Today’s Special – Happy Patients, Happy Practice with Elaine Mo

Today we speak to a rising star who is applying experience as a restauranteur to a meteoric dentistry career.

Listen to guest Elaine Mo explain how, and you’ll see the concept isn’t as crazy as it sounds.

Elaine also tells us about her three-question approach to building patient relationships and how travel has helped expand her skill set, as well as her horizons.


What makes it different is asking the patient how they are, their family, making them feel at home and actually being a person rather than their dentist. – Elaine Mo

In this episode

05:11 – Building client relationships

10:27 – The three-question approach

15:37 – Cost transparency

19:45 – Patient satisfaction and staff morale

28:37 – Word of mouth stories 

30:46 – Elaine’s biggest clinical mistake

43:54 – Wisdom from Elaine’s mentors

50:28 – A clinical hack

54:34 – Advice to young dentists

About Elaine Mo

Elaine Mo graduated from Barts, London. She is a general practitioner and a member of the Joint Dental Faculties of Royal College of Surgeons, England. 

A firm believer in maintaining up-to-date knowledge, Elaine has continued developing her skills with advanced training in restorative aesthetic operative dentistry, endodontics and anterior alignment orthodontics. She has travelled extensively in pursuit of training.

Connect With Elaine Mo

Ridgway Dental

Smile Hub


Connect with Prav and Payman:


Prav on Instagram

Payman on Instagram



Payman: Hi, guys. Welcome to the podcast. Today’s guest was Elaine Mo, real rising star in dentistry. What she said to us about the way that she talks to patients and the way that she learned what she does, talks to people from when she was a kid working in her parents restaurant and then her love of football. And I think, you know, she’s going to be one of these people who we’re going to see more and more of going forward. What do you takeaway from it, Prav?

Prav: I think for me, it resonates with me growing up working in the shop, corner shop.

Payman: Yeah yeah I remember that, yeah.

Prav: Her communication skills, her chameleon-esque approach to communication certainly developed from that customer facing role as my own did. I think the big takeaway from this is that she is going to be a successful business woman. Watch this space, guys.

Payman: Yeah, whatever she does.

Prav: She’s got all the ingredients necessary to be super super successful in business. Enjoy.

Payman: Enjoy.

Elaine: My motto, to my nurses as well, is when patients get angry or kick off at you just smile. No one can shout at a smiling face.

Elaine: That’s it. You can’t. Even if they’re having a go at you just smile and no one can say anything. No one can be mean to a smiling face.

Speaker 4: This is Dental Leaders. The podcast where you get to go one-on-one with emerging leaders in dentistry.

Speaker 4: Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.

Payman: Elaine, thanks a lot for doing this.

Elaine: No problem.

Payman: The reason why you’re here is interesting, is it? I’ve always seen you at the mastication group thing.

Elaine: Yeah and the parties.

Payman: And the parties. And at the event and the courses.

Payman: I’ve always been impressed by you at such a young age knowing as much as you know about teeth and and I’m sure we’ll get into that, but you were bringing books for me for that dentist in Iraq. We had a little chat and I thought, “What an interesting person,” I thought, “Let’s have her on the show.”

Payman: I said to Prav, “I’ve got Elaine.”

Payman: He said, “Who’s Elaine?”

Prav: Yeah. I know who…

Elaine: This gal’s Chinese [inaudible]

Prav: I know the the name Elaine Mo because it pops up on Facebook and social media every now and then but other then that, I don’t know a lot about you. Obviously Payman said you’re a course-oholic.

Elaine: Kind of.

Prav: Let’s find out more about you.

Payman: Give us your back story. Where were you born?

Elaine: I was raised and born and bred in a little town northwest, outside of Liverpool. I call it the posh outskirts just to make me feel better. Not many people know it unless you’re a keen golfer but it’s a town called Birkdale and I lived right next to a golf course, grew up there. Born and bred there. I was there until university age, before I moved down to London, see the big wide world.

Payman: University was London, yeah?

Elaine: I went to Barts in 2007 and I was there until 2012. And then I tend to stay in London.

Payman: What kind of a school kid were you? A swatty school kid or not? Were you straight A’s student?

Elaine: I was.

Prav: Oh God.

Elaine: I was part of the little naughty one as well. The naughty straight A student.

Payman: Oh.

Elaine: To be fair, even in Liverpool. My brothers were the very stay at home ones and I was one who always wanted to go out.

Payman: I’m feeling a bit inferior now. Got this Oxford graduate on one side and this straight A student on the other.

Elaine: I’ve lost all that brain power now. I can’t even do basic maths anymore.

Payman: It’s an interesting question because my brother was a straight A student and he was great at school but not very good at the workplace. And I’m not saying that’s necessarily the case but–

Elaine: I think I got lucky in the sense that, I know I was a straight A, but I started working when I was 14, 15. So I used to help my parents out and by the time I was doing my GCSE’s and A Levels, I was actually on weekends minding the restaurant as well. So that my mom could take a random Saturday, Sunday off. So I did have quite a few years in working in restaurants and I think my mom wanted to push me out there. Because at the end of the day, speaking to people, she kind of realised that that was probably what’s more important. My brothers were too lazy, they couldn’t be bothered. She was thinking I’m the one whose thumb is easy to bend.

Elaine: That helped quite a lot actually.

Payman: I bet.

Prav: What do you think working in the restaurant taught you about dentistry and working with patients? What are the parallels there in terms of when you were fourteen you were there? I was brought up in a typical corner shop environment. I was serving customers from the ages ten to twelve. I was telling people they were too young to buy cigarettes and alcohol yet despite being eleven years old myself. And that taught me a lot about communicating with people of different backgrounds, ages, and everything and it’s become a good communicator.

Prav: Can you draw some parallels from what you learned growing up in the restaurant business industry, family business and how that’s helped you become a better dentist today?

Elaine: I think it’s definitely moulded, not particularity as a dentist but as a person in general. It’s all about service at a restaurant, it’s the same as a patient journey and at the end of the day, you are making customers feel special just as you make your patients feel special.

Elaine: For me, if I go in a restaurant, they can have the most amazing food. Just like a dentist can do the most amazing filling but at the end of the day, it’s a filling. The food is food and actually what moulds it is the experience itself. If you’ve had a bad experience coming in and your waitress isn’t addressing you and not there to serve you, then automatically you’re at a negative. It doesn’t matter how good the food is that you serve, it’s the customer service that’s lacking.

Prav: So true.

Elaine: And you know what? At the end of the day, for my patients it’s… there are a lot of dentists out there who, even though we’re at the same level, we can provide the same filling but what makes it different is, asking the patient how they are, their family, making them feel at home and actually being a person rather than your dentist and being someone that you can actually–

Payman: One big difference is, in a restaurant you can see the food, taste the food. Often the patient has no idea what’s going on in their own mouth.

Elaine: No.

Payman: So the communication service side of it is even more important than it is. Because you know my personal bug bearer is when you go to a restaurant, beautiful décor, excellent service, average food. That really really pisses me off. I’d rather it was good food and terrible service to tell you the truth. If I had to choose between those two but in dentistry, the patients got no idea what’s really going on in their mouth.

Elaine: They really don’t know. I think this is why photography… people say, “Take photos for you know, protect yourself against you getting sued.” Actually no, the most important thing is, for me, is patient education. Because for me, if you take pictures of different steps, show them exactly what you’re doing, even if it’s not the proudest filing you’ve done, you’re willing to show the patient which to them means, “Oh wow if she’s taking pictures then it must be good enough to show people which means that it must be at a certain level.”

Elaine: There’s nothing to hide and patients don’t know what they’re looking at but they pretend they do and you show them.

Prav: So what’s your philosophy like? If I was to come for a consultation with you… I think I sat in 100 plus consultations with dentist. Just observing, advising, and all the rest of it. Everyone’s different so if I was to come in and have a consultation with you, what would that experience be? If you could just talk me through start to finish.

Elaine: I’ve got a whole half day lecture on this if you want.

Payman: Have you?

Elaine: Yeah.

Prav: Wow.

Elaine: I worked on patient experience quite a bit and developed a protocol over 24 months of trying to kind of work what works in my hands and being systematic and doing the same thing over for different patients yet tailoring it to them. And went in my latest practise… One of my principals sat me down and was like, “Do you want to do a half day in my course? Because actually, we can teach the clinical side but we need people to actually take up that treatment.”

Elaine: So what I think nowadays people lack is the communication and the soft skill side because we can do courses on every single clinical part but what’s the point if you can’t get that procedure in your chair? And so for me, my focus is a lot on actually educating the patient so that they understand what we’re looking for. I can tell you you need a filling, I can tell you you need a cleaning but why? Is that important to you? And I think it’s important for the patient to realise why we’re doing it rather than what they need to be done. Because people want to know, “How will it affect me?” And it’s all about what will happen to me–

Payman: So when you sat in those consults…

Prav: Sure.

Payman: Go on, if you have to break them, some of the more–

Prav: Yeah so if you need to break them down, certainly I see a group of dentist who first of all, are not natural people people, right? So sometimes you walk in, you have a conversation with someone, “Hey how’s it going, how are you, all right…” And sometimes they’ve been taught by various individuals and you can see they come in and go, “So, how did you get here today? Have you got a day off work? What do you do for a living?” It’s almost like they’re going through a robotic system rather than them know how to just converse with people in general. If you were at a bar or you’re out and about, it’s the same situation.

Prav: I think what you touched upon then which was informing the patients, understanding them and getting the reason actually what’s in it for you rather than what’s in it for me as in the dentist. And a lot of people miss that. They talk too technical and so you end up in a situation where either, they’re talking technical and the patient hasn’t got a clue what’s going on or when the patient’s telling their story, they just miss key elements of the patient, maybe talking about this missing tooth and stuff and they’ll say, “Yeah but I haven’t been a dentist for fifteen years, I’m really nervous by the way.” And then the dentist just goes in, “Okay so for that missing tooth you’ve got a couple of options. You got bridge, you got implants.” So on and so forth.

Payman: The nuances.

Prav: You have just missed the most fundamental point of this consultation. I’d like to learn a little bit more about your system. Even if you could just give me like the top five things that you sort of systematically go through.

Elaine: Absolutely. The first thing is if you were a new patient is actually, for me, I think the importance is that the dentist greeting that patient outside the surgery.

Payman: Agreed.

Elaine: Because at the end of the day, you’re out of the clinical zone and also you’re actually interested in the patient and the patient feels special because, “Oh the dentist has come to get me not the nurse.”

Prav: Great advice. Brilliant.

Elaine: The other one is a three question rule. So on the way to the surgery, ask three questions which are nothing to do with teeth. “How was your day been so far? Did you find us okay? How did you come in contact with us, how did you know about us?” Any three questions. If they got their shopping, “Where have you been shopping?” Anywhere. Just to give ideas. Three nonclinical questions. That breaks the ice.

Prav: Of course. Great advice.

Elaine: When the patient comes in normally, make them feel comfortable, pop their jacket up and actually before you do anything is explain what you’re actually going to do. And the patient, “No I’m here for a checkup.”

Elaine: By the way, I hate the work checkup. Because for me it insinuates something that’s fast and is just a once over. It’s not thorough enough.

Prav: Sure. So what do you use?

Elaine: I use different words depending where I’m at, an examination, a comprehensive assessment, total oral health screen, these are words that I use. Because I feel like it’s kind of giving a full thorough check and you know what? Explain what you’re going to do. I explain what that involves and that it may involve x-rays and pictures. And then I tell them when I get to the end of it, we’ll get the pictures up in x-rays and I’ll go through it all together with you.

Elaine: That kind of shuts the patient up while you’re doing your thing so they don’t stop you. And actually when you do things systematically, in a way that you do it day in and day out, and I’ve done these exams hundreds and hundreds of times and I’m doing it in the same order, in a way that they can understand and show them with pictures, you find that your treatment uptake is massive.

Elaine: I think another tip is at the end of everything is, “Have you understood everything that I’ve said or have I confused you?” Patients naturally like to be involved.

Prav: You actually ask that question, “Or have I confused you?”

Elaine: Yeah all the time at the end.

Prav: Brilliant.

Payman: That’s a good call.

Elaine: At the end. Every time. And they’re like, “No no it’s been very thorough.”

Elaine: But you know what, when you get to do this, and on the part of the course that I teach, it doesn’t take long. My new patient exams are 40 to 45 minutes. My routine 20 to 30, dependent on how stable they are. And the thing is, it doesn’t take long but you’ve covered all the aspects that you need to and the way that my templates are set out is the order that I’ve done it so my nurses know my checkup, our examinations. They just know what I’m going to say.

Payman: What’s the key difference between your new patient… I’m not talking about from the clinical perspective, from the communication perspective.

Elaine: It’s learning who they are, what they’re interested in and knowing your patient. Routine patients, I quite often have a pop up note, which I love and nurses are like, “What the hell are you doing?” Like it says, “Is a Liverpool fan, has a dog called Freddy.” Things like this. Before they come in, I can ask them and they’ll automatically they can feel, “You remember me from last time. You know that I’m a golfer. How do you still remember that?” I cheat.

Prav: Makes them feel special right?

Elaine: It’s a cheat. But with the new patients you kind of have to find that to put something on a pop up note.

Payman: You have to accelerate that sort of, rapport isn’t it? With them.

Elaine: Absolutely. And the thing is a lot of them will be through word of mouth and there are social media aspects that I do do occasionally but I’m not one that pushes it. For me, I don’t have time to do a post every single hour and talk to patients. So a lot of it is through word of mouth.

Payman: Actual word of mouth.

Elaine: Yeah from patients.

Payman: Old school word of mouth.

Elaine: Old school. But there the best though. And when you’ve got that, it’s a massive positive because automatically you’re in the good book straightaway so you just have to maintain that.

Prav: Do you know I think one of the biggest problems that dentist struggle with is talking about money. Some people are really comfortable with it, some people are not. You’ve run a half day course. Can you just give us a few little gems in terms of how to become more comfortable just talking about money and being comfortable presenting your value to the patient?

Elaine: For me, I’ve established with the patient what is going on and what they need in order to have a healthy mouth or whatever they want to achieve. Once they realise, “Actually that is what I need,” or “That is what I want.” Then you go on to fees and cost.

Elaine: I think at the end of the day, I think dentist do devalue themselves and I think it’s not helped by the National Health Service because everything that’s come down. For me, when my family abroad… I don’t think people in this country realise how lucky they are. Anywhere abroad, the fees are much higher.

Prav: Off the scale.

Elaine: Yeah. But people pay. I think dentist just have to value themselves in the sense that, they are paying for courses. They need to recoup that and actually you’re not just providing a filling, you’re providing that how many hours and years of knowledge that you have as well to do that.

Elaine: For me, once the patient has established why they need something done or why they want something done, then you go into fee scale and explain what it involves.

Elaine: A lot of the patients that I see may not have come into private practise where I, well I’m fully private, but they may have been seen at National Health Service in the past so quite often you have to explain what it involves, whatever filling it involves, how long it will be. Naturally I do get quite a few people going, “Oh an hour for a filling?” But actually if you show them pictures and say, “There’s two types of fillings, I could just blob it in.” Or “I could make it really look natural and beautiful, it’s entirely up to you but for me, I want to give you the best care that I can provide which is the natural beautiful look and I’m not happy settling on anything less”

Elaine: For me, all I’m going to provide is option B. I’m not going to give you option A because I don’t believe in option A.

Prav: Got yeah.

Elaine: And then the patients actually will have trust in you because you’ve got confidence in yourself. I think you have to believe yourself and be able to sell it. There’s no point selling something that you don’t believe it.

Payman: Of course.

Prav: And they can see that right? They can see it a mile away. If you’re nervous when you’re talking about money, you’re hesitating or whatever, they can see that a mile away.

Elaine: I learned in that past that when you do cases, just a say number and do not give any expression. Just look at the patient in the face and see what their reaction is. And if you give them five, ten seconds, you’ll be surprised how many people just go, “Oh okay.” And they don’t react. I think dentists make it a big deal because they’re scared in themselves and body language is a huge thing.

Payman: You’ll obviously quite naturally talking about money and not worried about it. And I see what you’re saying, Prav, that you got to believe in the treatment you’re offering but there are some people who fully believe in what they’re offering and yet when it comes to the money conversation, seize up.

Prav: Totally.

Payman: Is it teachable or not? I know Ashley Ladds has a whole big thing about teaching people to talk about this but is it… Have you noticed that it’s teachable?

Prav: I think I’ve seen dentists who have been on a journey with me for like ten, eleven years, and they’ve gone from a point where they go in and they’re so robotic to becoming more and more comfortable. I truly believe that some people, you’ve either got or you’ve not. I really do. But I also believe it is teachable and coachable but you’re not going to convert somebody who is square, straight, clinical, into an overnight Elaine Mo, Kailif Solanki. Do you see what I mean? Someone who’s just got that natural flair and does it effortlessly without training, right? How much training have you had talking about money?

Payman: Years of it in the restaurant.

Elaine: Years of restaurant and that’s about it.

Elaine: The thing is, if there’s a will to do it, I think it can be taught. And the thing is, for me, I think personal development is a huge thing which is so understated in anything. And I think dentist are the worst because we’re already bad a business because all we know is how to do protocols and go step one, two, three, four, without thinking outside the box essentially. I think personal development is one of those things because we’re so worried about what others think and treating our patients and what patients think that actually we forget about ourselves.

Elaine: By developing yourself and your confidence, you don’t realise that that will exude with whatever you do.

Prav: Totally. And I think the point I was trying to make, it takes time. You can’t just overnight become someone who’s naturally like you, who’s got that gift right? It takes a long time to develop those skills and that personal development, that perseverance, going on those courses, practising , is what’s going to get you to that position where you are comfortable doing things that you’re uncomfortable with.

Prav: I do think that having the restaurant background… you know when I talked to you earlier about what are the parallels you’ve learned, I’m sure there’s tonnes there that is just by osmosis, creates the person you are today.

Elaine: It’s not even just the whole customer patient journey. It’s learning to work with your staff and actually treating them with respect because when you have staff who are working in a happy place, they will bend over backwards and do favours and you will do that for each other. Automatically everyone’s enjoying the vibe already. If there’s tension, people notice it from a mile away.

Elaine: So just as you would work with the staff waitresses to get over a busy night, just as your nurses and your receptionist’s is just as important. If you are working and you have the same mentality, it’s fantastic because patients will see that and they see the friendly nature and it’s always happy.

Payman: Prav always jokes about this office, he always says “You have this place like a youth hostel.” Doesn’t look like they do much work here. But there is an element of it… You know I don’t run my team like an army like you run your team, I’m sure. There is a big element of that but there is another element of it which is to speak to Elaine’s point. I want the people to be super happy when they pick up that phone when a customer of ours calls. And they got to be happy before the phone rings so that they are happy when the phone does ring.

Prav: I truly believe that whichever team members you’ve got, that they need to be spending 80% of their day in their zone of genius. My zone of genius is strategy, coming up with ideas and planning campaigns.

Payman: Where you feel most in the zone.

Prav: My unique ability, right? Where I feel like, “I am in my zone.” My zone of genius is not implement and executing, writing content. That’s not my zone of genius. I hate doing that. So the idea is that I want my stuff that I’m not great at, for it to be someone else’s inspirational motivational unique ability zone of genius. And I believe that that’s the key to them being happy in the workplace. Meeting their needs really. I think what you said there is something that most dentist don’t even think about. We all focus on keeping our patients happy but what about the support team?

Elaine: It’s one of the most important things and you know what? It just takes one little bit of tension in the team just to ruin everything.

Payman: Ruin the vibe.

Elaine: Absolutely. Because then it affects patients, staff for the whole rest of the day even this one little thing. So I think keeping moral up, keeping the team happy and actually being chilled out and friendly with them, it makes the whole practise nonclinical and automatically it becomes a friendly approachable practise. For me, I couldn’t be anywhere without the team that we currently have in all the different sites that I work at. I think I’ve got a fantastic team right now but that’s also credit to the principals and managers who actually maintain it. And you know what? Sometimes they do deserve to be spoiled. Sometimes I will bring in gifts for everyone and everything but that’s just all a matter of being–

Payman: I think it’s even more nuanced than that, isn’t it? I haven’t practised for a while now but when I did, the number of nurses that said to me, “You’re the first dentist ever to make me a coffee.” I couldn’t believe that. The number of people who said to me, “You’re the only one who says ‘Thank you’ at the end of the day.” Couldn’t believe it. I mean it was a few years ago, I think things must have got a bit better by now.

Elaine: But you know what, it’s the appreciation and it’s the actual… I know that a lot of people might secretly appreciate it but nurses and staff, they probably don’t know that you’re thinking that. They’re not mind readers. Sometimes they just need that little bit just to… For you to acknowledge them. And at the end of the day, it’s a bit like your patients, how good do you feel when the patients acknowledged your hard work. You probably get that one out of fifteen, twenty patients, who turn around and go, “Really, thank you for that.” Or take the time to write a review. How good does that make you feel?

Elaine: So why are we not pushing that onto our staff members as well.

Prav: Great advice.

Payman: What’s your working arrangement right now? Which practises are you in right now?

Elaine: So I’m in multiple private practise sites so I spend part of my time in the private practise in Wimbledon where we are a specialist practise and we’ve got a great team of principales there. It’s pretty much general dentistry.

Elaine: I work part time–

Payman: What’s the name of that practise?

Elaine: That’s Ridgeway Dental.

Payman: Ridgwaty Dental.

Elaine: Yep. I work in for Smile Hub who are a little mini independent in corporate. We basically base ourselves on sites in law firms and banks. My particularly site is in a Magic Circle law firm. I know people are like, “What the hell are you doing?”

Payman: Every single patient’s a lawyer.

Elaine: Pretty much yeah.

Prav: Wow.

Payman: Which by the way, I find… I was near lawyers too. They’re great patients.

Elaine: Absolutely fantastic. You know what? When you build up that rapport, they are fantastic patients because they’re really highly educated and they really understand everything you say.

Payman: And the last thing they’re going to do is sue you actually. As it happens, interestingly.

Elaine: It’s actually probably one of the least stressful job I have. But they–

Payman: And can someone walk in off the street into that building or that’s purely for the employees?

Elaine: No so it’s just employees only.

Payman: And what are the perks… So they’ve got dentists, what else do that have in their lovely offices?

Elaine: They have physios, they have the High Street doctors, they’ve got a gym, they’ve got their sleeping pods, they’ve got onsite canteens.

Payman: Sleeping pods?

Elaine: Yeah, they have. Apparently full.

Prav: Wow.

Payman: Have you used them?

Elaine: No because apparently they’re always fully booked up. I’m a bit like, “What is going on?”

Payman: I’m going to have to put sleeping pods in the new office.

Elaine: I know. New idea.

Payman: What do they look like? Have you seen them? Do they take a lot of space?

Elaine: No they’re just like little individual rooms.

Payman: Oh actual rooms. Actual rooms.

Elaine: Yeah actual mini ones.

Payman: But there are such things as pods.

Prav: I’ve seen some of them. Yeah like curved and yeah.

Payman: Yeah. I’m going to get pods, man.

Elaine: They have everything, there’ve got their own little newsagents-

Payman: How’s the food?

Elaine: Amazing.

Payman: Is it?

Elaine: Yeah.

Payman: Amazing like, you know your food.

Elaine: I do. There is like–

Payman: It’s free?

Elaine: It’s heavily subsidised so yep it’s very cheap. You go in and there must be a company of about 50 to 70 chefs or kitchen members.

Payman: 50 kitchen members?

Prav: What the?

Payman: How many employees are there in the building?

Elaine: About 3000.

Payman: Whoa.

Elaine: 3000 staff members. So inside they have different sections as well in this canteen so they’ve got their own oven pizza, they’ve got the Nando’s grill, they’ve got salad, everything you could imagine and on Thursday nights it turns into a bar. Music…

Payman: It’s making our office ping pong table seem a bit crap.

Payman: But I guess the point is they want the staff to be even more comfortable there than they are at home, to stay longer. Is that the point?

Elaine: For them, an hour is a lot of money to them so if you imagine a dental appointment even if it’s for a routine examination, that’s half a day gone if they’re probably going home, making that appointment, coming back. Whereas they could just go downstairs. It’s actually quite funny because we charge for any missed appointments because they really have no excuse, being upstairs.

Payman: Yeah.

Elaine: And usually it’s because a client has contacted them for a last minute meeting so we’ve had cases where quite a lot of them invoice their clients for missing their dental appointment and passed the FTA charges on.

Elaine: It makes me laugh.

Payman: Lawyers, man.

Elaine: I was like, “If only we could do that.”

Payman: Yeah

Prav: If only.

Payman: You should charge then the FTA fee at their own hourly rate.

Elaine: It’s funny because–

Payman: Do you get the big wigs as well, the partners and that sort? You must do, right?

Elaine: Yeah they are my favourites. They are, I think, they’re just so chilled out. They’re just less stressed but the partners are some of my favourite people to treat. There’s quite a lot of them and they are all so lovely. It’s really funny, having treated them for a few years now, I think we could learn a lot from them because, it’s funny, I’ve had great patients who I loved seeing and you know, you see them at canteen and they’ll come up and give you a hug, say “Hi.” Sometimes I’ll see them and do them a little favour, you know just say, “Yeah that’s fine, we’ll sort it out next time.” It’s amazing, there’s actually a few that turn around and go, “I don’t expect you to do that for free. You should be charging me.” Why don’t we do that as dentists? As dentists it’s like, “That is so weird.”

Elaine: But I think for lawyers, they understand because they’re charging per hour and you think you’re doing them an actual favour because you think, “If I charge them for this temporary they’re coming back for something, they might find it a bit iffy.” Yet these are the guys who turn around and go, “Why did you do that for free?”

Prav: They expect to pay, right?

Elaine: Exactly.

Prav: Wow.

Payman: And word of mouth in a building where everyone’s working, it must be on fire. Actually my wife works in a similar situation.

Elaine: It’s hit an miss. You just have to make sure you’re doing really well.

Payman: Yeah you’re right, bad word of mouth. Go on, give us a bad word of mouth story. Go on.

Elaine: Well usually the bad word of mouth stories are the patient’s that you really don’t want to treat anyway. Usually there are cases where I’ve learned to say no. I can’t meet these expectations, certain times where I’ve found patient’s just automatically you can not get on with everyone. No matter how friendly you are, you can not get on with everyone. Some people you just naturally feel that afinity to, some people you don’t. And actually if you say, “No I’m not going to do this.” You have to do what you believe in because the worst thing that you could do is be pushed by a patient to do something you don’t want to do.

Payman: But then because it’s an office, did that bad feeling spread beyond that?

Elaine: Not that I know of but this is more outside of the office. I never had it in the law firm. It’s other places where you kind of know they’ve seen other dentist quite a few times before, they’ve just kind of said a lot of negative words. It’s the last thing you want. And when you decline to treat, they get a bit touchy, don’t they?

Payman: Sure. On the opposite side of it, you were telling you did Invisalign on one person in the office and then every single person in the office–

Elaine: Yeah it was insane. So we as a thank you, sometimes give a ten pound voucher for referral. They don’t always know about it, we just send it out randomly and there was one girl who I did Invisalign on, next minute she sends a friend who sends another friend. And then after about five patients, I get the sixth one in. I’m like, “Oh are you guys all that same too because I see that you’re referrals are all within the same ring.” And they’re like, “Oh yeah we all sit at the same desk. There’s only one person who hasn’t got your Invisalign on at the moment at my desk.” And I’m like, “What are they doing? Get them in now.”

Elaine: But it’s quite funny because yeah, it’s hit or miss. A lot of the time, these patients are young, they’re usually at the firm for couple of years, few years and then they leave. Most of the time they’re actually quite stable and it’s more the cosmetic treatment that they want which is what’s common now.

Prav: What’s the biggest clinical mistake you’ve ever made and what did you learn from it?

Payman: Ooh.

Elaine: There’s been quite a few. I think everyone would be lying if we said that we didn’t make mistakes. You know what? I’ve got to put my hand up and say, “You know, a few years ago I may have drilled the wrong tooth.” But you know what? Explain to the patient and if you got that good rapport–

Payman: Was it a left and right issue?

Elaine: Yes it was because the x-ray was flipped wrong and I just didn’t check and that was my fault. But this comes back to how you and your patient get on. Put your hand up and, “I’m so sorry, this is what’s happened. I take full responsibility.” But the thing is, if patient’s like you and you treated them with respect in the past and honesty, it doesn’t go anywhere.

Payman: So what happened, they just let it go?

Elaine: They were like, “Oh yeah, don’t worry about it. Things happen.”

Payman: How much had you drilled before you realised?

Elaine: It was literally not much. I was like, “Where is it?”

Payman: Oh so let me tell you my little story then. Because same thing, back then the x-rays were marked left and right by the nurse. The patient had no fillings at all so it was an OPG and there it was, left and right. It was a seven. I started drilling and I couldn’t find any cavities. I actually stopped and said to the patient, “It’s interesting, it’s such a big hole in the x-ray but I’m not getting to it.” So I went a bit further. New patient it was as well, that was the problem. And then realised at that point. And she was upset. I put my hands up and said exactly what had happened, she was upset. I think she had a payout by my defence organisation I think it was 2000 pounds, back then. Today it would probably be a million.

Elaine: It’s interesting because I’ve got a colleague who again, I teach with, and he’s put his hand up and said, “You know what, I’ve been known to do endo on the wrong tooth.” But the thing that saves you is how you’ve treated that patient in the past, isn’t that right?

Prav: The relationship, yeah.

Elaine: If someone did the mistake for me, if I really liked them, I still wouldn’t sue them. I wouldn’t.

Payman: No me either.

Elaine: And the thing is, when that happens you’ve got this break down of this relationship of someone who you’ve trusted and you just don’t. You’d just rather not because, you just don’t sue people that you like. It just doesn’t work.

Prav: I think there’s lots of people out there who’ve done exactly the same thing and I think it’s very honest of you just to put your hand up and say, “Do you know what, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t done that and this is what I’ve done.” Can you just cast me back to that moment when it happened.

Elaine: Panic.

Prav: How you felt and what your thought process was. I think there’s people out there listening who are either currently in that situation or are going to be in that situation at sometime and if you could just coach someone through.

Elaine: I mean, panic does set in.

Prav: Okay.

Elaine: This is when you look at your nurse and you think, “Jesus.” The nurse is like, “What’s wrong?” And then it’s like a little nudge on the side and you’re like, “Well.” But then at the end of the day, you have to repair, fill it back up and actually say to the patient, “I’ve drilled into this tooth and I can’t see what it is and I’ve just realised what the mistake is. I’m really sorry, didn’t check this fully beforehand.”

Elaine: You know what? Honesty is actually the best policy. If you try to hide that, you will dig yourselves in a well and you can not get out of that.

Payman: You’re in a much bigger hole.

Prav: Much bigger.

Elaine: Much bigger hole. That trust that that patient has is gone because you’ve lied to them. If you’re honest with them, that trust is maintained and shows your integrity. You will get the odd patients who will try and milk that but a lot of people out there are actually nice people. They’re not out there to get you.

Payman: I don’t want to get on a pedestal, you know my high horse or anything but at the end of the day, if we’re saying we’re professionals, that is the moment professionalism comes in.

Elaine: Absolutely. And it’s your duty to explain and tell them. I’ve known people in the past, fantastic physicians, people on top of their game and it’s like, “I’ve endoed the wrong tooth, I’ve taken out the wrong tooth.” How did you manage it? And if those who have done it in a similar way of honesty, a lot of the time it doesn’t go anywhere.

Payman: Yeah.

Elaine: The problem is now is people get panicky too easily and the main thing is just to stay calm and don’t get flustered because when you get flustered, you make the patient feel like it’s a bigger deal than it is. If you’re able to stay calm and go, “You know what, this does happen. I’m really sorry it happened to you. It’s not common, it’s just a mistake.” It’s very calm.

Payman: It’s interesting how quickly you came up… because me and Prav were talking about that Black Box Thinking, do you know about that?

Elaine: Yes.

Payman: Yeah so we were talking about that.

Elaine: The book?. Is it Matt Syed?

Prav: Yeah.

Elaine: That one, yeah.

Payman: So we were saying… For anyone who doesn’t know about it, is when a plane crashes they look at the black box. And then they don’t blame anyone, they try to learn from the crash and make everyone understand what the learning outcomes are. But in medicine it’s always a big cover up and no one’s taking the blame. Blame is actually the problem.

Payman: So we said, me and Prav said… I was telling him about my incident, my left and right incident and I was telling him every dentist has got one or two like that.

Elaine: They’ve be lying if they didn’t.

Payman: But what a great learning resource because for me, it was always check the left and right are correct, the nurses marked it correctly. If we could get all of those out to every… you know if everyone in this room said, “Here’s my black box story.” But when we thought about it, we said, “It’s never going to happen.” Without it being anonymous, no one will say it.

Payman: It’s so interesting that you just said it nice and easy.

Elaine: It’s interesting because I think the good… I actually got a thank you from that patient as well, bizarrely. After that happened I was a bit like, “Oh my God, what do I do?” So I addressed it at a practise meeting because we go though mishaps and how we can change it. So then we ended up saying, “Actually no, dentist’s will check all the x-rays. Nurses won’t upload them. Dentists will save them to make sure.

Payman: You actually did the black box.

Prav: That’s great.

Payman: I love it.

Elaine: I actually sent an email back to the patient and go, “So I’m really sorry that happened. To ensure that, I’ve actually taken to minimise it and this is how we done.” And so I sent a thank you email. I said, “Thank you for helping us to improve what we can and for helping to prevent this happening again.” And the patient got a thank you. So they felt that they had done something. So if in doubt, if anything bad happens, thank the patient afterwards for doing something that will prevent it happening to other people because they feel like they did something positive.

Elaine: Because I would feel great. It’s like that little charity thing as well. You feel good for doing something positive and the patient feels special and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

Prav: Elaine, I’ve been sat here speaking to you with Pay for about 35, 40 minuets and it’s so so clear to me that you have business, entrepreneurship, coursing through your blood. The way you deal with mistakes, the way you then go in and systemize it, the way you systemized your consultations, and the fact that you were born and brought up in a restaurant environment. Do you have any plans in the future of opening your own practise or has that ever crossed your mind?

Elaine: I don’t know. It always was at the very start.

Payman: Of course it has. Are you mad? Of course it has.

Elaine: It always was at the very start and as I’ve worked in dentistry, my mind always changes. I think being down south, yes there’s a lot of competition at the end of the day, down south. The problem that I have with ownership now is seeing these rules and regulations because I know that no matter how not involved you are, you’re always going to in involved. Those weekends will be gone. It’s the clinical issue. It’s not the running business issue. It’s the staffing issue.

Elaine: And this is what I’ve seen with my parents growing up. The biggest headache is actually managing the staff. Because once someone’s ill it’s like-

Prav: It’s always something, right?

Payman: Aren’t you saying she’s the kind of person who would thrive on that pressure?

Prav: Yeah and look, thousands of dentists I’ve met over the last eleven years, right? It’s clear to me that you’re unique, different, special, call it whatever you want, right? You have definitely got that.

Payman: Is it?

Prav: For sure.

Payman: I like that.

Elaine: Means a lot coming from you.

Prav: You’ve definitely got that… call it super power, call it whatever you want, right? It’s clear you’re a people person, you’re very easy to chat to, you’ll make any patient feel instantly comfortable like that. You just described a mistake, a clinical mistake that you made and you turned that into a protocol. No dentist your age does that. No dentist that I work with in a business does that currently but you think differently. You’ve been brought up in a similar environment to me. Okay you’re in a restaurant, me in a corner shop, taxes, this that and the other. But business was coursing through our blood.

Prav: I was destined to be involved in business. I look at you and I think you are a thriving, successful future business woman. Without question.

Elaine: Growing up where, yes I grew up where both my parents were in business and whether it’s through restaurants or my dad delved when I was young into property in China and had his own successful little empire there as well. It has always been part of my life. At the end of the day, my parents have always been their own boss. At a young age when I was thrown into that kind of atmosphere, it was weird because I was sixteen, seventeen and I was paying the wages on weekends because my mom had the day off. If any complaints came my way, I had to deal with it when I was sixteen.

Elaine: When you’re forced to do that at a young age, it really doesn’t embed it into you. I think now when I look back, one of the biggest impacts on my life is probably my schooling as well. Where I think back then it was like, “School is so annoying.” They expect me to stay behind doing this and that. Now when I look back, I’m so grateful I went to a fantastic school where they push you to go further.

Elaine: It’s interesting, I sat down with a few of my friends the other day and we said that we could actually see from mile away the people who came out from that school, the majority of them are pushed to go further. It’s not that you’re doing it really really well, that’s not the end of it. There’s always that next step. They’re very much into people skills.

Elaine: I remember when we used to be… when we were in A Levels, we’re meant to have a lot of free time. They forced us every week to do some form of community service. I did mine first Stroke Association, dealing with stroke patients and helping them recover every single week. We never actually got time off. My second year was actually going back to my own primary school and teaching kids. Things like this you take for granted and then you realise when you look back on it, actually it’s fantastic.

Payman: Pick up the school. Yeah. What was the name of the school?

Elaine: I went to Merchant Taylors. It was a private school in Liverpool. They have a branch in London as well. Very good school. And you know what? I think that is the difference in schooling. Is actually, it’s not the education side of it.

Payman: All the things around.

Elaine: It’s actually everything around and moulding you as a person. And the maturity that you get from it, is what pushes you further. I think everyone was in a similar… where parents were doing quite well in business and everyone was in a similar vibe. Growing up with the same kind of people around you–

Payman: So to Prav’s point, how come you not saying I want to open a chain of dental practises? By the way, you don’t always just because your parents are that way, a lot of people go the exact opposite of what their parents do. I do. I think you see the world through the lens of, if you can be an entrepreneur, why wouldn’t you?

Prav: Of course.

Payman: But lot’s of people don’t want–

Prav: Don’t want to do that, right? Yeah no I see that but I also see something in your personality and in you that makes you naturally gifted that way.

Elaine: For me I think in my mind, there’s is that leadership thing that I always want to pick up on. And I guess part of me is, I’m heavily involved at the moment with Dentinal Tubles as Payman knows. And since I’ve been involved with that, I think I’ve kind of taken over the Central London group. And that at the moment, gives me my fulfilment of the whole leadership and mentorship role.

Elaine: It’s nice because when I was in this rut of, “Where am I going to be working full time?” Getting out of NHS, I was around eight practises in one year. Every single time I joined, I was ready to hand in my notice because it was just nothing as promised. And it’s London. You pick up the first private role that’s going but then you realise it’s never probably as green as you thought it would be.

Elaine: I knew what I wanted to do and what type of dentistry I wanted to do and I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. So I kept on going and finding until I found jobs that I’m really really happy at. And they push me as well to do further. And that’s what I wanted. I think it’s about perseverance as well. It’s really easy just to give up.

Elaine: At this time I was lucky. I met some good mentors, some really good clinician around me. Took up every one of their knowledges and took my opportunities.

Payman: Who are you clinical mentors?

Elaine: So when I was… after VT I had quite a few mentors. I had Fazeela who’s helping me with implant surgery work. I had Richard Porter who helped me with restorative and endodontics. I met so many people, I really can’t–

Payman: Fazeela Osbourne

Elaine: Yeah I really can’t name everyone. And then I met Drew through Tubles and you know what? They gave that bit of confidence you just need when you just feel a bit deflated. And gave me that confidence back because I lost it in that one year as I said like, “What am I doing, I don’t know where I’m going now.” Like this is not what I expected.

Elaine: It’s lovely to be able to give it back because currently, I get messages from younger dentists and I don’t know why but I was quite happy approaching older dentist and people that I knew because I knew they wouldn’t judge me. But I think younger dentist really struggle with that right now.

Payman: Some do.

Elaine: They do struggle to speak to older dentists, they’re principals and everything and they would rather speak to someone younger. I do get the messages through from What’s Up, from random people. It’s really nice to be able to give back.

Payman: What are you, 28, 29 now?

Elaine: Just hit 30.

Prav: Little puppy.

Payman: It’s a funny age actually. I started in Enlighten at 28, I remember. It’s a funny age because your kind of not young anymore and you’re not old yet and it’s an interesting time to actually do something significant.

Payman: I’m finding myself kind of agreeing with you because what I knew about Elaine was… not that I sat there looking at your dentistry but she does know her stuff dentistry wise for someone her age definitely. That’s what I’ve gathered by looking at her in some of these courses. And now seeing the business side, he’s kind of right. You should start a little empire.

Elaine: I know, one day.

Elaine: Part of it has always been in the back of my mind but it’s kind of like thinking, “Oh when is the right time to do it.” At the moment–

Payman: That is the right time, isn’t it?

Elaine: No it’s never, I know.

Payman: It’s one of those things you got to do, make a mistake-

Elaine: I think I’ve made enough mistakes now.

Prav: It’s so easy to talk yourself out of it as well.

Elaine: It is.

Prav: You go through that whole situation of imposter syndrome, whats if this happens, what this, what that?

Payman: But wait a minute, there’s a new breed of super associates. We should talk about that a little bit. People who don’t want to be practitioners because they are so strong on social media, they have their own audience. They come with their own patients, negotiate super deals with the principals and never want to be a principal. I know a few people like that.

Elaine: I think sometimes if you’ve got the right associate job and you’ve got, everything’s green. It’s quite a relaxing place to go. You do your job and then go home.

Payman: I think with someone like you though, what you’ll find is you’re going to improve and improve and improve and you’ll get to point where you want to do something. I don’t know, clinically you want to do something because now you’ve improved the job hasn’t improved.

Elaine: In my head I still think, “You know what, I see a lot of these people on social media, a lot of them are my peers and a lot of them are all the same year as me. And for me it’s just like, “Oh my God, I feel like I’ve got so much more to give and so much more to improve on.” I haven’t reached my peak yet and I want to reach that peak before I’m–

Prav: The best is yet to come, right? And I can see that.

Elaine: I’m still hungry at this moment in time which is why I want to keep that momentum going and you know what? I’m just so happy that I’ve got very supportive practises that I’m at now who will give me a lot of freedom to do what I want and you know what? I’m getting referrals in and everything from dentists. A lot of other dentists, people that I studied with.

Payman: Really? For what?

Elaine: Treatment.

Payman: In what? What kind of treatment?

Elaine: Invisalign, and general exams because if they’re too far, they’re family members, whatever and you know what? I get people travelling from northwest to south London. I’ve got four at the moment from referrals from dentists from the past like six months. It’s really nice because I don’t feel like I have to push myself on social media like some of the others do because I feel like I could use that time doing so much more.

Prav: Old school networking right? You’re an old school people person.

Elaine: Yeah I know. You know what? Social media is fantastic but for me it’s not the same as sitting down, seeing someone and actually speaking to them.

Prav: No substitute.

Elaine: It’s not the same. Typing a few letters is not the same and that’s why I enjoy courses and getting out there. That’s why I enjoy Tubles, I’m meeting people face to face. It’s something that social media can not give you.

Payman: You’re not weak on social media though. You know what I mean?

Elaine: I still keep active every now and again

Payman: You’re not weak on it. I didn’t know you before I knew your persona on social media.

Elaine: But a lot of the social media that I do is not based–

Payman: It’s the food thing.

Elaine: Yeah there’s that as well.

Payman: That’s why I noticed you, the food thing.

Elaine: The thing is, a lot of these social media relationships that I have with colleagues and everything, it’s not just social media it stemmed from the fact that I actually met them in person. There are not many on my list that I haven’t actually met or spoken to before in person or the phone.

Prav: Real friends.

Elaine: So called. Or like on the phone. There’s either in person or on the phone and actually that’s what the difference is because if you have social media with lots of friends who you haven’t really met or know, there’s not that same relationship.

Payman: So we’ve got one other things we’re trying out. Is this notion of… tell me if you understand what I’m saying here, you can go to a course, right? And you can learn from a great teacher and why is it that that guy’s a great teacher because he’s got I don’t know, she’s got fifty amazing things, hacks, that they know, that they’re trying to teach. I see this all the time with teachers. I’ve got this other idea. Similar to the black box thing, is that every dentist has one or two personal hacks that is personal to them, that they discovered through dentistry, just doing the work. I think you’ve been qualified what six years you said?

Elaine: 2012. I left my VT 2012, 13.

Payman: Yeah so someone like you is so interesting, I’m sure… Can you think of something clinically, I’m talking about a clinical hack that Elaine herself has developed?

Elaine: God, you’re putting me on the spot now.

Payman: So for me, let me tell you–

Elaine: The thing is for me… it’s weird because for me these hacks, it’s not really a hack anymore. It just comes second nature so I don’t even know what is a hack or not anymore.

Payman: How interesting.

Elaine: For me, although I can get my clinical at work up, I like my focus to be on actually the patient and the actual care-

Payman: So the communication hack is really benefitting you, yeah?

Elaine: I think that that is more important than anything because I think the problem that we get now is there are so many clinical courses out there which people just dive on but how popular are these, you know communication and personal development courses. You don’t see people jumping on to them, like they do a little composite course.

Elaine: But the thing is, that’s where I think we need to change the mentality because at the end of the day if you screw up, that’s going to save you. If you can’t find patients, that’s what’s going to get people in your chair and everything stems from that.

Prav: I don’t think we’ve had much of a chance to find out who the real Elaine Mo is outside of dentistry so could–

Elaine: There’s not that much time left.

Payman: She’s all about the teeth.

Prav: You’re all about the teeth.

Payman: No because the Tubles takes time too.

Elaine: It does, it takes time but I put time aside because I work around… it works out to be four days a week so I still have a day for that.

Prav: What do you do for fun? Outside of work, dentistry, all the rest of it.

Elaine: I’m a big football fan. I think a lot of people know. I’m a massive Liverpool fan.

Prav: Right okay. So you go to the games and stuff?

Elaine: I do. It’s awesome. It’s from my dad. I think I’ve mentioned it earlier, I grew up in a town where all the footballs were around me and a lot of the older ones were family friends so I went to school with some of their kids and my parents were friends with them so I had no choice but to be a Red. But yeah, they take up half my time and winter. I love my football. I have a niece now, who keeps me busy as well so I spend a lot of weekends over there, babysitting. And I always try and find times for family, friends and going visiting, going you know, my own social life as well. Seeing these guys are parties, seeing them at the bar. I mean half the people I meet in dentistry are at the bar anyway.

Payman: We were worried about football because Anoop’s coming in later on.

Prav: We know nothing about football

Payman: We’re the opposite of the two heads are better than one podcast. Don’t know anything about football at all.

Prav: Seriously.

Elaine: So basically just tell him Liverpool are the best.

Prav: Literally, I jump in an Uber on my way from Euston Station to here. “Where you from mate?”

Prav: “Manchester.”

Prav: “Oh right, you a Red or a Blue?”

Prav: “Last time I looked in the mirror I was brown.”

Prav: I honestly know nothing about football.

Payman: It’s a bigger disgrace for you, coming from Manchester.

Prav: Even bigger disgrace.

Elaine: I know. From the north it’s a big thing.

Prav: Yeah. Huge.

Payman: In Liverpool I’ve have people ask me “Who do you support?” And I said,” Don’t like football.”

Elaine: And they’re like, “Do you live?”

Payman: Yeah I remember the guy looking at me in a way. He was thinking to himself, “Why’s this guys lying?” He couldn’t believe I wasn’t into football.

Elaine: Up north, especially Liverpool, Manchester it’s a big big thing.

Prav: Yeah I know.

Elaine: I don’t know what’s going on Prav.

Prav: I’m not considered a man if I’m not football smart.

Prav: Usually toward the end of these interviews we ask people a question about what legacy they’d like to leave but I think you’re a little bit too young for that.

Payman: Why? No.

Elaine: I like to think I’m a bit too young for that.

Prav: Yeah I was thinking more along the lines of… I know a few dentists who just recently are qualified and they’d love to be where you are at that stage in their career and if you could give them you’re top three tips to your younger you. What advice would you give them?

Elaine: Take very opportunity and meet as many people as you can. Although some people you might feel, “Oh no, they’re young or whatever.” No matter who you meet, you’ll learn something from them. And you’ll pick up something whether it’s clinical or from life, you’ll know something about them. Don’t give up. I know that there’s a lot of negativity and job issues and things that people have nowadays which we see but you know what? If it’s not right for you, leave. There’s always somewhere better. There’s plenty of places out there and perseverance is key. Three is believe in yourself and for me, personal development and developing yourself as a person is what will change everything.

Prav: I love that. Personal development is so huge to me that the last two years I’ve invested so much time and money into it. And I so believe in that.

Elaine: It’s so interesting because I don’t think people realise the importance of it and once you’ve got the knack of it, you realise actually it changes the clinical side. Even though you haven’t change anything clinically, it changes everything that you do and it will bring you so much more content and confidence in your life.

Payman: What’s your top tip in personal development, read books or booking a course?

Elaine: I’ve done books, courses, everything. And you know what? One you realise where you can improve on and once you realise… because everyone says dentistry is so isolating, it’s so negative and yeah it is but at the end of the day, you got to realise that dentistry is a great profession out there. There are a lot of people who are graduates now who can’t find a job. Where at least we’re petty much guaranteed a job no matter what. There are people struggling out there and dentistry is a fantastic place to be if you’re doing something that you’re actually enjoying. There’s no point doing dentistry if you’re not enjoying it and so what’s the point of carrying on. There’s got to be something that changes. If you don’t change it, you’re just going to burn out. You have to find out what you need to do, why you’re doing it in the first place, and then figure out from there.

Elaine: Personal development, I think, helps you to realise as a person where you can up your strength. What your strengths are, where your weaknesses are, and actually build on that because as a person, it increases your confidence and it makes you happier. Then you have an idea of what you want to do and more of an aim because some people, yeah working three days is the perfect limit for them because they’ve got other things. But if that’s what makes them happy then fine. And you can live of three days if you’re doing good dentistry.

Prav: Of course you can.

Payman: Have you ever worked in the UDA system as well?

Elaine: Yeah I did for a bit.

Payman: Was it soul destroying for someone like you?

Elaine: To be honest with you, I wasn’t in bad mixed practises but it was from really early on I knew it was something I wasn’t going to be happy with. I knew that it was never going to be something that I wanted to do which is why I invested in courses to get myself out of that and the earlier you can do that, the better. The earlier you upscale, the more time you have to build up on that and build up your strengths from the basics.

Payman: And so the first time you were in NHS situation and you went for a private job.

Elaine: Yeah. I didn’t stay in the NHS long to be fair with you. After VT I was only in for about a year and then I did a part time private. And I remember it was so difficult getting on because who’s going to hire someone straight out of VT?

Payman: Yeah how did you convince the guy?

Elaine: I commute to Peterborough part time. I did the commute two days a week. And I sacrificed. And it took a big pay cut because I was only seeing so many patients a day but it opened a new door to say I had the experience.

Prav: How long was the commute?

Payman: A hour and a bit isn’t it?

Elaine: Yeah. About an hour and a half at least because by the time you get on the train and everything.

Prav: And you commuted each day or stayed over?

Elaine: No each day.

Prav: Wow.

Elaine: I remember it was quite hefty train journey fee as well. But you know what? Although it was never the practise for me to stay at, I can’t really fault it because it gave me an opening.

Payman: Yeah I remember speaking to Mike Apa, he got into Larry Rosenthal’s practise by saying he’ll work for free for him. And now look at him.

Elaine: But you know what? There are a lot of different negative things that people say about practises but for me, although the negative practises I’ve been at, they’ve never lasted but I’ve always taken something away from it and at the end of the day, if you can spin anything into a positive, why not do that because you’re just going to make yourself happier. For me, my motto to my nurses as well is when patients get angry or kick off at you, just smile. No one can shout at a smiling face. That’s it. You can’t. Even if their having a go at you, just smile and no one can say anything. No one can be mean to a smiling face.

Prav: Yeah.

Payman: All right well, it’s been really really lovely conversation. Thanks so much for coming.

Elaine: Thank you. Absolute pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.

Prav: Thank you. There’s so much we haven’t covered so we’re definitely inviting you back. There’s going to be a part two for sure.

Payman: Maybe next time we invite her they’ll be a chain of dental practises.

Prav: Just one or two.

Elaine: Wouldn’t go that far.

Payman: Venture capital and all that…all right lovely. Thanks a lot for coming in.

Prav: Thank you.

Elaine: Thank you for having me.

Speaker 4: This is Dental Leaders. The podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.

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