Who is Andrew Toy?
INVISALIGN EXPERT | MENTOR
Hi there! I’m Dr Andy Toy, a General Dentist based in Nottingham, UK. I qualified from the University of Bristol way back in 1980. To be honest, my Dental School experiences turned me off the idea of going into practice, and, since I didn’t want to be an Oral Surgeon or Community Dentist, I was planning to go back to University to retrain as something else.
However, I had an overdraft to pay off, so I needed a job in practice to get my finances straight. This was my first lucky break. This associate post was with an incredible dentist from Lincolnshire, Bob Borrill. He was practicing an advanced form of preventive practice he called ‘Health Cultivation’ – he was successfully reversing the dreadful rates of decay that were present throughout the 60s and 70s.
As soon as I heard of Bob’s vision, I couldn’t wait to get into practice – I was completely switched on to learning as much as I could about how to be a great General Dentist. Bob was the first of many great mentors in my practicing life. He opened my eyes in the field of extended-duties teams, using oral health educators, treatment coordinators and dental nurses with advanced skills. He also inspired me to study communication between the dentist and patients to help change their oral health behaviours. The use of highly trained teams and the importance of oral health promotion are themes that are still an important part of my practicing life.
Probably the most important aspect of Bob’s influence was his enthusiasm to keep learning and the need to question accepted practices to see if they are still relevant in the light of new evidence. These values have been a major driving force behind much of my work in many varied areas of our great profession.
Inspired by my time with Bob, I opened my first cold-squat practice in Loughborough in 1984. This was a purpose-built facility designed to deliver Health Cultivation preventative care on the NHS to local people. Within 3 years I had a team including Treatment Coordinators and extended-duties dental nurses and we were winning awards for our NHS prevention service. I had also become a Vocational Trainer – my first experience of helping young dentists.
I continued to attend numerous courses, including the Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education in the USA. This was another huge stroke of luck, because I had arrived at the Pankey Institute expecting to learn about occlusion. What I didn’t expect was to leave there with a Vision and Values, and a simple set of Principles to guide my dental career.
Unfortunately, during this time my enthusiasm for dentistry was not matched by my abilities to run a financially successful business. The NHS rewarded ‘drill, fill and bill’ dentists significantly more than those attempting to prevent disease. Ultimately, a financial crash at the end of the 1980s left me on the point of bankruptcy. I found myself at a crossroads in my professional life. Should I abandon my Vision of practice – the reason I had stayed in dentistry in the first place – and pursue a more profitable ‘Bash the Nash’ approach? Or should I try and improve my business practices to allow me to pursue my Vision AND make a profit.
My studies at the Pankey Institute meant I had a very clear sense of what was important to me – I knew could not abandon my Vison and Values. I had to try and find a better way to run my dental business. To this end, I joined up with 3 like-minded colleagues and we employed a Consultant in Total Quality Management. Within 2 years and a lot of hard work, we had become one of the first practices in the world to be awarded the ISO 9002 accreditation. We had turned the business around to make a profit and were actually improving the quality of our dental care. Ultimately I had to leave the NHS and create a highly successful private, relationship-based practice along with my partner Dr Nilesh Shah.
This experience has led to the creation of Clinical Governance training for dentists and their teams. Probably the best-known version of this is the ‘Toy Story’ 2-day programme for Foundation Dentists. This programme ran for nearly 25 years and allowed me the chance to get involved with thousands of young dentists.
My career has embraced a wide variety of fields in dentistry – including training of dentists, doctors and medical and dental teams up to Masters level. I am so passionate about helping dental team members achieve their full potential that I set up an online education service called The Dental Business Academy. This provides qualifications to allow a busy dental team member gain knowledge, skills and recognition in the most cost-effective way possible.
My Masters in Clinical Education led me into the field of practice-based research. I have published peer-reviewed research on occlusion and muscle function and the consent process in modern dentistry. I recognised these were two ‘knotty’ problems that many dentists struggled with and it was important to contribute to evidence that would be relevant to the General Dentist and their patients.
Now I am in my early 60s my practicing life is confined to providing Invisalign and TMD treatment for patients – which still gives me enormous pleasure. The rest of my time is taken up with education of dentists and their teams –online, face-to-face and via Social Media. I am trying to package my 40+ years of experience (and many mistakes) into a form that will help colleagues with their own journeys through this great profession of ours. I want every dentist to have the chance to achieve the sense of ‘Prosperity’ that I and many others have in their lives.
As you can see, my career has been a series of chapters. Each new chapter has required me to embrace and manage the change process to minimise the anxiety and maximise the opportunities. Each chapter has ended with a ‘crossroads’, with a number of options that I need to choose from. Making changes can be very stressful – especially when you are in a mess (such as facing bankruptcy!). There’s no doubt in my mind that having a clear sense of what was important to me – my Vision and Values – made the difficult choices easier and produced a happier outcome.