A long history, a great future

John and Jennifer Denham are building on an extraordinary legacy to create a modern and highly distinctive practice

16 August, 2021 / professional-focus
 Will Peakin  

Platt & Common was established by Central Scotland’s first resident dentist, Leon Platt, in 1861 and celebrates its 160th anniversary this year. Mr Platt was 21 when he started the practice. Born and educated in Edinburgh, he was the twelfth of fifteen children. He qualified in 1879 from the Edinburgh College of Surgeons, to comply with The Dentists Act of 1878, and R. Keith Common became his assistant on 1 January 1892 before signing a co-partnership agreement on the 11 April 1895. Mr Platt retired in 1901. Mr Common’s son, Ralph, and grandson Robin continued the practice through until the 1980’s. In 1964 the practice moved to its present location in Albert Place.

In 2011, having been associates at Platt & Common for more than a decade, John and Jennifer Denham purchased the practice following the death in 2010 of the previous owner, their friend and colleague Douglas Herd. “We were fortunate to have the full support of Douglas’s widow and also of his brother and fellow dentist, the late Ian Herd,” said John. “Both of them facilitated the smooth handover of this well-established practice.”

The Grade B listed building occupying a prominent position in the historic centre of Stirling is home to the state of the art practice

John and Jennifer expanded the number of surgeries to eight, installed the decontamination room, new reception area and re-established the acrylic laboratory. A large staff room was created as well as the upgrading of facilities throughout for both staff and patients. As an independently owned family practice, it offers both NHS and private care to its patients.

“We have an independent care plan available for those patients who wish to be seen privately and pay a monthly fee,” said John. “We refer patients for implant placement out-with the practice to various centres but are increasingly offering patients the opportunity to have them restored at the practice. We offer all patients EMS AIRFLOW® on a private basis with our practice hygienists. Prior to COVID, our patients were able to access the hygienists for an NHS scale and polish. However, due to appointments needing to be extended for donning and doffing of enhanced PPE, the use of two surgeries to comply with fallow times and a second nurse for cleaning of the surgeries, scaling under the NHS is no longer viable.”

He added: “We invested in Stealth and 3M masks in June 2020 for all the clinical staff along with washable gowns in order to provide treatment privately without the restrictions imposed by the NHS. This has enabled us to carry out a large number of AGP’s since reopening in July 2020. Even though all NHS services are available, our patients are continuing to opt for private treatments. The most popular private items are all-ceramic crowns and bridges, posterior composite restorations and tooth whitening. One of our most popular treatments is tooth whitening using Whitewash Laboratories home whitening system.”

John and Jennifer met at, and qualified from, Glasgow University in the mid-nineties. Jennifer concentrates on the day-to-day management and all financial aspects of running the business while John continues to enjoy the clinical dentistry side. John has been a VT trainer since 2008 (he has his thirteenth VT this year) and is on course to complete his master’s degree in restorative dentistry with the University of Edinburgh next summer.

The practice is housed in a large Victorian two-storey villa style property. As a Grade B listed building it occupies a prominent position in the historic centre of Stirling. This summer, the main building is being extensively renovated, including restoring and replacing damaged sandstone, leadwork and guttering. The front of the building will then be re-painted with a specialist masonry paint for use on traditional buildings. The practice has a large garden to the rear with derelict stables and carriage buildings and these are scheduled for development into a new office suite and meeting rooms this October.

“Planning permission and listed building applications were required during the initial expansion works in 2011,” noted John, “and for the external renovations and conversion of the outbuildings this year. These processes involved prolonged consultations with Historic Scotland, Stirling City Heritage Trust and Stirling Council. We have learned a lot about traditional building techniques and materials!”

The practice’s hygienist now has a new – knee-break – Belmont Clair chair.

So far this summer, they have fully refitted two of the eight surgeries. Their hygienist now has a new – knee-break – Belmont Clair chair, Modwood cabinetry with Durasein® worktops and sink, housing her new EMS AIRFLOW® Prophylaxis Master. The other surgery has also been refitted with new Modwood cabinetry with Durasein® worktops and sinks and an Adec 400 chair. John’s downstairs surgery has had the new Adec 500 chair with continental delivery installed.

“Both surgeries were stripped back to the floorboards – literally – so that all services could be renewed. A spare suction pipe was even installed under the sealed flooring as futureproofing as well as a concealed clean water bottle system with separate connections for air and water. Our hygienist currently uses two surgeries in order to comply with fallow times for aerosol procedures. All of our surgeries have now been fitted with these extra connections for air and water to give us the ability for the hygienists to use EMS AIRFLOW® in any surgery.

The new EMS AIRFLOW® Prophylaxis Master

“During lockdown, in the medical questionnaire we used specifically asked patients if they were over 21 stone in weight,” said John. “We were surprised by the number of positive responses and felt that the current weight limits on our existing chairs did not meet this need. The Adec 500 has a weight limit of nearly 36 stone which we felt was a sound investment in the current climate. This has been placed in our most accessible downstairs surgery.”

John added: “The surgeries were purchased through Dental Directory and we have Warren Patterson to thank for the final surgery designs. Installation of the cabinetry was carried out by the Modwood fitters. We decided to opt for Modwood cabinetry as we have used them before and know that the quality is guaranteed. The fitters Steve and John have also been involved in previous surgery refits. The Durasein® worktops and integrated sinks give a clean finish to the cabinetry which also has touch open mechanisms. Having no draw or cupboard handles allows for more efficient cleaning of the surgeries following AGP’s. 

“The Adec chair installation was overseen by Allan Wright and he was equally excited as I was with the 500, as continental delivery systems are still quite rare in Scotland. In addition to the handpieces and 3-in-1, the chair has an intraoral camera, LED curing light and piezon scaler.”

Trycare has been a key dental product supplier; a comany focussed on taking the pain away from the strains of a practice’s daily operation by delivering tried and tested, high quality treatment pathway solutions alongside all other product needs.

There are four full time associates, one VDP, two part-time hygienists, ten dental nurses, a dental technician and two receptionists. “We have always encouraged our associates and VDPs to continue their training,” said John, “and they currently hold post graduate qualifications including implant restoration, orthodontic alignment systems and facial aesthetic treatments.”

Platt & Common has been a VT training practice since 2008. All thirteen VDPs have gone on to have successful careers both at home and abroad – from directors of dental equipment manufacturers to practice principals, associates, orthodontic specialist training pathways and the PDS. “All have made their own individual way in dentistry, and it has been a pleasure to have played a small part in each of their training,” added John. “We have a large staff area and the garden which has been much appreciated during this period to allow everyone to throw off their PPE and take a breather during what has been a very stressful period. Once restrictions allow, we will be having our much-delayed staff BBQ.”

In terms of the patient experience, John explained: “All of our surgeries have been designed with both the dentist and the patient in mind, from the chairs to the decoration. They all benefit from having natural light from sash and case windows, French doors or Velux-type windows.

“The dedicated waiting room is separate from our reception area ensuring privacy and confidentiality. The surgeries are kitted out to a similar standard ensuring consistency for the patient experience. Platt & Common has served the people of Stirling for more than 160 years and maintains its reputation by remaining a family orientated practice.

“Having two principals on site who are able to focus on both the management and clinical aspects of the business ensure that issues are dealt with quickly and decisively. This has been especially evident over the last 18 months where decisions had to be made very quickly in order to provide our patients with the best care possible under the ever-changing restrictions.

“Throughout lockdown we had a dentist answering the mainline phone every working day until we reopened on 1 July last year. This direct contact approach meant that a lot of issues arising during lockdown were dealt with by the practice, therefore reducing UDC referrals.”

How does John see the future of the practice? “Following my master’s summer school at Edinburgh Dental Institute in June, we decided to trial some speed increasing red ring electric handpieces. The EDI has large open clinics with little chance of achieving 10 ACHs and so has moved away from creating aerosols in the first place to using electric handpieces at less than 60,000rpm [as recommended in NHS Scotland’s Moving towards a return to routine dental care1].

“These handpieces do not require air and so there is no mixing of air and water. No aerosol means no requirement for fallow time, enhanced PPE or extended surgery cleaning. Patients can be seen in normal times and more importantly in the same surgery back-to-back. Perhaps the Scottish Government funding for ventilation could be redirected to providing all dentists in Scotland with the ability to drill and not produce an aerosol2. External ventilation of our surgeries is going to be expensive long term with increased utility bills and maintenance costs. It also does not eliminate the fallow time, FFP3 masks – which everyone hates – and the extended cleaning between patients. In truth, increasing ventilation does not solve the aerosol issue.”

John added: “We need to accept the fact that as a profession we are going to need to live with not just this coronavirus but with all the other similar viruses that will inevitably come along in the future. In the same way that we adapted to the problems associated with HIV, Hepatitis B & C and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, we will need to do the same with COVID-19. COVID-19 has turned our way of working on its head and some of our profession into disarray. If we don’t need to create the aerosol in the first place, then surely that is a way forward. Try a speed increasing handpiece…it really is a game changer.”

1www.scottishdental.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/SOP-Guide-COVID-19.pdf

2Following publication of this story, the Scottish Government announced £7.5m in funding for red band hand pieces.

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