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What’s it like being a... practice owner and principal dentist in Wales?

Blog Author Lauren Harrhy

Blog Date 12/03/2019

​Lauren Harrhy owns a mixed dental practice in Pontypool, Wales, and works as the principal dentist with a team of 11 staff. She tells us about her day…


My alarm goes off...

It's 6am, the alarm goes off and I reach for my phone. I check all of my Facebook messages, emails etc., with one eye open.


I'm the founder of a few Facebook groups for dentists, the most well-known being Mental Dental - A Group For Dentists in Crisis.


This takes up a fair amount of my spare time!


I roll out of bed, pull on some scruffy clothes and take the dog for a walk in the lanes and fields around my house.


The dog is called Delilah (yes named after the song, we are Welsh after all!) Back for a quick shower, then wake the kids - three of them, feed them and dress them ready for school/nursery.


I then jump into the car for the 40 min drive to my practice.


I'm responsible for...

At Sparkle Dental Centre I have two associates, two therapists, a hygienist, five nurses and a practice manager.


Sparkle is a mixed practice, approximately 80% NHS and is situated in the typical Welsh valleys town of Pontypool.


We have a good mix of patients, including those from those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as professional people such as doctors, solicitors and even a cabinet member or two!


I got the job!

I graduated from Cardiff in 2009 then completed my VT year and my first year as an associate at a lovely practice in Brecon – and that's where I really learned to take out teeth!


After the birth of my first child in 2011 I took a couple of associate positions around Newport and Cardiff to gain experience, usually splitting the week between two practices for variety.

When I took the associate position in Pontypool, it was with the longer-term plan of buying it from the principal when he retired. He wanted to leave his patients (who he treated like family) with someone he could trust, and I was honoured to be considered to take on the role.


When my principal was ready to retire I was just about to have baby number three, so transitioning from an associate to practice owner was quite a challenge.


My mother sadly died of sepsis in 2016. She didn't leave a will, so only a small amount of her estate passed to me; but she was always so proud that I was a dentist and I thought it fitting to use that money as part of the deposit to purchase the practice, and so her memory for me is now linked to my dental practice.


My typical day

On a typical day I arrive at the practice and slip straight behind the front desk to have a briefing with Natasha, my practice manager.


We go over any practice admin, problems etc that will need to be addressed that day. Then I scurry up to my surgery and quickly run through the day list with my nurse; after that it's showtime! I love having a chat and a laugh with my patients, and I do my best to make them feel good about themselves, so I always take time to compliment them genuinely on their hair or shoes or coat – it's a nice way to break the ice and make them feel positive and relaxed.


We always have lunch together as a team and this is time for a sort of 'unofficial' practice meeting; this is great because most of the time issues are sorted really quickly.


When the final patient of the day leaves, I catch up on any referrals or letters that I've not had chance to do through the day, and ask the team about any comments or concerns we've had from patients that day.


The worst part of my job…

The worst part of my job is that sinking feeling when a patient opens their mouth and there's wall to wall decay and plaque. You feel like it's a mountain to climb!


The best part of my job…

Yet the best part of my job is when those patients become stable and really take responsibility for their own oral health, and start really taking pride in themselves and regain their confidence.


My biggest achievement to date

My most recent project is the new helpline for dentists that I'm helping to set up called Confidental, which will be a sort of dental version of Samaritans.


Dealing with stress has become such a big issue for our profession and I want to do something about it. Recent studies have told us that dentists would really value a helpline staffed by other dentists, who can really understand the pressures we face and be a lifeline. I really hope it will make a positive difference.


After work…

After work it's mostly kids, dog, Mental Dental Facebook stuff. I also do a fair bit with the BDA (I'm a rep on the General Dental Practice Committee, the Wales GDPC and the Young Dentist Committee) both in Wales and nationally.


I used to love to read and sing and draw but I don't get much chance these days!


My Plan B

If I wasn't a dentist, then I think I'd like to do something with psychology or law.


I've even considered becoming a zoo keeper, I figure that would be a walk in the park after wrangling my three monkeys!



Lauren Harrhy, practice owner and principal dentist

Vice-Chair of the Welsh General Dental Practice Committee, member of the General Dental Practice Committee and BDA Young Dentist Committee member.