Are the sleeping corporate giants waking up?

by Communications, Cosmetic dentistry, Movers and shakers, NHS, Recruitment

In a sign the largest group in the UK is embracing retail philosophy, Mydentist launched its first ‘Mysmile pod’ in a shopping centre in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, this week. Another one is about to follow at Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield.

According to a LinkedIn post by Mydentist marketing manager Andy White (where we took these images from), Mysmile pods are for “consultation, education and triage. Those interested in finding out more can speak to the team, who can also do a pre-consultation then triage and book the patient into a near by practice for full clinical consultation”.

He posted photos of the pop up clinic, including a giant iPhone showing information about cosmetic dentistry and orthodontics. It looks good and got plenty of praise from suppliers and dentists on LinkedIn.

The stall appears to be a scaled down version of the pop up shop that Invisalign set up in East London’s Westfield Shopping Centre last year. The difference is that Mydentist can deliver the whole patient journey. In 2019 it had 606 practices in the UK, down from 650 in 2017. The next largest operator was Bupa with 458, then Portman with 106.

These retail initiatives are a brilliant way to get its brand out there and show patients what a multi-disciplinary smile makeover can do. Many simply don’t know what the implications of their dental conditions are and stay loyal to their old dentist who never tells them. Many of Mydentist’s potential patients are low income and avoid the dentist completely because of the cost and inconvenience.

It runs mixed practices but has struggled to recruit clinicians to the most remote ones such as its practice in Dolgellau, Gwynedd, which had 4,500 patients but closed after trying unsuccessfully to recruit a dentist for two years. The recruitment crisis shows no sign of going away or remaining an exclusively rural phenomenon, with the Christie & Co Dental Market Review 2019 finding that associates are paid less per UDA in higher affluence areas due to oversupply.

Mydentist positions itself as “helping the nation improve their oral health”. At its annual conference last year managing director Steve Melton told delegates: “The number of UDAs being delivered in England is falling faster now than at any other time since the introduction of the 2006 contract. There’s a real risk that we might unpick the gains of the last 50 years if we take our eyes off the ball. Isn’t it time to put some serious money into preventive care?”

In January 2019 Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock praised the firm after visiting a practice in Suffolk but was criticised because it charges more than NHS rates. Dentures cost £878 compared to £256.50 on the NHS. The chief executive Tom Riall said he was developing “an affordable range of private dentistry because so many practices are closed to NHS patients”. That’s what these Mysmile pods are shouting about. Fair play and good luck to him.

The Mysmile pod

Mysmile pods are for consultation, education and triage”

Andy White, Mydentist marketing manager

Author: Jonathan Fine