FAMILY DENTISTRY SOARS BEYOND YONDER

Dr. Oliver Wala standing next to a dental chair.
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Started as a small clinic at  Hurlingham Medicare Plaza, health facility is now a leading dentistry with state of the art equipment and exemplary customer experience

Dentistry is one of the oldest medical professions in the world. It dates back to 7000 B.C. with the Indus Valley Civilization.  However, it wasn’t until 5000 B.C. that prescriptions related to dentistry and tooth decay started being issued. Whereas many dentists are employed in either private or public hospitals, others opt to set up their own clinics.  Family Dentistry is one of the most successful dental clinics in Kenya.   The mid-sized health facility’s steady growth over the years demonstrates what members of a focused team can achieve if they put their mind and heart into a venture.  Audacity and resilience are hallmarks of this successful entrepreneurial journey.

Family Dentistry started in a small way. It was established in a one roomed clinic at Hurlingham Medicare Plaza, Nairobi, by Dr. Oliver Wala and his wife Sarah Wala in 2001. At that time, the couple did not have enough financial resources to hire staff.   Fortunately, they were both experienced in the medical field – Dr. Wala in dentistry and his wife in nursing.   They would therefore assist each other in running   the clinic.A strong pillar especially during the founding days, Mrs. Wala has since moved into another field but still plays a pivotal role as one of the directors at Family dentistry.

Why dentistry?

After he completed his high school education, Dr. Wala joined the University of Nairobi for a four year course in dentistry. “I like working with my hands and helping people and dentistry was a shorter course for me than medicine,” he shares. The medical practitioner preferred dentistry because he felt there was a need to address dental problems in Kenya. Additionally, he was very passionate about the profession. “After graduation, I got internship at the Kenyatta National Hospital for about one year before I got employed at Kijabe Mission hospital where I got more training and mentorship,” he recalls.

The well kept compound of Family Dentistry in Lavington, Nairobi.

It was while still working at Kijabe Mission hospital that the idea of going into private practice crossed his mind.  He therefore decided to come back to Nairobi and started Family Dentistry at Hurlingham shopping centre.  With time, the business outgrew the small premises at Hurlingham and it was therefore relocated to Lavington along James Gichuru road.  “Our current location is more spacious, secure, has ample parking and it is convenient for our clients,” says Dr. Wala.  By the same token, most of his target clients reside within this area and its environs. The health facility is founded on a very strong Christian background. As Dr. Wala shares, its fundamental philosophy is service to mankind is service to God. “We believe also this is a ministry through which I can impact on people’s lives and they therefore glorify God”, he avers.

Services Provided

One of the major services that is provided by the clinic is   family and general dentistry including: cleaning teeth, checkups, fillings, x-rays and braces. Other services are: replacing missing teeth, implants, crowns and root canal treatment. Basically, it provides   the whole scope of dentistry. According to Dr. Wala, the smile plays a pivotal role   in making one’s   facial appearance appealing. “If there is   something wrong with your smile, definitely   it affects how you perceive yourself (and also how other people perceive you),” he says. By offering treatment which makes their clients’ teeth strong and attractive, dentists help the former to have beautiful smiles hence boosting their self-esteem. As a matter of fact, it is the cosmetic part of dentistry that Dr. Wala enjoys the most since he improves  people’s  appearance –   specifically the teeth and the smile.

In his more than twenty years of practice, he has treated very many patients hence honing his skills.  According to him, it has been a very rewarding journey.  To that end, he thanks his clients and family for giving him the necessary support.   “I have also got an opportunity to mentor young and   upcoming dentists who have eventually set up their own practices,” he affirms.

The well stocked pharmacy within Family Dentistry compound.

Hurdles

Building a successful business enterprise is not a walk in the park. Often, it is a gruelling exercise that is fraught with many ups and downs.  Family Dentistry is not an exception.   Dr. Wala and his team sacrifice a lot of their time and resources in order to achieve their targets and give their customers an exemplary experience.  One of the ways of achieving that goal is making the treatment process comfortable and enjoyable.  “Since a good number of people fear injections and needles, the more painless the treatment process is, the better the outcome”, says Dr. Wala.

The facility is also set up in a serene environment, hence making the patients to feel at home. Additionally, the waiting bay has been set up in a way that is very conducive to the patients. There is a television set, soothing background music, free Wi-Fi and a special corner for the children to play.  “We take our patients   through the     treatment process   in a very simple way   , so that that we can read from the same page,” says Dr. Wala.

A rear view of Family Dentistry waiting bay.

Most of the patients are children between the ages of three to twelve. With this group, there is   a lot of anxiety towards dental treatment so it takes a little bit of patience to allay their fears. Tooth decay among children is mainly   attributed to the fact that nowadays, people are more exposed to a lot of refined foods, sugars and candy. “Most of the time we do fillings but as the children grow older, we align their teeth by fixing braces,” he shares.  Children play a pivotal role in marketing the business by referring their parents for treatment.

In order to overcome the challenge of counterfeit products which is very rampant in the country, Family Dentist sources genuine products from reputable suppliers locally and internationally.

The business

According to Dr. Wala, Family Dentistry has not yet unlocked its full potential. “We are still on a journey to attaining our full potential in growth and expansion,” he says. As part of their expansion, they have already opened another branch in Karen. However, being a hands- on job,   many patients insist on being treated by a particular dentist.

The surgery section of Family Dentistry.

Initially when he acquired the property, his plan was to establish a medical centre offering specialized treatment in different fields.  Nevertheless, he shelved that idea.  As an alternative, he has teamed up with a pharmacist who has set up a business within the premises. At the same time, his wife Sarah runs a Café that offers food   to   the staff members, patients and visitors.

Dr.  Wala works with a team of three associate dentists and several assistants. It is a team of about twelve professionals. “We have been very fortunate to attract top talent at Family Dentistry,” he says. The recruitment process starts with a thorough interview of young professional dentists. Those who meet the set standards are brought on board and they are trained further by their seniors.

Family Dentistry Cafe.

His advice to aspiring and upcoming dentists is to be patient as they learn the ropes of the profession.  They also need to be very passionate about their job since it is very demanding. 

The business is anchored on a strong Christian philosophy:  doing unto others what we would like them to do unto you. To that end, its ethical and professional standards are very high.

Family Dentistry is an outpatient facility. Nevertheless, it has partnered with various leading hospitals in the country in offering inpatient services.

The other side of Dr. Wala

Marital status:  married with two children;

Diary: Wakes at 6.00am and opens the day with a family devotion before going to his business at 8.00am.

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