Practice of the Year 2017: Ten Dental Balham

on 20th September 2018


Private Dentistry talks to Practice of the Year 2017 principal Martin Wanendeya of Ten Dental Balham about success, overcoming challenges and winning awards

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

MW: I was born in Uganda and spent the first part years of my life enjoying hot sunny days, but at a crucial time for my education, the political situation was unstable and my parents decided to move to the UK. As a 13-year-old this was both exciting and frightening moving countries and continents and away from everything I knew. Fortunately it went very well, and I spent five terrific years at school in North London before attending Bristol University. I returned to London for VT and stayed put. London has been my home since.

What or who made you choose a career in implant dentistry?

MW: My career choice of dentistry came from my godfather, Dr Martin Aliker (who I was named after) a very successful dentist in East Africa. He was natural communicator and genuinely inspired me to do more and be better. I suspect I would have been drawn towards whatever profession he was in. Luckily, he was a dentist and he gave me focus and a deep understanding of and fascination with all things dental. He also taught me the importance of sharing knowledge which has become one of my key values.

When I began working in dentistry, I had some great mentors that helped my progress. During my VT year I worked in a very high needs area. In the days of prior approval, and also with the support of a highly skilled MGDS trained VT trainer, Dr Tahir Ali, I was able carry out some fairly complex cases during my VT. This gave me the platform from which I was able to take on more interesting and rewarding cases. I reached a peak where I realised I needed to learn more and after Paul Tipton’s year long restorative course I was able to build on that knowledge and tackle more complex cases with confidence.

At the time, I was interested in implants.Implant training was becoming more accessible and so I began by restoring implants, and then after a few years of restoring, moved on to placing implants. I found I really enjoyed the combination of restorative and surgical (and sometimes mental and financial) challenges that are unique to each patient. Everyday is different. Every patient is different. What I particularly enjoy, and I think is a privilege, is being able to make such a difference to people’s lives with some of the procedures we carry out at the practice.

Tell us more about Ten Dental.

MW: Ten Dental was always different – we started it as a squat practice in 2004 when that was unusual, and back then there weren’t many private career paths on offer outside the West End. That was our vision: to create something special that would make us jump out of bed every day. When Nik Sisoda and I launched Ten Dental we had both been looking for the dream job for a while, having met at university and then working at the same corporate. The business has really let us live
that dream.

You won a few awards at the Private Dentistry Awards, including Practice of the Year 2017. Can you tell us more and how did you feel winning the award? 

MW: I was in shock for a while after it was announced. We won Practice of the Year 2017, Best Referral Practice and London Practice of the year. It was incredibly gratifying to know that all those years of hard work from our brilliant team had been noticed – one award would have been fabulous and maybe a bit lucky, but three, especially the Practice of the Year, was special.

There were some fantastic practices up for the same award and I would have been happy to lose to any one of them.

Winning the Best Referral Practice UK was a moment for us to savour for us as a team, as it has been an ongoing journey to build the current interdisciplinary referral team that we have; finding colleagues who share the same philosophy of patient care, have the clinical skills and also strive to deliver the best possible outcomes is always a challenge, but we have done it and are all constantly learning from each other and motivate each other to strive for better. 

A part of being the best referral practice is having colleagues who trust us with their patients and treat us like an extension of their own practices. Knowing that we are providing them with a referral service that has been recognised in this way on a national level is very important to us.

It felt amazing winning the award with our team. It was a fantastic reward for many years of hard work and support from both the team and my family.

How is the practice structured?

MW: We have practices in Clapham, Balham and Wandsworth. Clapham offers a full range of specialist services with implantologists, periodontists, orthodontists an endodontist, oral surgeons, a clinical dental technician and a children’s dentist alongside some general dental activity. These specialists allow us to take on a lot of both normal as well as more complex, specialist referral work. Balham is a general practice with some specialist activity and Wandsworth is a general practice.

What do you think makes a successful team?

MW: I think that having people who are very good at their own role, but understand and appreciate the importance of roles that others play in the team really helps. No one person can do what they do well without the support of the others. This includes all members of the team, nurses, receptionists, treatment co-ordinators, patient care managers, cleaners, laboratory technicians, the office support team, and lastly the dentists. It can be very easy to assume that everything revolves around the people in one particular role in the team, but we all know this is not the case.

What lessons have you learned since you started working in the practice?

MW: I have learnt that there are some great times (of which winning the awards was one) as well as some hard times where nothing seems to be going right despite your best efforts. I always try to remember the saying ‘this too will pass’. It’s important to maintain a sense of perspective during the highs and the lows, and also to try to keep your sense of humour wherever you are in the cycle.

What marketing tools do you use and find most effective?

MW: I find that word of mouth and personal recommendation are still by far the most important. You sometimes have to remind your patients that you do want recommendations as many assume that you don’t! A team that believes in what you do is also essential; patients can tell how your team feel about the work you do.

Are there any products that you find invaluable in your practice?

MW: Camera – Canon D80 and all the kit that goes with it to take good photographs, good quality surgical instruments (Hu-Friedy, Stoma, Ustomed to name a few), loupes and light and an intraoral scanner, a good implant cement- Retrieve from Prestige. Lastly, PFTE tape – a small but essential item in an implantologist’s armory.

How important is patient communication to you?

MW: Patient communication is vital in the work we do in the practice. The most important and often overlooked part of this is the listening, acknowledging and understanding. Once you understand what a patient need and wants, it’s easier to communicate to them what is possible.

How do you stay abreast of modern techniques?

MW: I attend courses and also I try to go and observe other dentists working. I try to research and find the techniques that I am interested in and I am prepared to travel in order to learn. More recently online learning and webinars have started to feature as part of the mix, as well as some of the Facebook groups, but I still prefer having the lecturer in front of me, preferably in a smaller group.

Professionally, what are you most proud of?

MW: Some professional highlights have included graduating from the Royal College of Surgeons with the advanced diploma in implant dentistry, being a tutor and helping four other dentists (some of whom had not placed an implant before they started the course) pass the same exam as well winning two aesthetic dentistry awards for implantology.

Where do you get your motivation and drive from?

MW: My parents. Both of them worked very hard to improve my options in life and sacrificed some of their comfort for my education. I feel that I should make the most of the opportunities I get in order to thank them for this. There’s also a healthy and fun underlying competitiveness that Nik and I have with each other that means we’re both keen to keep improving.

How do you relax in your spare time?

MW: I enjoy listening to music, visiting art galleries, photography as well as collecting gadgets. The next thing I want to buy is a drone! This ticks the gadget and photography list. I recently learnt to ski and although I am not particularly good I am very, very enthusiastic!

What are your plans for the future?

MW: My plans for the future are to stay involved with teaching, training and developing dentists, to learn more and to pass it on.  Our plans as a practice are to keep improving the quality of the work we provide and also to keep looking for those talented dentists who we can work with and develop into our team, and also to add more practices to the group. Outside of work, to buy a drone, keep enjoying music and art, improve my photography, exercise more and spend more quality time with the family. Just don’t ask me how I will fit this all in!

For  more information on the Private Dentistry Awards visit: www.theprivatedentistryawards.com


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