Dr Balaji is the principal dentist and owner of The Gallery Dental and Implant Centre in Buckingham, and he has placed over 5,000 dental implants since he opened the practice in 2008. He is also the founder of ASHA (the Academy of Soft and Hard Tissue Augmentation), running courses and lectures across the UK and Europe.
How did your practice in Buckingham start?
When I started The Gallery in 2008, the building was a completely empty shell and we had to start from scratch to establish a dental practice. In year one, we had five employees and focused mainly on general dentistry.
However, my aim was to grow a practice and include teaching. I come from a small village in India where education is difficult to access and I have my parents to thank for where I am now, in a place where I’m able to share my knowledge and passion for education. I’m fortunate to have been able to travel the world and learn different skills from many different mentors, which has helped me to further develop my teaching and my practice.
What was it about implant dentistry that first ignited your passion?
All of my skills came together in implant dentistry. I had learned some basic surgical skills as an undergraduate and had enjoyed general dentistry but I wanted to concentrate on an aspect of dentistry that I really enjoyed. Implant dentistry is just that – it allows me to utilise my surgical skills and change patients’ smiles and their lives.
Can you explain a little about the implant procedures you undertake?
I place between 300 and 400 implants a year. I’m doing more and more complex cases as opposed to regular implant placement and I’m building a reputation as a clinician who can solve issues that arise when implants fail. I take referrals from other practices throughout the country as well as treating my own patients. Currently, 30% of my work is regular implant placement, and 70% is complex cases such as bone and soft tissue augmentation and rehabilitation.
Do you use any particular equipment for these cases?
When choosing equipment I look for three things. Firstly, of course the equipment needs to be reliable. In implant dentistry in particular you need to be confident that the equipment isn’t going to fail halfway through surgery. Secondly, it needs to be as comfortable as possible for the patient, by this I mean less noise and vibration – implant placement, particularly in complex cases, can be a lengthy procedure and keeping the patient comfortable and stable throughout makes the clinician’s work easier. The third thing is company support, which I value very highly. So, for all these reasons I use NSK.
I currently use the Surgic Pro and VarioSurg3. I started using the VarioSurg3 as I wanted to make sure I was getting 100% predictability. It’s very easy to use and makes the procedure more pleasant for the patient, and the success rate is amazing. My favourite procedure is a Sinus lift – the sinus is different for every patient and the VarioSurg3 Sinus lift tips help me to evaluate and take account of the differences in each case.
The VarioSurg3 and Surgic Pro can be linked using a simple cable. They sit on top of each other which keeps everything really compact and neat, makes life simpler and only requires one foot pedal. With everything in one place it really cuts down my surgical time and of course, time is money. A faster procedure also means reduced swelling and reduces the chance of post-operative complications, so in every sense, a more efficient procedure benefits everyone. The initial cost might be slightly more, but it’s way more efficient in the long run. NSK also gives me fantastic support, and they service my equipment regularly. I can really rely on them.
I also use the iSD900 Prosthodontic Screwdriver on almost every case. This is an amazing instrument because it gives you great accessibility, in particular in the posterior maxilla and mandible. Trying to screw in manually with your fingers is very difficult, but with this screwdriver you simply pop the screw in and it becomes a single unit. The torque calibration system means you can prevent over or under torquing. It’s a fantastic tool and again just makes life so much easier, it saves time and gives confidence, meaning I can put extra energy into achieving a good outcome for the patient.
How are you passing on your skills and expertise to other clinicians?
I’m the founder of ASHA, (the Academy of Soft and Hard Tissue Augmentation). We run courses and lectures on treating difficult implant cases but I believe in continuous education, so I continue to mentor my students after the course and hope I can help them to progress on their own pathway in implant dentistry. I’ve run some of my ASHA courses at NSK’s headquarters in Stevenage. This is a great facility and NSK has been incredibly supportive, providing all the kit and equipment necessary for me to run the courses.
You’ve had a very successful journey so far, what’s next for your practice and training courses?
My aim is to raise the bar of implant dentistry through my practice and my education courses. I want the UK to be proud of its implant dentistry and make it is as good as every other country in the world. I’m very particular about the companies I work with and the equipment I use. NSK gives me great support and produces a very high standard of equipment, they also invest time and money to educate dentists, which is something I’m passionate about.
Find out more about NSK’s range of surgical equipment at www.uk.nsk-dental.com/products/surgical/
More about ASHA courses at www.ashaclub.co.uk/