have no regrets so far! I love the element of freedom it has given me and it really doesn’t even feel like work.
My aim is to grow a successful business in which I’m respected and seen as a centre of excellence within the industry, known for the quality of patient care we provide. I want dentists to see the services I offer as an advantage and not a threat and I warmly welcome referrals from any dentist who currently does not offer hygiene services.
COMPANIES AND EQUIPMENT INVOLVED IN THE PROJECT
PK Electrical Services
TEL: 07464 675158
Project management system
Surgery equipment customer support
Jonathan Singh – NSK Product Specialist/Technical
Services & Support Engineer for Northern Ireland & Rep. of Ireland
TEL: +353 1695 0053 WEBSITE: www.mynsk.co.uk
Sam Forson – web & graphic design