Driving force


120222_CHEESMAN_ST_MARYS_DENTAL_018_PPAn Adelaide dentist’s search for a new property was made much easier when a car detailing business went on the market across the road. Kerryn Ramsey reports

As a solo dentist running a one-chair clinic, Dr Nick Agiannidis felt it was time to expand for the success of his practice. The Adelaide practitioner had been building his business for nearly 25 years and in 2009, he started looking at potential properties that ranged from commercial buidings for sale to empty blocks.

During this time, Dr Agiannidis knew the main priority was to relocate in a nearby suburb so his regular patients didn’t have to travel far. He eventually found the ideal property—and it happened to be right across the road from his existing clinic.

The real surprise was that while his former practice was in Clovelly Park, the new property on the other side of the street was in a different postcode—St Marys, a suburb eight kilometres south of Adelaide. The difference actually encouraged Dr Agiannidis to rebrand his business as St Marys Dental Care, a positive name that appeals to both original and prospective clients.

While the dentist could instantly see the vision of his future practice, his soon-to-be architect was rather tentative. Back then, the property was a run-down auto detailing and parts business with a huge garage. “We thought, why would you even bother? It looked like it was going to fall over,” recalls Peter Petrou, managing director of Cheesman Architects. However, after Dr Agiannidis, Petrou and Trevor Roberts, project manager at Dental Concepts, had a meeting to look at various outcomes, they soon recognised the potential. “It actually scrubbed up really well,” says Petrou.

As Trevor Roberts points out, the council laws and regulations meant that if the property was demolished, the building would have to be set back from the main road frontage. A full renovation was a faster, cost-effective outcome.

Petrou and Roberts have worked together seamlessly for a wide variety of practices in South Australia, Northern Territory and other states, including a project in the Barossa Valley which comprised a state-of-the-art building accommodating both a six-chair private practice and South Australian Dental Service’s four-chair public clinic. When they designed My Child’s Dentist run by Margaret Evans in Adelaide, they introduced vibrant colours to appeal to both children and parents.

Another recent project was Darwin Orthodontic Centre run by Dr Jeff Swann, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows with frosted glass, a wooden and stainless steel staircase, and an acoustically attenuated internal plant room.

As a rule, Cheesman Architects provides a proposal, drawings and the interior design for the building, while Dental Concepts acts as project manager, as well as supplying and installing equipment. “As a consequence of this arrangement, we’re able to provide very economical drawings,” explains Petrou. “Dental Concepts then puts together a package covering everything. There are no extras, no variations.”

Petrou and Roberts agree that bringing natural light into a practice is key when it comes to design, and Dr Agiannidis happily embraced that concept at St Marys Dental Care.

After all, he’d spent the previous 25 years in a single-chair practice that was a mere 55 square metres. Moving into a new 200-square-metre building with a 10-car garage was a dream come true. The construction and fit-out were finished in just eight months.

“The final result is an expression of how I want to be perceived in providing excellent dental care in a pleasant, professional and comfortable environment,” says Dr Agiannidis.

“Patients enjoy the new environment and patient perception is critical for the success of a dental practice.” Dr Nick Agiannidis, St Marys Dental Care

A common quandary when opening a dental practice is whether to complete all treatment rooms from the beginning, or wait until the practice expands down the track. At first, Dr Agiannidis decided to just complete two treatment rooms but soon realised that, financially, it was better to complete all four rooms at once.

As Petrou points out, “Dentists often get a bit nervous about over-capitalising. “If they need to introduce new rooms, the practice will have to shut down for a period of time. So, why not plan for it now? That’s the biggest thing that we try to get dentists to consider.”

Roberts’s solution is to make all rooms functional from the beginning. The plan is to set up a store room or office area that’s plumbed and capped at floor level. “It’s made to size so if the dentist decides that they need more treatment rooms, it becomes a simple procedure,” he says. “You don’t have to cut floors or change the plumbing. You can fit them out very quickly. It’s just a matter of bringing in the joiner, plumbing in the chair and off you go.”

At St Marys Dental Care, the building is only six metres wide so each of the four treatment rooms have a view of an outdoor area. Plenty of light and a mix of screens, full-length wall mirrors and water features were introduced to make the practice feel non-clinical. “All these elements create a clean, fresh feel,” says Petrou.

A pair of two-metre-high, wave-patterned stainless-steel water features surrounded by Italian mosaic tiles were constructed by Water Motion Energy. “It was important to make sure the water features can be seen from each treatment room,” says Dr Agiannidis. “It’s quiet, peaceful and the light changes when the sun hits it.”

For the interior, the colour palette of white and charcoal was topped off by A-dec chairs upholstered in jet-black. “Until that day, it had never even occurred to install a black chair,” says Dr Agiannidis, laughing, “but it works.”

As a finishing touch, Dr Agiannidis decided to update his logo. While it may look like a shapely graphic, when you look closely, it’s an image of different sized central incisor teeth.

St Marys Dental Care now has a team of seven—Dr Greta Schulz who joined in 2011, a clinical coordinator and three receptionists/dental assistants. Dr Agiannidis also hired oral health therapist/hygienist James Agiannidis last year, who happens to be his son.

“I’m so happy with the way it is now,” Dr Agiannidis says. “Patients enjoy the new environment and patient perception is paramount for the success of a dental practice. It’s increased staff efficiency and productivity.

“And it’s so nice to come to work each day—in fact, I just about live here! That’s why we have a bathroom and a shower to freshen up, a staff room with a microwave and, most importantly, a coffee machine. While I may expand in the future, right now, I’m very happy with the way it is.”

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