Riverview Dental gets a wildly imaginative fit out by Levitch Design Australia
By Danny Chan
The symbiotic relationship between employee, customers and business success is the recurring theme of many corporate speeches. With the help of Levitch Design Australia (LDA), Dr Stuart Malone recently rebuilt his dental surgery in an inspired effort to transplant this concept into the physical space. He wanted to recreate an ecosystem in which employees would feel supported in every way – so they were better positioned to meet the needs of patients in their care.
“Our staff should feel supported at the workplace. That’s why our renovation plans included a fully functional kitchen where meals can be prepared. Uniforms can be laundered onsite with washing machine and dryer in a utility room. We also designated an area where the team can meet in comfortable surrounds and a private lounge area where dentists can study and write patient notes away from the clinical environment.”
These were just some of Dr Malone’s main ideas for redeveloping the 40-year-old building that houses Riverview Dental, a family clinic located up in northern Victoria’s Shepparton. The clinician also wanted to blend the surgery into its native bushland surrounds using a combination of natural and modern finishes as inspiration for the renovation. With 3 dentists and 2 hygienists working part time out of 3 rooms, the layout needed to be reconfigured into 5 rooms and allocate more space for waiting room, reception area and sterilization area.
The last time the Riverview Dental building was worked on in 2004, the dentist had project managed the interior fit out himself. At the time, the 1976 purpose-built dental facility had never been updated – and not until recently. The former experience proved “too stressful” for Dr Malone, who decided this time to enlist the expertise of Levitch Design Australia.
“I wanted a company that was experienced in Dental Surgery design. From the first meeting with Andrew Arnott (LDA’s Project Consultant), I was extremely impressed with the level of detail he had already gone into. He ticked all the boxes, some of which I haven’t even considered.”
A major challenge from the outset was, in Dr Malone’s words, “working to keep working” during the construction phase. Eschewing the idea of running the clinic onsite in the midst of the building process – although LDA did propose plausible side-by-side working solutions – Dr Malone decided to move the surgery to a temporary location.
After much searching, an old 3-bedroom house was converted into a fully functioning 3-chair surgery in just two weeks by the dentist and the LDA builders. Dr Malone reckoned the cost of $50,000 was a small price to pay for the ability to continue working in a safe and clean environment.
Meanwhile, back at the construction site, everything progressed swimmingly.
“LDA was very creative with the ideas and design brief they were given. It was a joy to watch the design team being creative during the design meetings. I did not want to interfere with the process as I was most impressed with what they were creating. I felt confident a beautiful building would be built.”
The stress-free coordination, ease of communication and quality of work delivered by tradespeople made it a joy for Dr Malone to visit the site every day.
“The folks at LDA went out of their way to ease any concerns I had during construction. There was a positive vibe onsite which I believe translated into raising the quality of the building.”
Dr Malone remembers the time he overheard Ash Pollard, LDA’s project manager, telling one of the painters how the finished work will be recognised when people walk through the building. “Little things like these all contribute to the eventual success of the project,” the dentist enthuses.
He is right. The final results did not disappoint. If not for the eye-catching company logo at the front of the building, existing customers can be forgiven for doing a double take beholding the new facade for the first time.
What was once an ordinary looking, single story building had completely transformed into avant-garde architecture. Drawing inspiration from neighbouring bushlands, the slate stack stone and spotted gum timber-panelled cladding is as easy on the eyes as the picturesque nature it borrowed from. Complete with modern finishes, by way of Alucobond and COR-TEN steel frames and panels, the sublime structure is an arresting sight in the busy CBD of Shepparton on Welsford Street.
The bushland theme extends indoors in simple yet surprisingly effective ways. Married with earthy toned fixtures and furnishings, evocative images and coloured panels positioned for maximum exposure somehow manage to be tasteful in charm and character.
A squarish brown pillar repurposed with three inset magazine racks – in zesty green no less – stands next to a wall covered by a photographic render of the trees that inspired it. On an adjacent wall hang three instagram-style, highly detailed close-ups of tree trunks. Below the portraits sits a long custom-built bench wrapped in matching fabric and leather upholstery. Dual-toned carpet nails the theme with tree-textured motifs as it delineates artificial zones for lounging chairs. All these design ingenuity hails from just the waiting room alone. Inspired touches abound throughout the 230-sqm facility.
As requested by Dr Malone, the front desk area looks every inch the lobby of a luxury motel – complete with timber-laminated reception counter, stack stone feature wall, hanging lights and potted plants. In the steri room, recess-hidden red and orange strip lights provide a futuristic glow to accentuate the modern clean room and its hi-tech equipment. The surgery rooms assume a pared-down, minimalistic look with subtle reminders of the flowing theme outside. From the vantage point of the dental chair, patients are treated to natural vistas afforded by well-placed windows and the bushlands beyond. The brightly lit surgery rooms are cleverly apportioned with bespoke cabinetry clinging to available wall space leaving ample walking room.
“It now looks like a state-of-the-art building again,” remarks Dr Malone, harking back to the grandiose intent of the original 70s construction. That the concept was fleshed out so exquisitely owes much to excellent teamwork and coordination, he stresses.
“LDA has a great team that you can trust to transfer intricate plans on paper to such a high quality and detailed build. It takes a committed team to pull off such a massive undertaking and to deliver it on time and budget as they have.”
Reiterating the guiding concept behind the project, Dr Malone concludes his assessment: “This is ultimately a building that supports my staff who in turn support our patients and is reflective of the natural environment which I love.”
“The idea of being immersed in nature and surrounded by a great team delivering an exceptional patient experience is something close to my heart. I’m very pleased that the building now reflects that commitment so elegantly!”
By Danny Chan
Have smaller, more affordable units, with greater functionality and performance convinced more dentists in recent years to incorporate laser technology into their practices? Absolutely, says Paul Baltas, Sales Manager of Innovative Medical Technologies (IMT), a medical equipment company that specialises in laser products.
While the rising popularity of dental lasers certainly benefits from greater affordability and portability, the specialist laser reseller believes the main reason for the innovation enjoying a rennaissance of late is more likely due to a timely confluence of multiple factors.
“Today’s patients are better educated at the advantages of minimally invasive dentistry – in particular, a revolutionary change in paediatric and restorative dentistry.
“Meanwhile, major shifts in health fund provision and corporatisation are forcing dental entrepreneurs to level up, whether by performing treatments more efficiently, less invasively or providing new services like laser assisted tooth whitening, endodontics, laser assited periodontal therapy and non invasive sleep & snoring solutions. Improvements in the quality of dental materials further push the advancement of modern dentistry”.
“All these are key factors that highlight the value of laser dentistry, and they happen to coincide with recent advancements in new laser products for the dental market.” Paul explains.
Paul Baltas has been around the laser industry long enough to appreciate the current vast opportunities available to dental practioners . He witnessed the initial push for new dental technologies and lasers into the Australian market in 2000 when he was a technology specialist at DMTi selling digital imaging & radiography, intraoral cameras, surgical operating microscopes and micro-air abrasion systems. The following year, the company launched the Biolase range of diode and Waterlase dental lasers.
While take-up rate was “respectable” in those days, Paul says the dental industry was not yet fully ready for the laser treatment concept. Although these dental lasers were already ideal for soft tissue and bone cutting, they were then considered inferior to rotary and air abrasion instruments for tooth preparatory work, while extremely costly to own and maintain.
In subsequent years, as Paul continued to immerse himself in the dental laser industry – running distributorships for the likes of Protec / Henry Schein and Hoya laser systems – he gained invaluable insights, including: Challenges faced by laser users; benefits and drawbacks of available products; and their broad applications across diverse fields.
Amid uncertain market conditions, Paul launched Innovative Medical Technologies, a specialist medical laser distributor in 2007, introducing the LiteTouch ‘laser-in-handpiece’ hard tissue laser (an Australian & world first). The laser offered a number of advantages over the slower cutting fibre-based lasers like the WaterLase & Hoya VesaWave. These lasers were becoming more affordable and offered other benefits but still could not rival the cutting speed of rotary intruments.
By 2008, IMT began to put greater focus on lasers for the medical, surgical and aesthetics industry which was rapidly expanding.
“As IMT progressed into different fields, we found that Australian doctors and dentists were becoming increasingly open to new technology, particularly multi-wavelength mult-function lasers, especially as the technology rapidly matured offering unprecedented levels of power, performance & versatilty.
“From digital imaging to CAD/CAM, Australian dentists were among the first to incorporate new innovations. The information age effectively closes whatever technological gap existed between us and the rest of the world. Australia also leads the way in research and education on new materials, technologies & techniques, thanks in part to the pioneering efforts of academics, teachers and thought leaders like Prof. Lawrence Walsh from UQ”
Paul opines that over the last three to four years, dental diode lasers have taken off in Australia. In addition to the popular Lasotronix SMART-PRO multi-wavelength diode lasers, IMT installed an additional 40 Fotona LightWalker AT-S dual wavelength Erbium Neodymium YAG all-tissue lasers in just over 12 months following its launch. Comparing favoribly with sales of IMT’s flagship medical laser products – installed 200 units in the last 6 years – Paul attests that dental lasers are experiencing an ongoing surge of interest.
In retrospect, Paul says the dental lasers IMT distributes, like Fotona’s LightWalker and Lasotronix’s Smart Pro, have given – and with version upgrades, continue to give – the industry much to be excited about.
“Fotona has been manufacturing laser equipment for over 50 years and has a significant presence in the telecommunications, defence, medical and dental industries. Since establishing its Australian presence in 2000, Fotona has been delivering extremely high satisfaction rates and an unprecedented reputation for reliability across the medical, dermatological and dental fields.”
Fotona’s LightWalker AT-S boasts two highly effective laser wave-lengths: Er:YAG and Nd:YAG with energy levels up to 5 times greater than previous generation lasers. The wavelength is of particular importance as specific oral tissues react in different ways depending on the type of laser source. By offering two complementary wavelengths – in terms of their effect on tissues – LightWalker comes very close to being a “universal” laser.
Between the highly water absorbed Er:YAG laser wavelength and the more homogeneously absorbed Nd:YAG laser wavelength, the LightWalker units cover practically all laser-assisted dental treatments – including endodontic, periodontal, peri-implantitis, tooth whitening as well as the novel NightLase® snoring therapy and facial skin treatments such as wrinkle reduction.
“The LightWalker is an award-winning dental laser featuring the latest Variable Square Pulse (VSP) and Quantum Square Pulse (QSP) technology. These innovative solutions cater both to experts as well as beginners,” Paul stresses.
Unlike standard laser technologies, variable square-shaped pulses ensure greater patient comfort with higher precision and safety. Fotona’s unique and all-new QSP mode helps the unit to ablate even more efficicently by avoiding the hard-tissue debris cloud whilst further enhancing patient comfort. Notably, Fotona’s cutting speeds on hard tissue can finally match and even surpass traditional rotary instruments whilst eliminating the need for anaesthesia in up to 95% of cases.
The other all-encompassing unit IMT distributes is Lasotronix’s Smart M Pro Diode, offering a multitude of applications in one compact platform. This versatile machine enables a broad range of treatments thanks to two complementary wavelengths – 635nm (RED) and 980nm (NIR) – for using both transmission or absorption effects. Recommended therapies include microsurgery, periodontology, endodontics, teeth whietning, LLLT biostimulation and photo-activated disinfection (PAD).
For all the claims of technological advantages and ease of use, the dental laser is still relatively new technology with its own learning curve. That is why IMT organises regular training courses featuring the world’s foremost experts on the use of lasers in dentistry and medicine.
Over the last 12 months, IMT has hosted world-renowned academics and laser experts like Prof Giovanni Olivi, Adjunct Professor in Endodontics, Conservative Dentistry and Paediatric Dentistry; Prof Leonardo Marini, General Surgeon & Specialist Dermatologist; Prof Adrian Gaspar, OB/GYN specialist and Cosmeto-gynecologist; and Prof Ashraf Badawi, Laser Dermatogist. Regular hands-on training sessions are conducted at IMT’s Melbourne-based laser training facility, as well as local and international training centres
“Our medical training courses cover a broad range of procedures including Nightlase (anti-snoring), Liplase (lip enhancement), Skin Rejuvenation and 4D (Intraoral skin tightening). Not only can dentists learn from the best in the industry, they benefit greatly from exchanging information with peers and other healthcare professionals.
“For example, we provide opportunities for face-to-face and online inter-dialogue sessions between dentists, sleep & respiratory physicians, dermatologists, plastic & ENT surgeons. Everyone comes away benefiting from the sharing of knowledge and techniques – from different perspectives that they are seldom exposed to.”
In partnership with Laser and Health Academy, IMT is even helping to arrange mini residency Masters Course in Laser Dentistry in Europe & Australia for its own user community. Along with Paul and his co-workers at IMT, members of the growing local and international user community make natural evangelists and spokespersons for the adoption of dental lasers. Indeed, a couple of the graduates from the first cohort who recently returned from their European Masters in Laser Dentistry program have supported training workshops and trained local and international dentists in their private clinics to educate them on the latest advances in this exciting field.
On the heels of digital X-rays and CAD/CAM, Paul reckons all the stars are in alignment for lasers to become de rigueur equipment in the Aussie operatory.
“It certainly won’t be long before dentists here cross the threshold from general awareness to widespread adoption.”