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Dentology Podcast with Michael Alatsaris


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Transcript – Dentology Podcast with Michael Alatsaris

Episode Release Date – Monday 22 April 2024

Andy & Chris (00:03.222)
You know what it is, don’t you? I do. It is one of those days. I think it could be Dentology Day. Podcast Recording Day. Woohoo! I love these days. Exciting. And today, it’s an exciting day. It’s an exciting day. We’ve got a designer. Don’t you love a designer? So today, ladies and gentlemen, we’re joined by Michael Adatsaris. Michael is a dentist and also a product designer. I bet you that’s a pretty rare combo. It is. It is. But it’s going to be interesting.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (00:15.138)

Andy & Chris (00:33.206)
Can’t wait to see. What does he design, eh? Hey, hey, hey, hey. Have to wait and see. It’s coming, it’s coming. Keep listening. Welcome, Michael. How are you?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (00:41.026)
Hi guys, can’t have to be on, thanks for having me. It’s an honour.

Andy & Chris (00:43.766)
No, we’re excited to chat to you. The honor is ours, Mike. I think we were just chatting before we started recording about how the work you put into your product and you’re just getting to that phase where you start to tell the world about it. So we’re excited to have this conversation and let people know what you’ve been working on in the background and what’s coming to the market, which should be good. But before we get to that, there’s always clues to who we become from our childhood. So is there a time that you can look back on your childhood and say, ah.

That’s why I’m the person I am today. What was your childhood like?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (01:17.218)
Yeah, as I get deeper into releasing this product and having just spent years developing it, I do reflect more on that and realise actually I’ve been reliably informed that my interest in product design started when I was three and I would destroy toys. Well, apparently I was destroying toys, but just taking them apart to see how on earth this was made. You know, strange features to products that I always questioned.

Andy & Chris (01:34.454)

Andy & Chris (01:39.216)
what they were made of, yeah.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (01:45.61)
Why are they there? Why is this little notch there? And that little circle? Why is there a circle in the middle of this flat section of this toy? And that was just an insight into the manufacturing processes. So yeah, just throughout my childhood from that time, I was just always looking at how to make things, redesign things, question why they work like this and how it could have been improved. And the…

Andy & Chris (01:53.078)
Hmm. Interesting.

Andy & Chris (02:12.854)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (02:13.876)
awkwardness or otherwise of the ergonomics, you know, it’s an uh…

Andy & Chris (02:16.726)
My son just destroyed toys They just take things to pieces I thought that’s what boys did you’ve obviously got a different layer on that one of your now you were actually thinking about why you were destroying a toy are there any any design

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (02:28.61)
You could ask him if he prefers them in their broken state or their complete state and if he likes them in their broken state he’s maybe going to be a product designer or something.

Andy & Chris (02:32.566)

Andy & Chris (02:36.118)
I Remember sorry I was gonna say I remember I do you remember that Millennium fork at no not Millennium for can that I know some big great Lego Massive great Lego thing that you could make so he made it and then just destroyed it and it was like what’s the point? I’m sure he had fun process. So you will come on to the density side in a minute But just thinking in terms of your childhood are there any designers and or dentists in in your your family line?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (02:57.536)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (03:04.866)
Well, my parents are both quite creative. They had very practical, manual design creative jobs as basically my dad was a painter and decorator, my mum was together with him. They had an interior design business, so she would make curtains, he would do everything else. And so it was a very kind of bespoke service that was creative. And then they went on to launch a startup restaurant, a Greek restaurant. So again, it’s…

Andy & Chris (03:06.39)

Andy & Chris (03:21.556)

Andy & Chris (03:34.068)
Oh wow.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (03:34.722)
My dad was the chef there. So creativity in business, creativity in their work. So there is a kind of running theme there, but there weren’t any dentists or professionals in the family.

Andy & Chris (03:37.972)
That’s a bit of a career change. Yeah. Mmm.

Andy & Chris (03:46.39)
Hmm. It’s interesting is there’s also the other one I was gonna say there’s an entrepreneurial flair and a creative flair and problem -solving because I’d imagine there’s interior design and a Decorator all that sort of stuff. You’re overcoming things that you come across in people’s hands Yeah, it’s just given that what you’ve got on to do It sounds like there was that kind of seed was sown quite early in terms of having parents in in those fields To start with you. You studied dentistry What what what what was it?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (03:55.732)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (04:00.394)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (04:07.622)

Andy & Chris (04:15.094)
Direction of travel, what drove you to study dentistry? Didn’t want to be a cook.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (04:20.034)
Yeah, well it’s strange, it was a kind of a very… Well every year I changed my mind prior to going into dentistry. I I had wanted to do product design but I hadn’t verbalized it to myself. It wasn’t clear, it wasn’t presented by the school or by my parents as a real option. It just seemed to be one of those things that was fun to do at school. And then you know I started looking at engineering, law…

Andy & Chris (04:28.854)
Ha ha ha ha.

Andy & Chris (04:34.58)

Andy & Chris (04:41.076)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (04:49.6)
and say medicine, all the usual kind of professions. And you know, at the last minute it was almost just kind of plumping for dentistry, not really being sure why, but I knew it’d be practical, very scientific, you know, a safe career option. And those were, you know, incredibly, that was the simple approach to it, but without much enthusiasm.

Andy & Chris (05:08.662)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (05:19.394)
for it at all, but it was the best of a bad bunch in my subconscious. So I remember my first day at uni, it was like, what on earth have I done here? But then the rest is history. Brits. Glasgow University.

Andy & Chris (05:20.502)

Andy & Chris (05:31.434)
Where did you study?

Right. And how did you find the dental school experience? And I’m thinking in the context of how well did it prepare you to be a dentist? And I guess, you know, we talked to lots of people about their dental school experience, you know, younger people and older people, and not necessarily in terms of kind of the clinical sessions, but when you came out, you know, as a broader context, the dent…

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (05:39.458)
. . .

Andy & Chris (06:00.182)
is communication, working with people, working with patients. What was that dental school Can I just ask a quick question, Michael? Were you from Glasgow or elsewhere in Scotland? Right, OK.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (06:02.334)
Yeah, yeah, just outside Glasgow. So I must say that the educational experience is incredible and so thorough and so broad and deep. Incredible teachers, really inspirational people, just an amazing environment.

from an objective point of view, but I was just miserable there the whole time. Once it got into the kind of the practical side and actually use my hands in creating and designing and fixing, that was like a whole other story and I enjoyed that aspect of it. But preparation for the career, I could sense the depth of the demand within the profession. You know, the demand from us as dentists when I was an undergraduate.

Andy & Chris (06:35.574)
Ha ha ha.

Andy & Chris (06:44.726)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (07:00.866)
and despite having done really well by the end of final year, I still knew there was a long road ahead with education and being ready for practice and by then actually ultimately private practice which had formed as a vision because I couldn’t see how to apply these standards otherwise. So I kind of threw myself at these other hospital jobs for further training to the clinical side.

Andy & Chris (07:22.134)
Hmm. Hmm.

Andy & Chris (07:29.942)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (07:31.17)
But I guess the business side I had always been working on subconsciously, but maybe because I was blessed with being surrounded by self -employed parents throughout my life, it was just an absolute norm to me. And yes, so there’s no, absolutely no, well, when I was trained, there wasn’t any training on that aspect at all. But the business model was continually forming in my mind. The cash is the lifeblood of…

Andy & Chris (07:45.046)

Andy & Chris (07:54.102)
Right. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm. Yeah. Yeah. Mmm.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (08:00.418)
in a small enterprise so that was very very very obvious consideration. So the answer is no it doesn’t really prepare you for that but I was kind of lucky with that side of it but clinically I don’t think it prepares you either so the support of you know the VT year and then you know SHO jobs was just I think it’s so just I felt so lucky to have

Andy & Chris (08:06.388)


Mm -hmm.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (08:29.09)
these SHO jobs, you could work with a specialist and train and be paid at the same time. I thought it was such a blessing and basically from there I just went straight into private practice after the SHO jobs.

Andy & Chris (08:30.102)
Hmm Hmm Yeah, yeah Right It’s interesting the SHO thing isn’t it going from you know a lot of guys do VT or FD and then just go straight into a an associate position but you took the route of do that and then go into the SHO jobs to sort of build your skill set. Hmm Yeah, and also it’s interesting

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (08:57.122)
Yeah, yeah.

Andy & Chris (09:00.182)
What you said is kind of a repeating theme that so many dentists say that dental school is a great experience, but when they leave and they then move into practice, it doesn’t prepare them particularly well. And we understand why dental school is very clinically focused, but actually to be a successful dentist, you need many other skills and lots of those skills actually relate to business. But obviously business learning is kind of a choice and you have to go and seek that out yourself. Was it being a core component of

of what you do. So you graduate from Glasgow and then just kind of give us some kind of stepping stones because you then owned your own private practice for nine years. So you graduate, you then move out, you work as an associate in different locations and then you then buy practice. What was that? That journey? Yeah, buy set up, whatever.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (09:48.546)
Yeah, well, after the SHO jobs I worked in, I just phoned every practice in Edinburgh asking if they had a job going and I got interviews for two private practices who weren’t even advertising for a job for an associate. I think they appreciated my proactive approach to that. So I just, I mean, I was three months without work after the SHO job, but I was just determined to wait for this appropriate job.

Andy & Chris (09:59.958)
Yeah, definitely.

Andy & Chris (10:13.078)
Hmm. Hmm. Interesting. On that point, Michael, about they weren’t looking for somebody, I think the smartest thing to do is always be open and available to good people. Because I think the worst time to hire somebody is when you’ve got a gap.

because you urgently need someone to fill the gap. I think the really clever people have always got their eyes and ears open for good people. So it’s not surprising that the people who contacted you didn’t need somebody but wanted to talk to you because they felt you were going to have something to contribute to their practice. They quite often say, don’t they, a lot of jobs are actually hidden jobs in the fact that they’re not advertised.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (10:30.082)
Yeah. Yeah. Mmm. Yes. Yes.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (10:44.93)
Yeah, so.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (10:50.786)
Yeah, so I secured this two day a week job, which I was completely happy with because it paid my living expenses. And again, it was just, it was the appropriate stepping stone. You know, I wasn’t looking at earnings at all at this stage. I think I was making 2000 a month. That was fine. And in the end, you know, I wanted, I wanted to develop that role, but he put me in touch with they want to have another private practice.

Andy & Chris (11:00.63)


Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (11:18.53)
was looking for an associate part -time so I took on that job which filled my week but then six weeks within that job the principal said Michael I want you to take over this practice and I was like alright okay I’m only 26 I’m only six weeks in the job but right I was about to go on holiday so I thought I’ll go on holiday have a good think about it and it was you know it was I loved the practice and the team

Andy & Chris (11:31.542)
Six weeks. Six weeks? Wow.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (11:45.75)
It was a 40 year established private practice and nice and small, you know, felt boutique and just not overly glamorous or anything, just really down to earth and you know, long established, devoted patient base and a long established devoted team. Yeah, it just made absolute sense. So a few months later I was in as the principal without a clue how to lead the dental team, being the youngest there.

Andy & Chris (11:51.144)
Hmm. Hmm.

A good quality private practice. Good for you. Good for you.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (12:15.616)
So that was bewildering but I just knew it was what I wanted to do or at least try.

Andy & Chris (12:20.03)
Yeah, but I think there’s also something else in there, you know, this would probably get captured under the under the banner of naivety You didn’t really know what you were doing. It’s set up a good opportunity and you did it and we’ve talked before about how important naivety in business is because if you truly knew all that was coming down the line at you You might not have taken it, but you did and it put you on a different path Did you have to get bank funded as well get a loan and all that sort of stuff and?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (12:30.914)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (12:41.474)
Yeah. Yeah.

Yes, yeah, they were really throwing money at you at that time.

Andy & Chris (12:48.982)
I mean, that’s great. Is it 26? You just thought they might’ve been a bit, I suppose that was a good old days of one over bass or something.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (12:56.482)
Yeah, it was really easy. Just a quick interview and didn’t present any business plan. I think I showed them the accounts from the last three years and that was it, you know. But there was one funny moment actually just after I took over the practice that epitomises how little I knew. And it was that, you know, in the days of kind of hard copy paperwork, I’d inherited all this paperwork from the practice that I had to kind of keep going.

Andy & Chris (12:58.134)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (13:24.674)
and at one point my entire living room floor was covered in these little piles of paperwork because I didn’t know what was a priority so I just thought right well everything’s maybe a priority I just need to lay it all out and that was my desk for six months until I worked out what was important you know as I took on the practice I thought who’s gonna supply me with materials and where am I gonna get this and that from but it’s so bizarre such an obvious thing and there’s a system in place dental suppliers are such a basic part of it but that was one of the strange

Andy & Chris (13:30.294)

Andy & Chris (13:39.892)

Andy & Chris (13:50.806)
Mmm. Mmm.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (13:54.402)
anxieties that I had taking on the practice but so you don’t really know what’s coming so that was a funny moment.

Andy & Chris (13:56.062)

No. But it clearly worked for you though, because you went on to own that practice for nine years. And you say you sold your practice five years ago, and you say to start a family. So at that time, did you not see that it was compatible to own a dental practice and have a family? Did you see that it was kind of a choice for you back then?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (14:20.834)
It was more that the practice ownership became all consuming actually, which I didn’t necessarily expect, but I was prepared to give it my all, but it did take all of my energy and time to a chronic, unhealthy level actually. And that never ever changed because of the dynamic nature of the industry and that I was fundamentally in the wrong place.

Andy & Chris (14:28.02)

Andy & Chris (14:34.998)

Andy & Chris (14:48.79)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (14:49.826)
which I can go into, but basically it was always overwhelming. Even though it was very successful, it was on paper, it was fantastic. Clinically, what we were doing was tremendous. I was immensely proud of everything that we did and patients were happy throughout the, I think, 11 years that I had it. Never a single complaint. So it was successful, but at the back end with me, it was very much a misery, you know? But…

Andy & Chris (15:12.246)

Andy & Chris (15:16.062)
Relentless there was a cost. Yeah, there was a cop there was a cost to that success

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (15:21.122)
Yeah, and thankfully it didn’t cause me harm as such, but it was overwhelming throughout. And so yeah, I mean, my, it was, I think it was just basically working directly with the public for me. It felt like it slowed down my bigger strategy, my core interests in engineering and design and creativity. And as much as I cared for every single patient,

Andy & Chris (15:27.99)

Andy & Chris (15:46.838)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (15:50.626)
every minute of every day. It wasn’t where my energy was meant to be all week. You know, perhaps if I treated patients one day a week and spent four days building or doing strategy or creating or doing technical engineering work or something, just that my energy would have been distributed better, so it would have been healthier.

Andy & Chris (15:55.99)
Yeah. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (16:07.574)
Hmm And I think and I think being a clinician as a principal in the practice it is all consuming because You need to deliver so many clinical days to make the numbers work You then need to manage the business you’re trying to have a life outside and I think what you say is right I think a lot of people don’t appreciate the the relentlessness of owning and running a business particularly where you’re the the lead fee generator, so you’re you’re you’re kind of locked

to earn your surgery for significant amounts of time. And particularly if your deep passion and desire isn’t actually dentistry. I can imagine that must be kind of quite frustrating. You’ll never get into the thing you really love because you’re constantly anchored back to your practice. But you stuck at it for nine years and then your work life took a detour, wait for it, and took off.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (16:37.818)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (16:51.97)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (16:55.49)

Andy & Chris (17:00.022)
in another direction. Oh yeah, now we’re here. As an airline pilot. How did that come about? What was that?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (17:06.338)
Well, I began the process of becoming an airline pilot, but it wasn’t my only. Basically, yeah, well, it’s more affordable than you might realize, but essentially, as I chose to leave the practice, my plan was, well, I had a few plans that I intended to run concurrently, which was product design, become an airline pilot, start a family.

Andy & Chris (17:12.822)
It’s expensive to become an airline pilot, isn’t it?

Andy & Chris (17:25.88)
It’s quite a few things to do concurrently, isn’t it?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (17:36.45)
and get into some investments, you know. And yeah, I mean, also part of that is that there is contingency built in because I loved all of the above. So I thought, OK, if one doesn’t happen, I’m happy with any of the others as a fallback and it would put food on the table. So after I saw the practice, I began writing patents for various products, but also training.

Andy & Chris (17:52.566)
Mmm. Mmm.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (18:05.73)
to become an airline pilot and start the family. It was actually a crazy time thinking about it. But I was loving all of this now. So the energy was abundant, you know, and it felt completely sustainable. So yes, got the pilot’s license and doing other studies, airline studies along with that. But I could see just speaking to the pilots at how delicate that industry was and how over leveraged the airline companies were and…

Andy & Chris (18:10.308)

Andy & Chris (18:32.294)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (18:34.912)
You know, my friend Darren, he said, I said, how full is your aircraft every day? And he said, but it’s like 70%. And I’m like, your, your airlines running at a loss. There’s no way. And that was fly B and then you might remember what happened fly B, right. And then, and then COVID struck and it’s like, wow, this is basically, this is wiped out the industry by half and

Andy & Chris (18:47.112)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Andy & Chris (18:56.648)
But how insane to have a business model where you can be at capacity of 70 % and still be running at a loss. That’s incredible, isn’t it?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (19:05.346)
Yeah, yeah, it didn’t last long. But yeah, and then obviously the more experienced pilots would be hired back first if there was any recovery. And my plan at the time was to have become qualified as an airline pilot by the age of 40 because then other personal factors would start to come into play naturally with age and with the family that if I hadn’t achieved it by then, I felt this isn’t, this isn’t going to be right for me personally. And also because…

Andy & Chris (19:07.784)

Andy & Chris (19:14.036)

Andy & Chris (19:25.928)
Yeah. Mmm.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (19:33.794)
the rota of an airline pilot is so consuming. I would have also wanted a part -time job as an airline pilot so I could continue with the product things. So these other new factors came in with COVID that meant that I should actually just stop this career path. I was chuffed that I got my private pilot’s license, I’d scratched an itch. And also just having come from running the practice and being miserable there, to learn that I could…

Andy & Chris (19:44.07)

Andy & Chris (19:51.4)
But yeah. Yeah.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (20:02.626)
become an airline pilot was such a revelation for me. It was a dream of mine since I was 14, but I put that aside because of the cost of it and you really depended on sponsorship by airlines at the time. But, and then I found this other cheaper, more accessible route as an adult and it was actually more of an inspiration that I could do anything I want. When I realised I could become an airline pilot, I thought, well, I could actually, I can do whatever I want. Now it was…

Andy & Chris (20:03.816)

Yeah. Wow. Yeah. It’s… Mmm. Mmm.

Andy & Chris (20:23.848)
Hmm powerful

Andy & Chris (20:29.128)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (20:29.602)
Just a strange kind of unlocking for me, just realizing that.

Andy & Chris (20:32.68)
on the practicalities. So is an airline pilot license different than like a flying a little single plane license or can you do both?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (20:44.386)
The small aircraft license is a single engine piston aircraft for example.

Andy & Chris (20:51.016)
So can you do that or are you allowed to do that or not? Because normally you’ve got like two big engines.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (20:58.57)
Yeah, so you then go on to another rating, which, you know, twin engine, you know, multiple engine, and then you get your jet engine rating and then you get your night rating.

Andy & Chris (21:03.24)

Andy & Chris (21:06.952)
Right. And can you go down? So can you go down so like you can fly a big jet? So can you fly a little Cessna or something? Yeah. Cool. Right. Cool. Right. Yeah. I just wondered if it’s interesting when I think you’re flying a big jet, getting a little bloke flying a Cessna. And then, and then this kind of runs us up to kind of the COVID.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (21:13.602)
Yeah, you can go back the way. I can’t remember, you might need your rating again for the small aircraft. Yeah. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (21:29.544)
period where prior to that you also do some property development and building and houses side of things as well. But it sounds like the COVID period meant you really focused on the product design because I guess that’s something you could do yourself from home and the world was shutting down. So we’ll come to the product that you’ll bring to the market very soon that’s ready, which is an interesting thing. But what other products have you designed? So what patents are out there? What things have you kind of worked on but never quite got there in terms of being sort of

virtually viable.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (22:01.474)
Well, in 2012 when I had to practice and I was really miserable I thought I need to just apply some energy to something I love just to feel that I can entertain my real passion and I started writing a small patent on this solvent applicator for flat surfaces which I can go into the uses of in a minute but I just started chipping away at writing this patent I thought I’ll practice writing a patent.

read all these little books, these guidebooks and received amazing support from the patent office and pulling together the content of the patent and filed that and it was just great being creative like that and being really deliberate about the technical features of this innovation and communicating that properly in a patent. Going through that patent process and then actually ended up being granted which was just amazing. Now I’ve never

trying to commercialise that. But what was the question again?

Andy & Chris (23:05.064)
What patents have you sort of done? Yeah, yeah, so you’ve got your applicator and are there any other things?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (23:07.682)
Yeah, so… Yeah, yeah. So, I mean, it varies from kind of automotive devices to toys to electronic devices. And basically, the great thing is you can just scribble down an idea basically on a couple of sides of A4 and file it at the patent office. And so I just started firing out these patent filings until I felt something was realistic.

Andy & Chris (23:22.728)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (23:36.61)
was manufacturable, you could commercialise it. It served a real purpose to people.

Andy & Chris (23:38.152)
Hmm and Michael what is your Yeah, what is your design is your design process you see a problem? Yeah, and then say oh That’s a problem and I can solve that problem or do you just come with a neat idea and then say oh Where would that fit in the world? How’d you go about it?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (23:59.042)
I just see the problems, the practical problems that we face every day. If I see somebody working with something, with a tool or with their hands or a woman pushing a buggy along the pavement with her babies, it’s a practical thing. I’m like, how could that pram be helping her? She’s on this slope and it’s kind of the pram wants to tip over and she’s trying to keep it up. So there are these forces from the user to the…

Andy & Chris (24:23.208)

Andy & Chris (24:27.63)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (24:28.546)
the tool basically that can be managed or distributed to make the tool easier for somebody to use it and whether it’s a toy for a child, it’s a tool, you know, it has a practical outcome and there is a user behind it driving it and from the mind of the user to the, you know, the contact of the wheels on the pavement of that pram, there’s these chains of forces that need to be distributed and managed by the user.

And if we can make that as subconscious and intuitive as possible, then that’s where innovation comes in. And that’s basically how I see every object around me, whether it’s how a partial denture slips in between those abutment teeth and is retained there. Fascinates me, just, you know, that motion, the way the forces behave. It’s just how I see the world. So…

Andy & Chris (25:04.068)
Hmm Hmm

Andy & Chris (25:13.992)

Andy & Chris (25:18.28)


What’s interesting is that…

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (25:26.498)
Every object in front of me just… Every object gets this critique.

Andy & Chris (25:30.952)
That you create a patent but not necessarily to commercialize it. You know, it’s almost like a a resolution something that you fill and then you file it But then think oh, i’m not gonna now go and spend millions of pounds trying to build it out It’s quite an interesting one. Isn’t it? Yeah, I suppose you’re hopefully waiting for someone who then says oh i’d really quite well And there’s a page on it already I must say there’s a there’s a mild iron in here michael about your Your it wasn’t a lack of love

with dentistry, but you weren’t passionate about dentistry. So it’s mildly ironic that you’ve now developed a product for dentists and in dentistry, which is the Ergaprox toothbrush. And so going back to what you were just saying about, you kind of identify issues and there’s a problem and how do I fix that? Can you kind of talk us through what the Ergaprox toothbrush is, how that came about and what problem does that solve?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (26:09.466)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (26:26.018)
Yeah, as you probably guessed, I always question the status quo with whatever I see in front of me. And whether it’s the state of a patient’s dentition or whether it’s the design of one of our surgical tools or, you know, it’s, I’ve always questioned it. And one of the things that I noticed in practice across the decade there with the same patient base,

Andy & Chris (26:26.824)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (26:53.09)
I found a problem that we simply could not eradicate and it just bugged me and basically it’s when somebody loses a tooth the teeth next to the gap cannot be cleaned fully for 95 % of those people. So 75 % of UK adults lose a tooth and they’re faced with this challenge and I did this study on my own patients just tallied it up at the side of the computer.

Andy & Chris (27:09.776)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (27:23.01)
How many of these are still missing these aspects of the tooth despite seeing the hygienist every three months despite having the latest and greatest tools? Despite being intelligent, willing, motivated people they simply could not clean the exposed mesial and distal aspects of the teeth. I had a patient in my chair with a complete upper denture and a partial lower denture with just her lower anteriors present with the lower left four present.

Andy & Chris (27:27.08)

Andy & Chris (27:34.01)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (27:53.308)
So without her dentures in, she arguably has full access to the distal of the lower left four. Yet she could not clean this tooth. I had recently crowned it because of previous caries at the distal aspect. And she was returning with plaque still there. And we were trying to coach around it. And she was basically in tears in my chair, knowing that she can’t control the plaque at this aspect of the tooth, despite having full access.

Andy & Chris (28:22.948)
Mm -hmm.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (28:23.326)
and I thought enough is enough. This is an ergonomic issue with current toothbrushes. The bristles are all 90 degrees away from what they need to be to reach that surface. We’re expecting the patient to bring their wrist round to 90 degrees to the usual position to reach that surface. But as dentists and hygienists and therapists we underestimate the spatial awareness.

manual dexterity that is required to reach those surfaces. I felt that the profession up until then hadn’t appreciated what was demanded of the patient to reliably, everyday clean those surfaces. And that’s when a tool gets created to make up for those ergonomic challenges. The other major irony here is that…

Andy & Chris (28:56.456)

Andy & Chris (29:18.396)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (29:20.93)
As I was going through the design of this brush I thought, am I trying to reinvent the toothbrush here? Is this crazy? Why has this never been done in the hundreds of years that we’ve been extracting teeth? Why has nobody bothered to make this toothbrush? And this is it. When somebody loses a tooth, we have believed in the profession that there is now space, there is now access to that surface. We can see it, therefore we should be able to build…

Andy & Chris (29:48.418)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (29:50.818)
we should be able to clean there. But it’s the ergonomics, it’s the angle, it’s all wrong. But the reason we’ve not created something to solve this is that we’ve thought that because there’s access, we should be able to clean there. And this toothbrush addresses that ergonomic challenge, basically.

Andy & Chris (30:00.26)

Andy & Chris (30:07.176)
And how do you how do you bring a product like this to the market because it it looks nothing like a conventional toothbrush so I guess there’s a Yeah, what you just explained makes perfect sense We’re not clinicians at all, but you’ve you’ve articulated in a way where it makes perfect sense Yeah, I guess also people tend to have teeth out, you know further back in their mouth as well which is even more difficult to get to but how?

How do you bring a product like this to the market? And I know it’s still fairly early on in the evolution of that, but what are the steps you have to go through? Does it start with education?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (30:46.194)
My education to design it, do you mean?

Andy & Chris (30:49.704)
Or no, educating the market. The people need to appreciate that actually there’s something missing and we need to kind of educate people that there’s a new way of going about things and your product’s gonna fix that problem.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (30:52.706)
Okay. Okay.

Yeah, yes, okay. Yes, sorry. Well, at the moment all the hygienists and therapists are pulling their hair out about these clinical situations. I reached out to 150 hygienists and therapists directly. Once I’d sketched out this design, I let them in on it and asked them, is this a problem? I think it’s a…

Andy & Chris (31:10.6)
Mm -hmm.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (31:24.692)
I saw a problem in my private practice. Are you seeing this?” And they all, you know, they scream about this problem. They try to coach people. They use either single tufted brushes or they advise the patients to use single tufted brushes or bent TP brushes, which is misuse of those brushes, number one. And the hygienist and therapist admitted to me that they know that it’s probably not going to work.

Andy & Chris (31:29.082)


Andy & Chris (31:40.808)

Andy & Chris (31:49.2)
But they feel frustrated. I guess they feel they have to do Yeah, they’ve got to offer their patient a…

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (31:52.13)
So they’re sitting with this frustration, they’re prescribing something, they’re coaching people, but they know it’s probably not going to work. I mean, as a clinician, that must be, you know, so frustrating.

Andy & Chris (32:07.492)
A solution of some sort, regardless of how successful it will be. It’s really interesting, I’ve never really thought about it before. But you know, you’re dead right. If you multiply that by a number of people with missing teeth around the world, and I’m assuming they don’t clean it, so therefore they get tooth decay and stuff like that. Or bad breath or whatever, yeah, huge, yeah.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (32:08.674)
Something. Yeah. Yeah.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (32:24.13)
Yeah, it is a vast problem. There are around a billion people just now sitting with this problem without an ergonomic solution to treat it, to prevent disease there.

Andy & Chris (32:36.488)
And I suppose also maybe because there isn’t a solution until now, then it’s not shown, it’s not represented as an issue. Does that make sense? Because there’s no sort of resolution to it. So therefore you don’t mention it. Cause you don’t really want to be a dentist that says, Oh, by the way, I’m not going to be able to clean that bit for you. Well, guess that’s where you find yourself in a position where clinicians are making suggestions, which is, is, is, you know, they’re the best that they can offer, but perhaps knowing it might not be.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (32:44.354)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (32:51.762)
Thank you.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (33:02.662)
Yeah. And this is what’s so exciting about innovation. It’s that there usually is something in front of you that you’re using that you’ve taken for granted as to being the last solution for this problem.

Andy & Chris (33:05.968)
Delivery for the best solution if I ask people they wanted they want faster horses Yeah, you know rather than actually give them a car. It’s the same sort of same sort of thing use a bent teepee brush that’ll do it so Hmm

Andy & Chris (33:29.864)
Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (33:30.018)
And it’s amazing how adaptive we are as humans and we try our best with our hands and mind to use a tool better. And people live with struggles, so many practical struggles. And as somebody that was churning out product ideas all the time, I thought, I might run out, these might be the last ideas I ever have, where am I gonna find new ideas for products? But it’s all around us. Do not take for granted.

the design of the tool that you’re using. Do not take for granted the gadget that you’re using at home. There is probably another edge that you can design into that to make it that little bit easier. So I believe there will always be innovation in product design. And, you know, so it comes back to, you know, I believe the profession just, it was just one of probably many things still in the profession that as for tools that were just accepting that we are just coaching people around, that we’re adapting around.

Andy & Chris (34:07.976)

Andy & Chris (34:12.648)
Yes, a refinement possible. Yeah, yeah.

Andy & Chris (34:21.736)
Hmm Yeah, making accommodations.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (34:29.25)
And as surgeons, as operators, we adapt all the time. Every procedure is different. And this adaptive side to us is used all the time. But if we just expect to adapt around everything, then we won’t innovate. Does that make sense?

Andy & Chris (34:40.262)

Andy & Chris (34:49.508)
No, it does totally. Totally. So where’s ErgoProx in the kind of what stage is it at the moment? So you’ve got a fully designed made product. Is it available for people to buy? Yeah. Where does it sit in terms of sort of UK dentistry?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (35:05.606)
Absolutely, it’s in the market now, it’s under production, it’s out there, it works, it’s available to buy on the website on Amazon. It’s ready, so grab one if you want one, I’ll send you a free sample, just reach out to me.

Andy & Chris (35:10.056)
Thank you.

Andy & Chris (35:21.32)
Yeah, no, we did through it. And what we should definitely put is perhaps you’ve obviously got a website is we should put in our guest notes. We should definitely put a link to it as well, because obviously lots of dentists are very sharp on kind of, you know, research, the clinical science that goes behind it. And I’m sure you’ve got lots of evidence that backs it up. And when you bring anything new to the market, I don’t think people are skeptical, but it’s almost that, well, if this really was a problem, wouldn’t somebody have solved it some time ago?

And that’s not the case, it’s not the truth because there’s problems out there as you just said all the time. And it really does sound like a fascinating step forward. And I’m sort of wobbling in my head a bit to think that it hasn’t been dealt with before. It’s a classic thing, isn’t it? As you were saying, I’m sitting here thinking of other things that you think, oh, that probably is an issue, but we’re so used to it that we just like, oh, that’s the way it is really. Yeah.

You know, when you look at Apple, I was thinking, you know, when the first iterations of, you know, iPods, well, no, we can’t do that because, oh no, we can do that. It’s that whole sort of how do you look at something? And then, you know, it’s interesting, you were saying, you know, I look at things and I can see them and I’m thinking, well, I don’t. And that’s the difference between my brain and your brain. You look at something and think, how can I refine? How can I resolve? Whereas I just use.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (36:30.594)

Andy & Chris (36:43.4)
Yeah, Michael we always we always give our we always go our episodes titles and I must say I’m very pleased with the title of your episode It’s going to be find a market in the gap. Hey Good one. Good one. I think it’s that’s it. I think it’s an absolute call come Yeah, not a gap in the market market in the gap. That’s so much if you could go you’ve had a very varied career If you could go back is there a point at which you’d go back to and if you were given the opportunity Would you change anything that you’ve done?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (37:00.61)
Yeah. Yeah.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (37:12.514)
I think there were important lessons throughout. I knew that despite being miserable in dental practice, I knew that every massive challenge was going to teach me something. And there were elements, I must say, you know, and let’s say I enjoyed most of it, but in dentistry you need to enjoy all of it, or how you position yourself in dentistry. It needs to be in a role that you enjoy all of because it is so demanding. So I wouldn’t change anything because

It is an amazing dynamic profession and if you give it your all you will see and learn incredible things and develop skills that are priceless and very transferable. So I wouldn’t change it. Can I just add for anybody listening out there as a dentist who feels creative in product design that just perhaps for them to realise that they are already design engineers.

Andy & Chris (37:52.68)
Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (38:12.686)
modern dentistry is design engineering and where in dentistry we conform to nature and try to reconstruct nature and use the design engineering to do so, we’re often using creative methods to do that. And if you have an urge to be completely creative and make something completely new, your skills are incredibly transferable to becoming a product designer. And if anybody out there is itching to launch products, you know,

give it some more thought. It is possible and as a dentist you’re using, you have the required skills to do so. You know how to put things together, you know about the user interface to what you’ve created. You understand material science, alloys, elastomers, ceramics. You have all the experience in the materials that we tend to use in product design.

Andy & Chris (38:53.864)

Andy & Chris (39:10.024)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (39:10.562)
So yeah, I just wanted to send out that encouragement and also if I can say, if anybody wants to reach out to me for advice on developing a product, the IP for the product and the design engineering for production and thereafter bringing it to market, I would be more than happy to help because there’s not much out there, apparently there’s not much to help you with that process but I’d like to point you in the right direction if that’s of any interest.

Andy & Chris (39:37.992)
Oh, that’s wonderful. Yeah, great. I’m sure there’s lots of people out there that have their little idea that’s been kind of nagging away in the back of their head for quite a while. So that’ll be a great resource if people can reach out. We’ll get Michael, we’ll ask him about our product. Exactly. Exactly. Michael, it’s been wonderful. We can’t let you go without asking you two questions to wrap up with though. If you were given the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in a situation, where would that be and who’d be there?

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (39:53.482)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (40:08.29)
I think it would have been with Alan Sugar when he was deep in manufacturing and product design back in the 80s and 90s. His autobiography inspired me a lot when I was overwhelmed by dental practice and I’ve resonated very much with how he was applying his energy and his passion for product design.

Andy & Chris (40:09.408)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (40:36.276)
scaling up, manufacturability, serving a massive need to millions of people. And I’d love to have just seen what he was doing there and how he transformed factories or made an idea from a sketch on a piece of paper into a physical reality with speed and, you know, just that precision. It was just an amazing process for me. So I’d just love to be there watching him do that.

Andy & Chris (41:02.05)
Okay, yeah Yeah, I’m sure there’s lots of younger people watching this here in the name Alan sugar and thinking who’s that because I’m sure for many younger people, you know Lord sugar Now host of your apprentice, but they might understand actually the founder of Amistrad and everything that went went into that and at the moment

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (41:04.322)
and you know how it successfully became method. So.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (41:18.738)
Exactly, yeah.

Andy & Chris (41:26.696)
there is actually a dentist who’s on The Apprentice, Dr. Paul Midder from Leeds. He’s on there kind of flying the flag for UK dentistry. So it’s, yeah, it’s kind of come full circle in many ways, hasn’t it? And if you were given the opportunity to meet somebody, who would you like the opportunity to sit down and have a whiskey or a glass of wine or a cup of coffee? Living doesn’t have to be alive. In fact, it could be fictional. Yeah.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (41:30.05)
Yeah, that’s right.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (41:39.168)

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (41:48.706)
I think, I mean, it would have to be product related again because it’s such a passion. It would be probably James Dyson. He has seen within formally taken for granted household objects such as the vacuum cleaner, massive opportunities and improvement of design engineering for him to see within these objects that we take for granted, you know, whether it’s a hairdryer or a fan for the

Andy & Chris (41:58.598)

Andy & Chris (42:11.016)
Mmm. Mmm.

Andy & Chris (42:17.064)
Hmm. Hmm.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (42:18.466)
even what you call it these days, a fan for the room to cool you down or heat you up. You know, the hand dryers, you know, to see there’s a deeper, better way to make this product and to serve everybody better. I’d love to meet him and just to hear his approach on driving innovation in everyday objects. It’s just, I just love that, the world of creativity and product design, so it just needs to be another inventor, you know.

Andy & Chris (42:29.096)

Andy & Chris (42:33.19)
I don’t see they look cool. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (42:38.986)

Andy & Chris (42:48.168)
Yeah, and like you said particularly with James Dyson not only as they were performance improvement that the look of them They’ve been sexy. He’s now sexy I was gonna say we’ve got one of their we’ve got one of their tower fans and it’s just a it’s just an open tube and it it kind of makes no sense that it would work like that because previously you’d had blades you would just kind of blow my hair around and that kind of Reinventing something that’s been around for so long. It is remarkable and to get inside the head of somebody like that is quite quite special. I

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (42:56.302)
Oh, they’re stunning.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (43:01.866)
Yeah. Yeah.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (43:11.458)
Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. I love it.

Andy & Chris (43:18.44)
see how they’re wired. Yeah. Michael, it’s been a joy. It’s been an absolute joy. If you could let us have those links, we’ll definitely drop those into the guest notes in terms of where people can find out more about ErgoProx, but also just perhaps ways that people can reach out to you as well. If there is got some design ideas out there that people weren’t sure what to do with, they can contact you. But all the very best with it. Like I said, I’m looking forward to it, hearing it on the scene. It’s been a lovely conversation. Appreciate your time today. Thank you. Cheers, Michael.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (43:22.274)
Thank you. Thank you.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (43:38.146)
Absolutely, I’d be happy to help.

Michael Alatsaris – ErgoProx (43:45.158)
Thank you. Thank you. Thanks very much. Take care guys

Andy & Chris (43:48.264)


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