Read why running a dental clinic as part of a public health center can be beneficial, and discover the risks and advantages that come with adapting a historical building for a new business.
Svendborg, the southern capital of the Danish island of Funen, attracts many tourists every year, with its narrow cobblestone streets and rich cultural life. Many people know the city for its maritime history, but for many years the tobacco industry has also been prominent there.
Paradoxically, it was an old tobacco factory that was revived as the “Svendborg Health Centre” in the spring of 2017, where dentists Thomas Nøhr and Mads Hørmand today run Svendborg Dental & Implant Centre.
As the two dentists opened the doors to their common clinic, they brought old clinics and new dreams with them.
“My old clinic, which was really in need of renovation, was on the 2nd floor of a building without an elevator. So, when I heard about the new health center, I didn’t hesitate to contact the municipality,” says Thomas Nøhr, who was rewarded for his speediness by getting first choice of rooms in the large building, along with clinic partner Mads Hørmand.
“I clearly remember the experience of entering the building for the first time. One giant concrete deck where we walked around and imagined the individual clinic rooms. It was a fun experience,” adds Mads Hørmand, who also had his reasons for investing in a brand new project.
“I was recently divorced from my then wife, whom I had also shared a clinic with. So, I was already looking around for new premises. That’s why I jumped at the chance when Thomas called and told me about the project here. We knew each other from the School of Dentistry, and together with three other dentists we founded a small professional company here in the city, “The Young Dentists” – which we were, at least at that time,” says Mads Hørmand.
When setting up a new dental clinic, most people know how big it will be beforehand. But that wasn’t the case for Thomas Nøhr and Mads Hørmand.
“We were in doubt about the size of the clinic for a long time. I was in the process of my divorce, where we split everything, so the question was whether the clinic should keep to the original size that Thomas wanted or be expanded so that there was room for my three chairs. We spent a lot of time on that process,” says Mads Hørmand.
“I actually ran a risk,” says Thomas Nøhr. “Mads said to me, ‘I’m in, but you can’t get my signature for another half a year.’ So, I acquired the additional 75 square meters without quite knowing whether in fact we could fill it up. This meant that the waiting room got bigger, and we bought more sterilization equipment also – a new dishwasher, a new additional autoclave, additional DAC, and so on. Because I was aiming for Mads to join,” says the dentist.
They ended up with approximately 300 m2 and 7 clinic rooms. Throughout the process, the two dentists kept in mind that the clinic should be welcoming to patients. There are colorful paintings on the walls, and in some clinic rooms there is an almost Zen-like atmosphere, with large pictures of green, lush landscapes that the patient can get lost in.
“We’ve been trying to make it cozy with decor and plants, among other things. We’ve also created an additional waiting room outside the clinic. Here, the patients can get some peace and quiet if they think the air rotors are too loud, and people who accompany them can go there to relax if they have to wait a long time,” says Mads Hørmand.
DANISH QUALITY WITH A ‘GERMAN’ SOUND
Well over a year later, both dentists still agree that the decision was the right one.
“It was a good match from the start, and we got along fine. We knew each other’s attitude towards professional quality and equipment. I was convinced that we looked at those things in a very similar way,” says Mads Hørmand, and Thomas Nøhr agrees. “We were at the same place in life in terms of career, and it just worked really well,” Mads continues.
However, there was one area where the dentists didn’t have the same background. For more than 20 years, Thomas Nøhr had been working with XO units and was determined to use the brand in the new clinic. “I had XO chairs at my old clinic and have never really been interested in anything else. They’re great quality and I think you can compare them to the sound of a German car door when it closes. It sounds good and it sounds just the same when you rap your knuckles on an XO chair.”
He continues, “They’re beautiful chairs and the design is really thought through. Looking at the 10-year-old chair I had with me from the old clinic, it’s still timeless, it’s still elegant. Not all designs still look good after so many years.”
Mads Hørmand had no experience with XO units, but he was pleasantly surprised: “At my old clinic we had the same units for 10 years, and they gradually started to get rickety. I can tell the difference with Thomas’s old XO chair, it’s very solid and has powerful assemblies. It’s clearly one of the benefits of the XO units that you can pull the X-ray arm 1,000 times without it all starting to shake and rock.”
ONE CLINIC, TWO CULTURES
With the establishment of the new clinic, it wasn’t only the decor and equipment that the two dentists had to worry about. They both brought their own staff members into the new collaboration.
“Bringing the two groups together exceeded all expectations. It was a really good match, but I think a great deal of the success comes from having the same values,” says Mads Hørmand.
His colleague Thomas agrees: “It was an advantage to have both groups start at the same time, so one group didn’t determine the clinic culture. Instead, the staff jointly learned about everyday life together.”
TOP OF THE POPULARITY BAROMETER
Svendborg Dental and Implant Centre has quickly become popular in the local area, and Facebook is full of glowing reviews – something one doesn’t see every day. But the two dentists also had a clear vision from the start about what kind of clinic they wanted to create.
“As a patient you can have everything done here, we’ve made a big deal out of that. We can treat patients from A-Z, and send very little out-of-house. We want our patients to feel they can’t get better treatment elsewhere,” says Thomas Nøhr. He also stresses that credit for their success belongs to the entire team.
“We have skilled and friendly assistants at the clinic, and they provide half the experience, we shouldn’t forget that. It’s our staff who meet the patients, welcome them to the clinic and hand them the bill after the treatment. The patients only meet us in treatment situations.”
A HEALTH CENTER WITH SYNERGY
As it is located in a municipal health center, the dental clinic is exposed to many citizens on a daily basis, something the two dentists hope can have a positive effect.
“A large number of citizens come to the health center for guidance on diabetes, smoking cessation, obesity, etc. We hope they find our clinic because people with diabetes may need to be closely monitored by a dentist,” says Mads Hørmand.
“It has been found that periodontitis and diabetes have a mutual influence. If a diabetic gets treated for his/her periodontitis, you also see that they can control their diabetes better. It’s a collaboration that should be considered in the future, and our location in the health center makes perfect sense.”