By Danny Chan
As the name suggests, Gentle Dental Geelong (GDG) is a practice that prides itself on achieving successful treatment outcomes in a way that prioritises patient comfort. Underpinning the ethos is the practice’s drawcard as specialist providers of sleep dentistry and their conscious efforts to raise dental care standards for nervous patients. GDG’s hallmark of gentle, pain-free dentistry is not lost on their patients, many of who have been visiting the 12-year-old clinic since the early days for that very reason.
Yet despite a name tweak four years ago – the practice was formerly known as Gentle Dental Dr Tania Nixon & Associates – even the most loyal of customers would not have realised that their beloved family clinic had actually changed ownership. Behind the scenes, the Geelong surgery had officially joined the Ekera Dental Group as a partnering practice in 2014.
As far as patients are concerned though, nothing has changed. The team led by Principal Dentist, Dr Tania Nixon, continues to deliver high quality dentistry with an assuring sense of patient care. The emphasis on pain-free dentistry remains unabated but in fact, has increased through greater consumer awareness driven by Ekera Dental’s bespoke local marketing program and greater digital presence.
On the clinical side, Dr Nixon says Ekera Dental has been supportive of the practice’s long-standing commitment catering to patients suffering from dental phobia or anxiety. GDG offers these patients a choice of oral or IV sedation, the latter administered by a trained medical sedationist.
“We also use soft lighting and a friendly environment to help relax patients. This can help build trust for some patients. The patients are always in control and are encouraged to communicate if anything bothers them throughout the procedure,” the gentle dentist conveys.
The subtle changeover owes much to the deliberate low-key manner in which the corporate acquisition firm operates – indeed there were little, if any, external hints of the switch. Ekera Dental prefers to operate in the background with its proven and successful support framework that allows the practice itself to shine – and continue to do what it does best.
The somewhat laissez-faire approach seems consistent with the company’s stated vision to “partner with high quality dental practitioners operating successful practices”. After all, why change the formula when the status quo already works?
It makes practical sense as well. For one, the transition would appear seamless to existing customers – which is important to ensure their continued support. Perhaps more importantly, the existing dental team gets to operate in their element, unhindered by disruptive interferences, while giving them the support where required.
Such is the case with Dr Nixon, who relates her post-Ekera experience as being freed to “spend more time working as a clinician and less time in book-keeping and practice management”, which were her main motivations for selling the practice.
On the other hand, the dedicated dentist appreciates Ekera’s hands-off approach, relishing the autonomy to run the clinic the way she knows best:
“I still maintain my position as Principal Dentist and I’m still able to make decisions on the main day-to-day running of the practice,” says the mother of two boys, who also welcomes the reduced administrative workload – and hours.
“Spending less time dealing with HR and accounts allows me more free time after clinical hours. I now work 4 instead of 5 days a week which is great to allow a balanced work-home life.”
The Ekera Dental Group provides support services to its practice partners across the spectrum of management duties, including: Financial management; human resource advisory and recruitment services; marketing and public awareness initiatives; practice management as part of its upskilling programs.
Besides upgrading the clinic’s infrastructure to meet new Australian healthcare standards and those of accreditation bodies – those related to the provision of Sedation Services, including adding a ramp for easy access by wheelchair-bound patients – Ekera has also boosted the practice’s marketing efforts via Social Media (Facebook) and Online Booking engines. Such efforts include throwing some light on the “Gentle” aspects of the practice, generating awareness around a service that is close to Dr Nixon’s heart.
Having a professional team behind her practice, Dr Nixon gets to focus on what fuels her passion for dentistry: Implementing advanced techniques that she continues to learn through attending global conferences and seeing the real-life benefits of pain-free dentistry in the eyes of grateful patients. All things considered, the Geelong dentist would not hesitate recommending Ekera Dental to existing practice owners but qualifies “if the shoe fits”.
Personally though, it has been a welcome change:
“It is a great way to enter into retirement or just reduce the stress of running a surgery.”