Blue Crown Dental is the new corporate coming to dentistry. Here we speak to Sath Ponnusamy, founding director, to find out what is new and different with Blue Crown Dental.
Can you introduce yourself and give us your background?
Before this I was focusing on social enterprises. There was a wide range – homelessness. And the most successful helping amputees to cook in their kitchen.
I believe the first exposure I had to dentistry was through my friend who was working on a project in the Midlands. His project focused on children whose teeth were in bad condition.
They felt a real lack in confidence, to the point where they didn’t want to go into school. This was around two/three years ago, but it stuck with me.
Just around the first COVID lockdown, one of my mum’s friends passed away due to mouth cancer. That is really what drew me back to dentistry.
There’s a real gap in information. When you look at America for instance, rent comes first and healthcare comes second in your budget.
Even for myself, rent or mortgage depending on whether you own a house and then council tax, water bill, and whatever.
I think it’s about time that people place more importance on healthcare.
So far, I think there’s been a real lack of that in the dental sector in particular.
Who are Blue Crown Dental? What does Blue Crown stand for and where has it come from?
If you ask what Blue Crown is, I’d say innovation, integrity, inclusion. That’s our core values.
Our purpose is focused on customer service. To provide the highest quality of customer service and give the highest level of comfort.
The number one reason why a lot of people don’t go to the dentist is because they fear them – they don’t feel at ease. It’s little things like using electric drills. Normal drills trigger anxiety from our research – that makes a big difference.
We aim to be very patient-centric.
What exactly is it that you are offering to remove that fear?
From the offset, I understand there’s a real cost-cutting culture in corporate dentistry.
The dentists that I’ve spoken to, its very common for them not to be able to provide dentistry based on the equipment that they don’t have access to, or they’re working on a strict budget.
Off the bat, we won’t take part in dentists having their hands tied.
Philip Lewis is president of the Mouth Cancer Foundation in the UK and is our clinical director.
He explained that if people go to the dentist more, the signs of mouth cancer can be highlighted from really early on.
People have busy lives, they only go to the dentist when they have an issue rather than routinely going.
In dentistry, it’s hard to find enterprising dentists. What Blue Crown is really focusing on doing is getting that business expertise in.
We want to make sure, whether that is through marketing or customer service, the message of the importance of dental health is passed to the general public, which I feel like is the key issue now that needs addressing.
What’s the history of Blue Crown Dental in dentistry?
As a company, we are a newly-formed corporate.
We formed in 2020. Looking at it now, we went into the dental sector at the right time.
There has been a shift in landscape from NHS dentistry. There’s a lot of focus on digital dentistry right now.
Due to the COVID situation, I think a lot of people are understanding the importance of private dentistry.
It has been the first time, during COVID, where the NHS in general has turned around and said we are oversubscribed.
We’ve always had this dependence on the NHS, but it’s important for people to understand they can’t take care of everything.
There’s only so much the NHS can take care of and achieving optimal levels of health should be taken on as a personal responsibility.
How did you come into the market in 2020? Have you bought a certain number of practices?
Initially, we focused on putting together the right board. We want the right team to make this vision happen.
But we don’t actually own any practices right now. Partly because of the whole COVID situation. We wanted to enter the market at the right time.
We are currently looking at a couple of practices.
What kind of areas are you looking to move into geographically?
For convenience, within two to three hours’ drive from London. Our long-term plan is to also go national.
What growth plans have you got? Is there a specific kind of practice that you are looking towards?
Yes, we are looking for predominantly private practices.
I do believe the NHS is important, but at the same time we want to focus more on private dentistry. Ideally, a minimum of three surgeries, predominantly private practices. I think practices that aren’t too small as I think it will be easier for us to deal with.
Where do you want to be in a year’s time?
I think I see ourselves owning a couple of practices, and laying down the foundations of our values, which are very important to us.
Myself and my co-founder believe that with our first couple of practices, we will be in the practices on a day-to-day basis for a period of weeks to make sure that our values are embedded.
I want people to recognise a Blue Crown Dental practice when they walk in.
What does Blue Crown Dental offer to its dental staff and team?
When I say one of our values is inclusion, this applies to staff and patients.
I think for staff, I want to provide a workplace where colleagues feel included. Not only that, but a sense of progression.
I know that dentistry is very education and skill based. It is in our plans to incorporate their education and skillset for anything.
There will, therefore, be a real emphasis on our staff. From speaking to dentists in the sector, currently for corporate dentists the culture is cost-cutting and people are afraid of corporate dentistry to the point they don’t want to sell to a dental corporate. I think that’s sad because it’s not binary. You don’t have to be cost-cutting in order to be comfortable.
I’m a believer in the fact that if you provide a really good service, if you take care of the people, then they will take care of you.
We are going to take out that whole culture of cost-cutting and we aren’t going to tie dentists’ hands. They are the ones with the expertise.
We will give them more of a business input and provide them with a workplace where they can really feel included.
Other dental corporates on executive levels just don’t have great levels of diversity. Our board is diverse across the range, age, gender and ethnicity. Inclusion is one of our core values and we lead by example.
Anything else you’d like to add?
You might ask, why the name Blue Crown Dental? We really like the whole nature theme.
Teeth are also something natural, and something you should take care of. That relates to a plant.
There’s a plant called a blue crown passionflower and that’s where the name comes from. It’s not really a well-known plant but this represents innovation. It also represents that we bring something new and fresh to dentistry.
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