Louise Parker is a former dental hygienist putting smiles on the faces of customers across Northumberland after pioneering a new type of surgery. Karen Dent reports
WHEN the law changed two years ago to allow dental hygienists to be become their own boss, Louise Parker was one of the first to take advantage of the new rules.
And she didn’t only start her own business, she decided to turn the tables and employ dentists to work for her.
“I wanted to put hygienists on the map,” says Louise, who owns two dental practices in Northumberland and is eyeing up a third to add to her growing business empire. “One, it had never been done, so I knew I would be among the first few and, two, a lot of dentists are not business managers.”
Louise, who has worked as a qualified hygienist for 13 years, took advantage of an amendment to the Dentists Act that allowed Dental Care Professionals (DCPs), such as dental therapists, hygienists and technicians, to be paid directly for their work – rather than as employees of a dentist.
She bought a practice in Morpeth, which is called PT Dixon Dental Care, then set up PT Dental Care in Cramlington from scratch. Across the two sites, she employs four dentists, a therapist and nine dental nurses, while remaining a hands-on hygienist herself. Her Morpeth business is a private dentistry, which focuses on specialities, such as implants. The Cramlington site is also a private dentistry, but offers free hygiene services for children.
“I’m about prevention – we see kids for free, but we are very, very competitive with the NHS,” said Louise, who won the British Dental Association Hygienist of the Year title in 1995.
She is currently looking into taking over a large NHS practice in Northumberland and says if it all goes to plan, she would be looking to employ a further three dentists, four dental nurses and a dental therapist. Although she is keen to take on a third practice, she has no plans to start another new dentistry without an established list of patients – something she did when she opened her branch in Cramlington.
“We bought the Morpeth dental practice and we created the Cramlington one with no patient list. We are looking at another one to buy but I would not start one again – it’s such hard work,” she says.
Louise admits much of her entrepreneurial drive comes from her father Peter Tighe, who started Site and Field Services, a welding and prefabrication business based in North Seaton, Ashington. “My dad was a businessman. I listened to him and absorbed what was happening,” she says. “He has been a massive influence.”
She also turned to the Royal Bank of Scotland, where she worked with health care development manager Darrell Franciosy.
He said: “She was the first in the UK to do it, so I had to challenge the criteria as it was such a rare venture that the bank had never seen before. Not that there was really any risk – she is good at what she does.”
Starting her own business as a dental hygienist is not the only first for Louise, who also worked on the two-year research for a top-of-the-range electric toothbrush. She was studying for her degree in health studies when she became involved with the testing of what is now the Phillip’s Sonicare brush.
“They approached me because I gave lectures to transplant patients at the Freeman Hospital,” she said. “I worked very closely with the hospital to fully research the brush using organ transplant patients. They were chosen because their gums overgrow because of the medication they take.”