Peter Elfar, Sundial Dental

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Peter, can you tell us a little about your business, Sundial Dental, and give us some insight into what your day-to-day role involves?

As a new graduate dentist I worked in regional Australia, the UK and the Isle of Mann. I took what I had learned at dental school and applied it under the mentorship of really good, old-school dentists in those communities. 

Clinically, I learned a bit of everything. Most importantly, I realised the kind of dentist I wanted to be for my patients, my community and myself. 

This was both a reflection of what I wanted to emulate and what I knew I did not want to be. One of the things I noticed was that patients often had to come back repeatedly or see multiple clinicians in different offices. I felt that with the invent of modern technology, training and teamwork, we could offer dental treatment to our patients that is more comfortable, completed in fewer visits and provides longer lasting dental solutions. This would improve the quality of our patient’s life in such a way that the patient sees value in our work. 

This vision was one of the driving forces for Sundial Dental. I wanted to be a general dental practice who could offer treatment on all levels for families and people of different needs. A one-stop-shop providing everything in-house, including extractions, periodontal treatment, teeth whitening, dentures, implants, bridges and single visit crowns (using German CAD CAM Technology and engineering) to produce long lasting dental solutions for our patients.

My role as a dentist has changed, because I have developed as a clinician and added treatments. So instead of running a drill and fill practice, I get to engineer and design dental solutions for my patients. 

I use 3D X-Ray to diagnose a condition. I then have a comprehensive consultation and informed conversation with my patient, where we discuss their goals for their dental treatment. Then I get to be part of designing their dental solution. One thing that stands true is my passion for quality dentistry AND making a patient feel that dentistry improves the quality of their life.

What changes have you noticed in the dental industry over the last decade or so, and how have you had to adapt to cater for these? 

Having worked for eight years in the UK and marrying an American, I was exposed to the international dental scene as early as 2001.  I was impressed by what I saw at the European conventions and the American trade shows and I couldn’t help noticing that both Europe and the United States where three to five years ahead of Australia. I decided early on that one of my goals was to bring those innovative treatments to Australia.

Two examples of treatment I can give to show this are: 

1. LANAP – the Laser treatment we do for advanced gum disease that has revolutionised the way we treat gum disease. I was the first and only Australian to use this technology in Australia from 2011 – 2015. Only now is this treatment being embraced in the major cities by literally a handful of dentists.  

2. We also started using the American suction and light system four years before it became available in Australia.  

This year I returned from two conferences in the United States – one was on 3D Printing and its application to dentistry. The other was an Invisalign conference that has blown the lid off the way conventional dental treatment can be done. I always come back to Australia feeling energised and refreshed from these international courses, because I know I am able to provide our patients the latest treatments and innovations in dentistry.

How do you differentiate your dental clinic from others within the market? 

To be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time comparing our clinic to other dental practices in our area. Instead, I choose to focus on what we do well and improve what we can do better in our own practice.  

I always strive to be better than I was yesterday and to be moving forward. I think that translates across the team I work with. I do make a point of travelling internationally to learn from the best international operators and to put into practice what I learn, so that I can eventually be a shadow of what they are. 

For example, in 2008 we were the first Mid North Coast practice to introduce CEREC (1-hour crowns) and were the only dental practice doing this for five years.  

In 2009, we were the first general dental practice to introduce 3D X-Rays. These have revolutionised the way we diagnose a patients’ existing conditions and plan treatment. 

I believe we set the standard for the most innovative dental practice and attract some of the best young graduates in Australia to work alongside us. This shapes the team and the culture of Sundial Dental. 

What have you learnt about growing a business?  

Growing a business in regional Australia is organic; you can not do it on marketing, or location or association alone. You need to be the kind of operator who is good at what you do, is personable and can communicate with your patients, as well as offer the patient value for money.

In your opinion, what are the most important leadership skills a business owner must have?

The ability to communicate! You could be the best at what you do, or be the most passionate about what you do, but if you can not communicate you will always have difficulty selling your service to both your patients and your team.

And finally, if you could invite any three business people to lunch, who would they be and why would you invite them?

Elon Musk; for his brilliant, innovative, forward thinking mind. He sees a problem as an opportunity to develop a solution. 

Steve Jobs; not for his personality, but for his ability to design technology that revolutionises the world we live in and the way we interact with it. 

Tim Winton; for being an extortionary yet humble Australian author and environmentalist. He has not only helped highlight Australian environmental causes, but he allowed the world to get to know Australians for what we really value. 

Thanks for your time, Peter.

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