Family dentistry

Kay and James Hallows are joint principals of Hallows Dental in Hanham, Bristol. The success of their private practice, opened last September, vindicates the tough decisions they have had to make

We graduated together from Guy’s Hospital in 1999, worked in Ipswich for a few years, then moved to the Bristol/Bath area. We found a family owned practice between the two cities in Longwell Green, and worked there together as associates for over 13 years. Essentially it was a family practice and, in turn, it attracted lovely families. Patients were treated with respect and care and many became our friends. In short it was a happy environment in which to be a dentist and a patient.

The practice changed hands with a corporate taking the helm a few years ago, and we parted company with them. At the time, we were very sad to leave a practice where we thought we’d be until we retired. But from that situation came the drive to create something quite magical.

An opportunity created

We took some time off to consider carefully the next move. We wanted our own private practice and we had a fairly clear vision of how it should be. But we had a budget rather than a bottomless pit. An opportunity arose for us to spend time in various parts of Malaysia treating homeless families on the streets and that proved to be a turning point in our lives. We drew a great deal of inspiration from those experiences, and we returned to England with a greater understanding and sense of self.

On our return we put in an offer for a dental practice that had ceased trading some considerable time back. The location, in nearby Hanham, met our criteria, but it needed a lot of work to bring it up to the standard we wanted. The purchase was complicated and protracted but we eventually took possession in January 2017.

What a difference the years make

The property we purchased was built in 1920. It had operated as a dental practice for many years but had been dormant for a considerable time. It ticked the boxes in terms of location with easy parking and a dental laboratory next door. The downside was that the place needed gutting, the old dental equipment removing and some inspirational thinking about how to use the space to best advantage.

Luckily we knew Gavin Willis of Paradigm Design Solutions. Gavin’s knowledge of dentistry shone through from the start. It’s one thing to design a practice and we know quite a number of people who can do that. What is so very different about Gavin is that he understands how dentistry works. This is a vital skill. But perhaps what really sets him apart from his competitors is that he invests the time to become acquainted with the way you like doing dentistry.

You can talk to him about the market you are targeting and his thinking and his designs will reflect the needs of that market sector. A case in point was the very specific and entirely correct advice about the positioning and layout of our reception and waiting room areas. It was invaluable guidance that has benefited staff and patients alike.

Twinned with Wimpole Street?

Dentists will often talk of the environment in a dental practice, with the main focus being on the need to create a relaxing, stress free mood. We felt that our new practice presented us with an opportunity to take a more literal view of the meaning of environment and consider not just the mood of our patients, but their health too.

With this in mind we installed into each surgery heat-recovery ventilation systems that continuously remove the air and replace it in the surgeries, providing a healthier environment for everyone. We recover the heat from the air we remove and inject it back into the fresh air we bring into the surgeries. Our builders, who only build dental surgeries and have done so for the last 30 years, have put this into just one other surgery – in Wimpole Street. I wonder if we should add to our sign that we’re twinned with Wimpole Street!

It’s been an interesting journey involving some difficult decisions. If we were asked to give advice to a colleague finding himself or herself in the position we found ourselves in two years ago we would say stick to your guns. We enjoyed being family dentists then and we continue to enjoy it. Judging by the number of patients who have joined us we must be doing something right (1,300 patients since we opened last September).

Just two little tales to end which touched our hearts. When we opened in Hanham one long-standing patient took the time to paint a beautiful picture of our practice whilst another, whose wife recently and sadly died, has given us a donation in her memory and so we installed a memorial seat for her outside the practice.

With all its up and downs, dentistry can be a wonderful profession. 

Hallows Dental – tel: 0117 990 2215 website:

Paradigm Design Solutions – tel: 01278 641074  website:

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