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Northern Ireland: A journey into private practice

Blog Author Ross and Tracey Livingston

Blog Date 11/11/2022

​We share an insight into the process of our renovation project and journey into private practice.

Before the pandemic hit, we both ran our own practices and had decided to merge under one roof. We faced many challenges along the way, with a renovation project running at the same time as the pandemic hit, the rising costs of materials, buying PPE, and recruiting new staff.

The decision to no longer be fully dedicated to providing NHS dentistry was not an easy one, but we found it was no longer a viable option for us. This shift in our business model means we can provide a high standard of care and service to our patients.

                                    Ross and Tracey Livingston outside Livingston Dental Practice

Major renovation project

"The decision to no longer be fully dedicated to providing NHS dentistry was not an easy one, but we found it was no longer a viable option for us."
We were about to start the building work when the pandemic hit, increasing prices and bringing in new ventilation requirements. The decision to merge meant renovating one of the premises so that we could all be in one space together. While lockdown put a pause on things initially, we finally started our project in June 2021 and finished around Christmas time that year. At almost one year fully merged in the same building we have found the move beneficial for us, our staff, and our patients.

We took on a beautiful Victorian building, pulling it back to the bare bones with rewiring and replumbing work to make it fit for purpose. The renovation gave us something to focus on and look forward to during the pandemic and our builders were fantastic and a great help throughout the project.

The practice is a lovely bright space now and has an instant visual impact for patients which we have found helps put people at ease and it has been great to have all our team under one roof. We will be in the practice for a long time so it’s important to us that it’s the most warm and welcoming environment for our patients. The experience has taught us that there are things you can never see coming and sometimes you need to be brave and go for it, getting as much advice as you can along the way.

     Rebecca-and-Adrienne-on-reception.jpeg                                                               Rebecca and Adrienne on reception

A family practice for all

We run a family practice, and it’s important to us that we treat the whole family, from children to parents to grandparents. We want to build a long-term relationship with our patients so that we can provide the quality care our patients expect from us, and this is one of the reasons why we made the move towards more private dentistry.
"We run a family practice, and it’s important to us that we treat the whole family, from children to parents to grandparents."
We didn’t make the decision to move towards private practice all at once. We found taking the time to talk to patients and explain the costs and the level of service associated has helped the transition to go much more smoothly. To support our patients in the process of providing more private treatment, we chose to work with Denplan to help patients spread the cost of their dental care.

The shift to private care enables our patients to access regular hygienist visits and we have found that when patients are paying for a dental plan, they tend to keep up to date with appointments which leads to improved oral health overall. We have found that if you have a good rapport and spend time with patients, they will be more receptive of changes.

Looking to the future

There is a real shortage of hygienists and dental nurses and recruiting new staff can be a real challenge. We are very fortunate to work with a great team and this really helped things run smoothly during our transition. We are working to continue growing the books of our associates and one of our associates has recently started to provide Invisalign which is proving popular.

We have had a lot of support from Denplan to help us train our staff on how to speak to patients about our transition and this has really helped our team feel more confident in answering any questions our patients may have about the process. Patients recognise the current challenges and they understand that with Denplan we can provide them with a better service, including more early morning and evening appointments and help support patients to spread the cost going forward.

Change can be challenging but if you are thinking about changing your business model our top tips are:

  • Invest in your team and create a good working environment
  • Reach out to a company like Denplan – they will provide your whole team with training and support to discuss the process with patients and help make it a smooth transition
  • Get help from the BDA - Reach out to access a wealth of knowledge and support for practices going through a similar transition.
  • Have the confidence to just go for it! Dentistry is going through a period of change at present and there may not be a better time.
                                                   Livingston Dental Healthcare waiting area

Ross and Tracey Livingston