That Winning Smile

At Christina Chatfield’s Dental Health Spa the team are celebrating ten years of success with smiles all round

Dental Health Spa was conceived in September 2007 by Clinical Director and award winning hygienist Christina Chatfield. “I had a vision to open a new hygieneled oral health care clinic on the highstreet, where oral health care could become both accessible and demystified. That vision is Dental Health Spa. At Dental Health Spa we strive to offer you, the consumer, the very best in contemporary dental care. Our highly qualified professional dental practitioners provide care and treatment regardless of your current or previous dental history and we pride ourselves in making your experience at Dental Health Spa as relaxing as possible”. The team have won many awards, including Brighton and Hove Business Award for Best Customer Service and Hygienist of the Year at the National Dental Hygiene & Therapy Awards. Their surgeries are furnished with state of the art equipment and maintained at the highest standards. They pride themselves on innovative technology and equipment and are fully computerised, have text and telephone reminders as well as the facility to book online. All of the dentists, hygienists, therapists and dental support staff are registered with the GDC and are therefore engaged in continued professional development.

What led you into the world of dental health?

Like many of my dental and hygiene colleagues I came into the profession tangentially. I grew up wanting to be a vet, until I did a round with our local vet in Scotland and was violently car sick! I badgered my local dentist Jim Estill at the Kirriemuir Dental Practice. At the age of 17 after pestering him on a regular basis he agreed to take me on, he did not need a nurse but he would take me on under the Youth Training Scheme, I would have to do all the work to make it happen and I would earn £10 a week under this government scheme.

“Consumers want brighter whiter teeth and fresher breath, a healthier mouth, they do care about their teeth”

How long did the formal training take?

I qualified at Dundee Dental School in 1981 over 30 years ago and was one of four hygienists. My training in the 1980s took nine months but over the years I have had to take on additional training as my scope of practice increased. The course is now a 4 year BSc!

At what point did you decide to create your own business here in Brighton?

Dental Health Spa came about in 2007 when a change in the law allowed other Dental Health Care Professionals, in addition to Dentists, to own and run Dental Practices. I became one of the first dental hygienists in the UK to do just that. My vision was, and is, to encourage an alternative route into dental care, especially for those who are not accessing it because they are apprehensive of treatment, or of cost. I was working for Pfizer at the time, working so hard for someone else and I thought I could put all this effort and determination in to a business of my own, with my business partner who was my manager at Oral B.

What makes you different from other dental practices?

It was one of the first in the UK set up and managed by a hygienist. It is set up to demystify people’s past experiences and views on dentistry. People can book to see the hygienist without seeing the dentist, and although the law permits this since 2013, not all practices allow it, and some hygienists do not want or are confident to work that way. We are not NHS, people know that when they walk in. It is a misconception to think people do not care about their teeth. Some just need some help getting there.

Do you see more and more people moving away from an NHS dental service and why do you think this is?

Yes because they are fed up not being given the time, service or information, care and attention. Consumers want brighter whiter teeth and fresher breath, a healthier mouth, they do care about their teeth. I see many patients who have their NHS dentist but still come to us, and some that cannot find a good NHS dentist. I hear it all the time.

The Dental Health Spa is very different in atmosphere from a more traditional dental practice, how important is this to the way you work?

We have just celebrated our 10th year anniversary and want to focus on the senses to complete the experience of feeling more relaxed and comfortable, before, after and during treatment. It is important for us all, including the team. The environment we live in and work in has such a positive effect of mood. Sussex Signs have just installed a mural of the West Pier on the main wall, it’s completely enhanced the atmosphere. We need to work on that with light, sound and smell. People do not feel enclosed in the chair. We have had to evolve in terms of access, the look and feel in the same way the optical market did.

Do you offer a comprehensive dental service to your clients?

We offer the full range of dental treatments and we brought air flow to Brighton market, a great way to remove stain and detox the mouth, to give people the brighter fresher whiter smiles that they are searching for. We also offer complex extractions and sedation with Jenny Smith, our dentist Annie’s sister, Staff Grade in Oral Surgery, who also works at Eastbourne hospital.

As a private practice how important is it for you to be competitive?

It depends on what you mean by competitive. If a local practice was to cut their prices to compete with us, I will not get into a war on price. We are very fairly priced for what we offer, our growing database is testament to that. We get on average 80 new patients a month, over half of them coming from recommendations from our existing clients. We offer Saturdays and late evening, right on the High Street that meets the work and lifestyle needs of our patients/clients. And we invest in the practice, the latest equipment. We have just opened an additional surgery and after 10 years replaced our digital Xray equipment.

Do you think that the public at large are aware of how few of the things that you offer simply are not available of the NHS?

No I do not think they are. I had a patient tell me today he could have a large amalgam for £200 or a white filling for £300 at his NHS dentist. None of those are NHS prices. It is very difficult to get a root treatment under the NHS, there are no white fillings and no white crowns on your molars. Getting good periodontal treatment (gum) under the NHS is virtually impossible and things like stain removals are cosmetic, so not available either.

What advice would you give to people seeking dental care?

Do some homework, go on recommendation – places like Google reviews and Trip Advisor. The biggest thing people want is to trust the person that is treating them. That is true of anything. If in doubt trust your instinct and get a second opinion. Our door is always open for people who just want to ask a question.

So many people have a terrible fear of visiting a dentist, how do you take away that fear?

Yes, 20% of the adult population have a fear (according to the Adult Health Survey) which at the last census was 65.6 million in the UK. The National Dental Survey 2011 found that out of a population of 1.4 million in Sussex, more than 350,000 hadn’t accessed dental care in the previous 2 years (i.e. more than 25% of the population). Of that number 25% identified anxiety as the reason, and 50% cost.

You have actively been involved in a lot of charity events, how important is this to you, and of course to your team?

Being involved in Mouth Cancer and HPV charity is very close to what we do every day, to be able to raise awareness and the profile for something that is within your profession keeps the enthusiasm and passion alive. There is a real team camaraderie and pride that links us and the campaign together. Getting involved with local community works is so rewarding. I now sit voluntarily on the board for Brighton and Hove council for Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults.

And your team is a very close knit community of professionals, many of whom have been with you for many years. What is it that has created that sense of belonging?

I believe it is an open style of management, I fell into the management, so my style is one that evolves, trial and error. I believe in giving people a chance, in the same way that I was.

The business has grown and changed over the ten years since you started it, what are your future plans and ambitions?

I am 53, I would like to cut my clinical hours, I have five mountains in the UK I want to walk next year, as part of the charity side. With the team as we go into our next decade I would like to see a fifth surgery within the original Dental Health Spa go in as we grow. I would love to see Dental Health Spa stay an independent. So I hope the team I have might think that a staff buyout might be an option for the future. I would be happy to still be involved if the younger team want to open up a second or third! Who knows what the future holds but we certainly have a brighter future.

Dental Health Spa, 14 15 Queens Road, Brighton BN1 3WA

01273 710831