What Have Planes And Dental Practices Got In Common?

When you are sitting on your holiday flight with your family prior to take off, do you start to worry about whether the airline has serviced the engines properly, or that the under carriage will pop down effortlessly when you get to the other end?  The chances are you don’t, and there is a reason for this: everything looks right, it looks clean, there are no broken seats, dirty uniforms or awful carpet stains.  But, just think if you popped down the tray on the seat back and it was filthy with spilt Coke and some congealed meal from the last flight, would the mice of doubt start nibbling away at the back of your mind about the safety and quality of the airline you had chosen?  Would you begin to feel uncomfortable…….and the more uncomfortable you became, the more you noticed stuff that was not quite perfect with the interior of your airplane?

Practices and planes are just the same, try this simple test.

Ask a complete stranger (or your Mum) to visit your practice one Tuesday morning, unannounced, and ask her to compile a list, using all her senses, all of the things that make her feel unhappy, uncomfortable or simply ill at ease in your practice.

Here is my (rather long) list from a practice visit a few weeks ago…

The Public Areas:-

  1. Weeds, litter, cigarette ends, chewing gum etc around the approach to the Practice
  2. Staff cars taking up all the car parking spaces
  3. Signage that doesn’t tell me what the practice offers
  4. A closed front door
  5. Fluorescent lighting
  6. Carpets
  7. Chipped and dirty paint work
  8. No air conditioning
  9. Wood chip paper on the walls
  10. Dirty/worn upholstery
  11. Notices Blu Tacked onto the walls
  12. Notices Cellotaped onto the walls
  13. Lots of leaflets from third party companies advertising their products
  14. Tangled, dirty, vertical blinds
  15. Seating around the edges of the patient lounge
  16. A dirty fish tank (come on!)
  17. Notices telling me off (missed appointments etc)
  18. The radio playing behind the reception desk
  19. Posters of Boden Families with perfect teeth with some daft copy such as “Smile with confidence”
  20. Only one loo with very basic facilities and a notice telling me to wash my hands
  21. A tatty kids toy box
  22. A tatty water cooler which had run out of paper cups


  1. The receptionists won’t catch my eye when I stand in front of the reception desk
  2. The receptionists are a bit grumpy
  3. The receptionist hasn’t told me her name
  4. The receptionists are sitting behind a high desk in front of which the patients stand
  5. There are queues at the desk
  6. The reception desk is cluttered
  7. The phone is going unanswered
  8. Many of the staff wandering through reception are clutching their mobile phones
  9. A few of the support team have visible tattoos and piercings
  10. A few of the staff (including one of the dentists) look unkempt, wearing a stained, creased uniform and dirty shoes etc
  11. There are CCTV screens visible behind reception. Why…..are there criminals about?
  12. There are nurses and dentists hanging around reception gossiping
  13. Notices about being fined if you don’t give sufficient notice of a cancellation
  14. There is a big clock behind reception so that you can see how late the dentists are running (and they are)…

The Clinical Team/Surgeries:-

  1. Surgeries with no natural light
  2. The noise of hand-pieces
  3. Open surgery doors
  4. Clinical staff wearing masks in public areas
  5. Surgeries with walls covered in information about brushing your teeth
  6. Teddy Bears / soft toys in surgeries
  7. Surgeries with dentist’s / nurse’s personal belongings on view
  8. Surgeries with nothing for the patients to rest their eyes on (such as a picture or a TV screen)
  9. Surgeries playing inappropriate music (for the client)
  10. Surgeries with grubby paintwork/split dental chair upholstery/scuff marks
  11. Surgeries full of stuff and clutter and kit with leads and plugs dangling

So try scoring yourself against my list, how many of these can you own up to?  Hopefully hardly any!!!  

This is not about money, nothing on my list costs more than some training or a few hundred pounds to fix.  What this is really about is getting the preconditioning right.  Just like sitting in a plane on the tarmac, waiting to take off, the passengers in the plane and the patients in your waiting room need to feel confident that they have chosen well, (there’s no shortage of airlines or dental practices) if they are to become your long term customers and if they are to say yes to the extensive treatment plan that you want to offer them.

If you would like some help with getting your environment right and growing your practice, please do get in touch.
Mobile:- 07770 430576
Email:- simon.hocken@breathebusiness.co.uk

With All Good Wishes,

Simon Hocken BDS.
Director of Coaching

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