Hamilton's Boutique Dental Experience. Affordable hi-tech Dentistry
When Dr Henk and Annette Eksteen came to New Zealand from Africa in 1994 and opened a dental practice, they saw grown men sweating in the chair, and people petrified about visiting the dentist.
They couldn’t understand it at first; in their home country, children would become used to visits to the dentist from a young age; they would sit in their mum’s lap while she was having work done, there would be banter, they would be given treats by the dentist. “It was not a scary thing at all, it was something you did to stay healthy,” says Annette.
The penny dropped when they began hearing about the “murder house”. That particular dental institution may have run its course in New Zealand, but Annette believes the legacy lives on even in the next generation.
“Dentists were resented and yet they need to be seen rather as benevolent helpers,” she says.
“When we came to New Zealand we found there were two fears: one was pain and the other one was cost.”
So she and Hank set out to create the opposite. “We wanted to make it affordable, to bring kindness back, to change the perception of dentistry, to make it an experience patients would enjoy.”
That starts as soon as you enter the doors of Villa Dental in Hamilton. You can have good coffee, there is a water feature in pride of place, even a rocking chair.
The Eksteens first pioneered the approach in 1998, in a Hamilton East cottage and then an bigger villa - hence the name of the practice. Now that they have outgrown those premises and are operating in new, purpose-built ones off Wairere Drive, they have worked even harder to recreate the cosiness. They have succeeded; visitors are greeted by welcoming receptionists, and wait on comfy chairs and couches, while along a corridor a vintage style room recreates the old villa feel, and just beyond that is a room where relaxing head and shoulder massages are offered. Elsewhere, seven open-plan style cubicles with dental chairs radiate off a central corridor; for those who prefer more privacy, separate rooms are available.
Not a petrified person in sight.
Upstairs there are offices and, overlooking the Wairere Drive roundabout where Gordonton Road starts, a generous-sized seminar room which is part of Annette and Hank’s wish to establishing a platform for effective peer contact. A practice where peers from all over the country in NZ and abroad could collaboratively share information, practical experiences and tested and proven techniques through hands-on seminars. This venue is also used for community events aimed at the whole family.
Annette, a dental hygienist with a Masters Degree in Advanced Leadership Practice from Massey University, says it is important that older practitioners can pass on their knowledge to younger ones, and the seminar room fits that purpose. And the skills the younger dentists can learn from are of a seriously high level; two leading American dentists are currently working at Villa Dental and assisting with training. Even once they have gone back to America, they will continue to make return visits to this practice and the people they've grown to care for.
Annette and Hank are innovative in other ways as well, and understand the financial challenges of dental visits.
Part of their solution to that is an inventive new healthcare offering. Patients can sign up for individualised payment plans. One of these is a five-year package at an investment of $6997 For that they have an impressive range of cover, worth a benefit of $17,691. *Conditions apply. It’s a risk for the practice, given the saving they are offering, but the real payoff may be in patients being more engaged in their own dental healthcare and taking a more preventive approach.