Friday, 1 March 2019

How A Patient's Story Can Change Your Outlook On Life.

Keith had a patient in a few months ago  who was telling him about his son.  While he was young, he worked as hard as he could to make sure his little boy had everything he thought he needed.  He worked long hours, and was often away at weekends, all with the best of intentions.  When his son turned 18, he happily told him that he was getting on a bit so he was going to start winding down at work and maybe they could start spending some time together.  His son turned to him, dismayed and said, "Dad, you're too late.  I don't need you anymore, where were you when I really needed you?"  Keith's patient was devastated.  It's a hard lesson to learn and one that often comes too late in life.  All I could think when he told me about it was the lyrics of Harry Chapin's 'Cats in the Cradle' - which should be a song released for every generation just to remind us all that actually what your kids need from you more than anything is your time.

Running your own business is hectic.  Work doesn't just start at 8.30am when the first patient comes through the door, nor end at 5.30pm when you close the door behind the last.  Especially in these days of remote communication; it's too easy to log onto the practice computer system to catch up on patients notes, write treatment plans for life changing smile makeovers and chat to prospective patients through social media from home in the evenings.  And Keith and I often find ourselves sitting at the kitchen table, chatting about the direction the practice is going in, what have been our wins for the day or how are we going to deal with whatever situation has arisen with a patient or the team that day.  The kids next door watching telly.

And I know we're not alone in feeling that there are some weeks that go by and you never actually speak to each other about anything other than work, the weeks that you robotically do what the kids need you to do - but are you really listening to what they are telling you?

It's too easy when you're running a business too to be scared to take a holiday: what if something goes wrong when we're away; how will the business finances cope when you're not there generating the income thats needed?

But if you don't take time off and spend it with your family, the time quickly passes and before you know it, they're gone and as everyone and their granny keeps telling me - "you don't get that time back."

2 weeks ago was half term for us, our local council have wisely matched up 3 local holidays with 2 inservice days, meaning the kids get a full week off and usually it's the week before the English holidays so it often means a cheaper deal!

We took the plunge and decided to go on a skiing holiday - a first for the girls and I!  It was brilliant fun and totally different to anything we'd done before, but the best part about it how much time we got to spend together as a family.

We all skied together at the pace of the worst skier (me - kids have an amazing ability just to point their skis downhill and not worry about the consequences!).  When we got back to the hotel we all sat and played stupid games together and they all slagged me off for being a big feartie at the top of most of the runs. Just the 4 of us sat together for every meal and we managed to catch up with what's been happening in the life of our kids and each other.

The skiing was fun - but actually the best bit was all being forced together and enjoying the same activity together, it didn't really matter what it was.  Keith's patient hreally brought home to all of us how important family time is - whether it's a holiday abroad together, a campervan round Scotland together (I think that might be our next trip!) or actually just all chilling out together with some board games on a Saturday night.

I hope you all enjoy your time with your family this weekend.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Learning to Trust at a Difficult Time

This time last year was a difficult time.  Our youngest daughter Chloe, a gorgeous bubbly blonde 8 year old, had spent the previous 12 months randomly waking up through the night with severe stomach pains and vomiting, to the point that lime green bile was often all that was left to come up.  She was finally diagnosed with a blocked ureter - the tiny tube that takes the wee from your kidney to your bladder and scheduled for surgery in January last year.

There's nothing quite like taking your baby to the big, fancy, shiny new hospital on a cold January morning in the hope that they're going to fix her and make her feel better.  Handing her sleeping frame over to the anaesthetist to be whisked through the door into a theatre full of gowned, masked staff; cold, sterile instruments; and painfully bright lights.  It's a lonely walk back out in the opposite direction.

Walking in a haze around the wee Marks and Spencer food shop, pretending to be hungry for a sandwich, as people bustle around you, coming and going with their own distractions.  And then sitting in the soulless parent's room pretending to read a magazine, all the while worry constantly gnawing at you, having to trust that the people taking care of your little girl know what they're doing and have her best intentions at heart.  Because at the end of the day they are just people like you and I.

But there's really nothing quite like that endless time being over and the first time you see her again, drowsy and disorientated, but ok and in one piece.  And there's nothing quite like the gratitude that you feel for those people, people just like you and I, who make it their life's work to take care of others and to do their best to fix them and remove their suffering. No there's not a feeling like that in the world.

I've often thought about this over the last year and I often think about it from the other side and how it applies to us here at Coatbridge Family Dental Care.  It makes me feel proud that people are willing to put their trust in our team as healthcare professionals to fix them and make them feel better.  And it makes me feel proud of our team that they make it their aim in life to take care of our patients and have their best intentions at heart.  Because they're just people like you and I.

P.S.  we're very lucky Chloe is fine now - she hasn't been sick for a whole year!

What a difference a year makes!

Friday, 30 November 2018

Screening for Scary Stuff

A couple of weekends ago Keith and I were out for dinner with a group of good friends.  We don't get together very often and as usual it was a great night - one of those where the wine is flowing, everyone is on form and the chat is just hilarious, bordering on ridiculous!  I'm pretty sure the other diners were glad the restaurant had given us a private room to eat in - even just the volume of the chat was probably quite off-putting!

At one point during the night I was telling everyone how Keith had been feeling particularly smug before we'd gone out because he was going to be the only person still in his 30s at the table that night!   His 40th is in 2 weeks, so he won't be feeling smug for long!  And the chat fell to his birthday and what he might like for a present.

One of our friends, who's a little older than the rest of the group, was told us how he received a lovely present just a couple of days after his 50th.  It came in an envelope and he thought it was a birthday card.  You can imagine his disappointment when he opened it to find his bowel screening card!  If you ever needed something to make you feel your age - that's it right there!  Once again I'm sure the other diners were glad of our quarantined area, as the conversation turned to - how do you actually do that?  Do you need a pair of latex gloves?  The joys of what we have in store in 10 years time!  Our friend was pretty keen not to do it, and we all rounded on him - "You must, you must, it might save your life."  But it's easy for us to say that when we're sitting there in our early forties, not having to contemplate the realities of doing it.  Then the thought... what about the poor postman handling all these samples?!  Make sure you seal it well!

Hopefully you've noticed that November has been Mouth Cancer Action Month. And I'm pleased to tell you that screening for mouth cancer is so much easier than for bowel cancer!

You might not even have noticed your dentist doing it in the past, but we're getting much better now at telling you that's what we're looking for when we look at your tongue, cheeks, soft tissues and neck lymph nodes, hoping to raise everyone's awareness.  And it's not something that we have to wait until your 50 to screen for, we do it every time you come in for a dental health check, no matter your age.  That's important because mouth cancer is starting to become more common in young people who are otherwise healthy.

Although smoking and alcohol are risk factors, mouth cancer can affect anyone.  As I said we check your mouth every dental health check, but you can check your mouth yourself in between and contact us if you have any concerns.
Here's what you should look out for:
  • A mouth ulcer which lasts more than 3 weeks.
  • Unusual lumps or swellings or red and white patches in your mouth.
If you're 50 and over I would definitely encourage you to return your bowel screening card, but it's good to know that mouth cancer is a lot easier to check for - no latex gloves required (well not for you anyway!)

Any concerns about your mouth, no matter if you think they seem trivial, call our team on 01236 421103.  It could save your life.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

The Challenge of the Year!

A couple of posts ago I wrote about how important it is to challenge yourself and this has certainly been a fortnight of challenges for the team at Coatbridge Family Dental Care!!  Last Monday we had our fantastic new computer system installed and after a full days training, it was Go Live! day on Tuesday.  If I'm honest I don't think Keith and I truly appreciated how difficult this challenge would be!  Our old system was very different to the new one and the conversion of all the patient information is still ongoing.  That, coupled with the fact that the whole appointment book set up and clinical note recording is a world apart from the way we used to do it, has certainly caused a couple of weeks of sleepless nights for the team!

But our team is what today's blog is really about.  And it's a massive thank you to them all.  The conversion has been really tough, but I can honestly say without hesitation,  I don't think I've ever worked with a dental team who have had a more positive, can do attitude than ours have in the last 2 weeks. On top of the computer system going in, one of our instrument washer disinfectors broke down, our phones stopped working, the light on one of the chairs gave up the ghost.... and yes there have been times I'm sure that we've all wanted to scream at each other! But through it all they have remained professional, upbeat and determined to ensure our exceptional patient care remains paramount.

In the long run, the new system will be of huge benefit to both our team and our patient care, and by keeping that at the forefront of our minds we have been able to work through all the difficulties we've encountered.  

A big thanks also goes to our patients who have been extremely understanding and patient with us all this week.  They've been having lots of fun using our clinical pads instead of filling out paper forms!  The quest to go paperless starts here!

To experience both our fab team and our new computer system give Coatbridge Family Dental Care a call on 01236 421103!  But please be patient for the next couple of weeks!!

Prosecco All Round!

Friday, 28 September 2018

Teaching Keith To Do The Floss

I know it’s been around for a while but last weekend our daughter Chloe decided that it was time she really made a concerted effort to teach Keith ‘The Floss’.  Now you may not know this but Keith has a bit of a reputation amongst our staff and our friends for being a pretty rubbish dancer.  Give him a Strip the Willow or a Dashing White Sergeant and he’s a force to be reckoned with, but we described his step – tap (isolated from the knee down), as dad dancing way before our eldest Rachel came on the scene.  Having two daughters who go to ballet and modern every week means he really doesn’t stand a chance in our house.

So the kids have been going on about the floss for months and we’ve both looked on in desperate confusion at how they can be that coordinated - and do it so fast!  When I was watching Chloe try to teach Keith in a step by step “you can do this daddy” fashion last week it struck me how different people are when it comes to coordination.  Keith can spend hours of his day coordinating his hands and his brain while looking in a mirror in a tiny black hole and dealing with tongues, saliva and all manner of other slippery obstacles.  Can he move his arms and hips in the opposite direction in time to a beat? Not a hope!

But what about these patients that we ask to floss their teeth for us everyday?  Perhaps they are fantastic at doing ‘The Floss’ perhaps they can just feel the rhythm and do it instinctively, but put a bit of dental floss in their hands and make them look in a mirror and they can’t even get their fingers into their mouths.

That’s why its really important for us to take the time to talk to our patients and find out what works for them.  There’s more than one way to skin a cat.  If you’re struggling to coordinate hands and mouth there’s interdental brushes and electric toothbrushes.  We’ll work with you to find the right way for you to keep your mouth healthy.

I’m rubbish at flossing (the dance and the oral hygiene), my dental floss lives in my kitchen drawer and I use it to slice cakes in half longways (it makes them lovely and even!)  I know that interdental brushes work for me – they’re quicker and easier and leave me more time to do the million other things I have to do.

But back to ‘The Floss’, Keith did finally get it, albeit that he’s doing it at a ¼ of the pace of the girls.  Like anything (including dental flossing) practice makes perfect.  I reckon being made to watch the
next 12 weeks of Strictly will help him to improve his moves!😂

If you need advice on improving your dental moves call our team on 01236 421103.  We’ll be happy to help!

Oh and if you want to learn 'The Floss' and impress your kids:

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Challenge Yourself - You'll Feel Better For It

This blog post was nearly a rant about HBOS and why they are an incompetent bank but I didn't think it was fair to subject anyone to that on a Friday morning particularly when I could go on about it for at least 10 sides of A4 (front and back!! - picture Ross from friends and his angry face and you'll get where I am with them.)

So I'll save the ranting for my complaint letter later this morning and think about something a bit more positive here.  I've always wanted to write a book.  There it's out there in the public domain, there's no going back now.  Ever since I first read the first Harry Potter book - and realistically a long time before that, I've wanted to have that ability to capture people's imagination in the palm of my hand and take them on a journey with me.  What a talent to have!  I'm not sure then quite how I ended up down the blind-ended alley that dentistry is, but that's a blog post for another day.

Anyway, you come to a point in your life when you realise that all you do is get up in the morning, get the kids out to school, go to work, come home, taxi the kids around, do some more work, eat dinner and go to bed and it becomes an existence rather than life.  And you think to yourself there has to be more to life than this.  So one night when you've had a couple of glasses of wine you book yourself on a creative writing evening course thinking what a blast that will be.

I can't recall ever being more nervous sitting in a room than I was last night, particularly as we started introducing ourselves and over half the class were writing regularly and had box files of half written stories at home.   Half way through  we were asked to basically get down on paper the premise for the story we would write in the next 10 weeks - the genre, the characters, the setting, the plot - then the teacher came round and grilled us on our idea, pulling it apart to make sure it would stand up to writing.

It sounds terrifying and partly it was - but do you know what, it was invigorating!  It was like turning on a part of my brain that had been switched off for so long it was growing dusty in the corner.  I loved challenging myself.

It's so easy to get stuck in the mundaneness of the treadmill of life and not notice that its happened.  You've got to find time for yourself somewhere amongst that and take a chance at something new.  Enter a race, take up a new hobby, challenge yourself.  I promise you'll feel better for it.


This week I've challenged our team to take part in Muddy Muckers to raise money for St Andrews Hospice.  Getting muddy, fresh air and exercise and raising money for a fantastic local charity - what a brilliant way to challenge ourselves!  We've already had some really generous sponsorship in the practice and we're also collecting at

 At Coatbridge Family Dental Care we all look forward to hearing about your new challenges next time you're in the practice.  Keep us up-to-date with your lives by coming in to see us regularly for your dental health checks - I promise you'll feel better for that too.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Why Going to Legoland Made Me Proud of Our Team

In the last week of the school holidays Keith and I took the kids to London for a few days to see the sights.  We started off with a couple of days in Legoland, which the kids loved!  I have to say though as much as I had a great time with the kids and the rides were fun, the whole thing was slightly tainted for me by the staff.

In the 2 days we came across 1 team member who actually spoke to us in one of the lines, the rest were like robots, opening the gate, measuring the kids, checking your safety belts, all done with out so much as a smile or even any eye contact - they all looked miserable.  The restaurant for dinner was even worse!  There was just no engagement!

It got me thinking about how vital your staff are to your whole customer service and experience.  I was so excited about going to Legoland, so up for it and yet every encounter I had with a team member was a disappointment - think how many interactions and disappointments I had over the space of the 48 hours we were there!  It felt like they were so confident they had a captive market they didn't have to try anymore.

It just reinforced for me how vital the little things are when a patient comes to see us at Coatbridge Family Dental Care and how good our team are at it.  The fact that over half of our new patients come from existing patient referrals and a further third come off the back of online patient reviews tells me we are doing something right.  But what's really important is not to get complacent.  It's important every patient is treated the same way.

A smiling, welcoming face and eye contact from the reception team goes such a long way, along with a friendly chat particularly if a patient is feeling nervous.

We always ask our dentists and nurses to chat to our patients as they walk from the waiting room to the surgery and ask them how they are.

New nurses are asked to introduce themselves to patients and everyone wears their name badge.

Our dentists take the time to engage our patients in conversation, not just about dentistry but about their lives and take the time to find out about what's important to them because that's vital when we're dealing with your health and your smile.

And on the way out a little bit of banter with the reception team is always fun!

Thinking about it made me proud that our the customer service of our team is way better than a big company like Legoland,  They could learn a thing or two from us!

Experience great customer service by calling our team at Coatbridge Family Dental Care on 01236 421103.