GUIDED BIOFILM THERAPY –
A CLEAR WINNER IN PRACTICE BUILDING

Lesley Morgan-Barlow is co-owner and business director of the award-winning Synergy Dental & Implant Centre in Stoke on Trent. As head of the client care team, she is also passionate about customer service – and, for the whole team, preventative dental care is key to optimum outcomes.

Not so long ago, like many other practices, they were finding their patients attached little value to their hygiene appointments. As a consequence, the diary was plagued by late cancellations and the scenario proffered a commonplace conundrum: how to entice patients into the hygiene chair.

As Lesley explains: ‘We aim to offer our patients the best possible treatments but, in this case, we needed to help them understand how they could rely on us to improve their dental health. The solution came in the form of guided biofilm therapy (GBT). It met all our requirements in achieving great overall health outcomes, as well as the desires of patients seeking to improve their smiles with effective stain removal. In offering GBT, we have created a USP that sets us apart from our competition – to the point that we are finding several patients coming to us under direct access for this treatment alone.’

GBT is the systematic, predictable solution for dental biofilm management in professional prophylaxis. It uses Airflow, Perioflow and Piezon technologies and is heavily supported by a raft of scientific evidence – an important consideration for those patients looking for tried and tested procedures to turn around their oral health as well as achieve those much-desired aesthetic outcomes.

Its approach is simple – the use of treatment protocols that are based on individual patient diagnosis and risk assessment, which are designed to achieve optimal results.

For the more nervous patient, it ticks boxes, too. The treatment is given in the least invasive way, with the highest level of comfort, safety and efficacy. It includes oral hygiene instructions with Philips Sonicare toothbrushes and Airfloss, plus patient education and motivation to maintain natural teeth (and, importantly, for Synergy Dental & Implant Centre) implants – for as long as possible.

Lesley says: ‘We operate a collective approach across the business with everyone in the team understanding and valuing the benefits of GBT and this is communicated throughout the patient journey.’

The effect is a seamless transition from front desk to dental chair.

Lesley explains: ‘When a patient attends a hygiene appointment, reception staff will often ask if they have tried the new Airflow treatment. They will talk enthusiastically about it, share short stories of the benefits enjoyed by other patients – to the point where, often, other patients in the reception will join in the conversation and rave about the treatment.’

At the start of the appointment, the dental therapist will provide an overview of Airflow – explaining what it is and how it works – and then move on to the clinical benefits, focusing on those specific to the patient.

Lesley says: ‘We then offer a free trial, which they can have that day or, alternatively, at their next appointment. As the whole dental team are passionate and enthusiastic about GBT, we find that patients are often very keen to try the treatment immediately.’

The fact that GBT can be offered to all patients is very important to the practice, as Lesley explains: ‘We have a lot of patients who suffer with sensitivity or have pacemakers – patients whose only option in the past was to have a hand scale. This was often time consuming, uncomfortable for patients and caused our therapists’ hands and wrists to tire easily. It is great to now be able to offer these patients a more comfortable and beneficial alternative.

‘We have also found that nervous patients are much happier to come now we offer Airflow. We can focus on the homecare whilst providing a beneficial treatment pain free. Improved homecare and GBT means that calculus removal can then be completed when the patient has less inflammation and when they have gained confidence and trust in the therapist treating them.’

Having initially invested in one unit, within a couple of months the practice introduced a second to meet patient demand. GBT has provided an effective complementary procedure to the team’s implant patients, too, with the therapists much happier knowing that they can maintain and treat implants effectively and efficiently without trauma.

This shift in hygiene protocols has also meant a key change in the team’s approach to patient education. Disclosing is one of the first steps in the process and patients are given an overview of what biofilm is and what it does.

Historically, many may associate disclosing with childhood but, in order to understand biofilm, adult patients also need to understand why disclosing is important in helping to make biofilm visible, often motivating them in their on-going oral hygiene.

For Lesley and her team, changing this mind-set has been an easier task than they anticipated.

‘Seeing is definitely believing – patients are often shocked when see the plaque that is left behind and comment on how dirty their mouth is so it’s a great motivational tool. Then, when they see that all the plaque that is removed at the end of their treatment, they can appreciate the benefits.

‘We have also found that many patients now disclose at home to monitor their plaque control between visits. As we have moved towards a more preventative approach within the practice, we have found that language can frequently be a barrier to patient understanding so, wherever possible, we try to replace a clinical term with something more patient friendly. In this way, we introduce the concept of biofilm as “soft plaque” or “plaque bacteria” and explain that this is the plaque or biofilm they are looking to remove at home.

‘Explaining things in clear, understandable terms helps patients to understand and commit to a new approach to their gum care.’

And the bottom line is that GBT has already demonstrated its worth.

Based on current performance, Lesley says she expects to see a ROI in excess of 300% in the first 12 months of introducing Airflow.

‘Offering GBT is undoubtedly a fantastic practice builder,’ she says. ‘It has attracted new patients to us, as we find existing patients go home and talk to their family and friends about the treatment. It is not unusual for us to get a call asking if they can register as a patient in order to have Airflow.

‘The initial unit had paid for itself within two to three months and we can now measure the contribution our hygiene team make to the overall business as we have seen our plan income grow by over 30% in 10 months and we are now looking to open an additional hygiene surgery.’

She concludes: ‘The fact that it is comfortable and offers quick delivery is a big appeal for patients and, for the practice team, it gives them confidence in knowing they can deliver an effective and efficient treatment to every patient.’