‘Slow dentistry’ is a new concept with its basis in the fundamentals of comprehensive practice. Dr Fadi Yassmin explains why a return to the basics might be the best way forward for dentistry. By John Burfitt
Dr Fadi Yassmin is a slow dentist, and he doesn’t care who knows it.
In fact, the Sydney-based dentist is actively promoting his adoption of ‘slow dentistry’ within his d/FY Dental practice, Australia’s first ‘slow dentistry’ registered clinic.
Dr Yassmin is an ambassador for the slow dentistry movement and believes the time has come for dentistry to shift gears out of the high-turnover approach of recent years and to instead adopt a slower, more comprehensive approach to the work.
“I would not call this revolutionary, rather I would call this an important step forward in trying to slow down the pace of dentistry,” Dr Yassmin, a graduate of the University of Sydney and London’s Kings College, says. “We’re seeing many dentists struggling as they face the pressure of the speed the work is being done at. In that scenario there’s either going to be distress and fatigue on the dentists’ side, or there’s going to be compromise in the patient’s care. That approach is not going to work for anyone in the long run, which is why this concept of slow dentistry is catching on.”
The slow dentistry movement is a global initiative to improve the standards of dental care. At its core are four key principles—clinic cleanliness, with a high standard approach to sterilisation; clear communication to the patient about the details of treatment; a thorough approach to anaesthetic, ensuring it is in full effect before any treatment commences; and adoption of strong hygiene protocols, like using rubber dams in root canals and similar procedures.
But adopting such a mindful approach to practice and working at a slower pace might, Dr Yassmin says, require a dramatic overhaul of a clinic’s booking schedule.
“It depends on what you are doing, so the timing should be procedure-dependent not slot-dependent,” he explains. “This is about ensuring the booking staff has been trained to know whatever the procedure is should have a defined time. Working this way is also about making the slot work for you, rather than you working to the slot.”
What may sound like little more than the basic fundamentals of established professional dental practice is, Dr Yassmin explains, an opportunity to go back to basics in a dental marketplace which has become increasingly pressured. Slow dentistry, claims its website, is about adjusting pace and time expectations and putting a focus on the pursuit of excellence.
“With some practices turning over patients so quickly, I’ve realised this is something we all need to be aware of,” Dr Yassmin says. “If you are working to 15-minute appointments, with patients in and out with everything just getting a quick wipe down, it’s not good enough.
“I speak to a lot of other dentists in lectures around the country and am always surprised that the concepts I had always worked to and had taken for granted as the norm are not the reality for many others. There is a disconnect there we’re going to have to bridge.”
Dr Yassmin first signed up to the slow dentistry movement 12 months ago, after being introduced to it by one of its founders, the UK’s Dr Miguel Stanley. Some of the other global ambassadors are Dr Simon Chard in London, Dr Kyle Stanley in Los Angeles and Dr Marco Gresnigt in The Netherlands.
In a statement, Dr Stanley outlined how the four cornerstones of the slow dentistry movement are intended to influence standards of wellbeing and safety. “Whilst we may assume this is all happening—and in many cases it is —the cornerstones of slow dentistry encourages us to take some control over our appointments,” he said. “This initiative aims to increase awareness for safety, understanding, wellbeing and comfort.”
With such established benchmarks outlined and set as the goal to work towards, it offers clear and important guidelines for dentists to remain mindful of.
“These points are like conducting a health check on your own processes,” Dr Yassmin says. “If you find you are not ticking all the boxes, then it might be time to consider what you can do to lift your standards and possibly delve deeper into the root cause of why you’ve not been working this way. This is why the slow dentistry concept can be a good starting point for practitioners to take stock with.”
While slow dentistry does work with best practice policies, when it comes to the reality of being in business, the bottom line on the financial statements must also be a driving factor. Dr Yassmin agrees this can never be ignored, and so a realistic approach to whatever the procedure costs and what a practitioner’s time is worth for longer appointments must be factored in, with the fee charged an accurate and fair reflection of that.
“We have a fee structure based on whatever the procedure is for that patient, and the time it takes,” he says. “The fee is something you should spend time being clear in working out, so if you are spending additional time with patients, then that needs to be communicated clearly.”
So far, Dr Yassmin says his patients’ reaction to his clinic becoming an accredited slow dentistry practice has been more one of curiosity.
“When I have explained the slow dentistry concept to some of them, most have said it is no different to how I’ve been seeing them for years anyway,” he says. “But it is intriguing when they also tell of other practices they’ve attended with claims it was like a fast food outlet—just a drill-and-burn operation, quickly in and then they were finished. So, they understand the way I work and the concept behind it as it’s different to what they’ve experienced elsewhere.
“This is a good news concept and patients always like it when they see you trying to innovate and improve the services to them. In this age of constant change we’re living in, a commitment to best practice is something patients seem to well understand.”