Westport Dental Associates–Westport, Connecticut
The newly opened office of Westport Dental Associates is a study in contrasts, with rustic design elements like century-old reclaimed barn wood sourced from Massachusetts sharing space with sleek, cutting-edge equipment and technology. Although opposite in their look and feel, they work remarkably well together, creating an environment that communicates excellence in dentistry while also welcoming people to a comfortable yet upscale atmosphere.
Dr. Adam Freeman, owner and president of Westport Dental, is a second-generation dentist who works alongside his father, practice founder Dr. Stanley Freeman. When it comes to contrasts, Dr. Adam himself is a striking example: he practices two very different types of dentistry… Day to day, he cares for families in his full-service practice, from children to adults. At the same time, however, he is an accomplished forensic dentist, a somber calling he describes poignantly:
“We walk away from our normal lives during times of national tragedy to identify the victims of manmade and natural disasters,” explained Dr. Freeman, who, among his many cases, helped identify the victims of Hurricane Katrina and Ike. “We travel to faraway places, often in austere environments, to give names to the nameless.”
This powerful commitment to using his dental mastery to help others through two widely divergent specialties is what drives Dr. Freeman.
New Office Built After 52 Years in Original Location
Westport Dental was opened by Dr. Stanley Freeman in 1963 and remained in the same building for 53 years, slowly adding associates and new technology into the 1,500 square-foot footprint. In 1977, Dr. Brian S. Duchan joined the practice. Then Dr. Adam came aboard in 1992, followed by pediatric dentist Dr. Hannah Ahn in 2012, and Dr. Alison Kudish in 2016. As the practice grew, having multiple doctors working out of only four operatories was difficult to manage. In addition, because they grew incrementally, the office did too, making the best use they could of the space. This meant operatories were not standardized, having a mix of Pelton & Crane and A-dec equipment. Going from room to room, using different equipment depending on which room they were in, reduced productivity; the doctors and the team had to constantly re-calibrate their processes depending on where they are.
“The old space was a conglomerate made from years of various purchases,” confirmed Dr. Freeman. He noted that they were early adopters of digital x-rays, adding them in 1998, and they also had digital impressions and a paperless office. Having the best possible technology was a way to set the office apart and draw patients from this upscale suburb outside of New York City.
It became apparent that they needed more space to make the most of the technology they had, allow for expansion of patient load and future technologies, provide a better overall visit for the patient, and a smoother atmosphere for the staff. That simply couldn’t be done in their existing location, with its undersized reception and business areas, current sterilization room, and dated operatories and equipment. It was time for a brand new vision, one built to meet current goals as well as future long-term dreams.
Dr. Freeman brought up the possibility of opening a second office in Westport with his Henry Schein team, with whom he had been working for a number of years.
“There was never a question we would deal with Henry Schein,” said Dr. Freeman. “Our Equipment Sales Specialist, Bill Finkel, developed initial plans, found a builder, and held my hand every step of the way through the negotiations. He developed an equipment list and organized a trip to the Pelton & Crane factory so we could see how the equipment was manufactured. He brought X-ray specialists and every other system expert to us so we could evaluate different systems. Bill helped develop a team that worked incredibly well together and achieved the desired result.” Dr. Freeman also enlisted his wife Margaret, and together they developed the concept for the office. “We worked together as a team looking at every detail together.”
Picturesque River Views Serve as Inspiration
The doctor was ultimately able to secure his first-choice office space in a picturesque location along the Saugatuck River, on the second floor of a professional building. It offers magnificent views from most of the treatment rooms. The relaxation of the flowing water, something particularly appealing to Dr. Freeman, became the inspiration for an interior that leans heavily on natural materials and finishes.
“We paid attention to every detail, and we tried to use reclaimed materials like chestnut barn wood that’s more than 100 years old. We know exactly what barn it came from!” the doctor shared. They also used faux-wood porcelain tile imported from Italy, marble sliced tiles for the bathroom floor, and marked off each of the operatories that run along the outside of the practice with sliding barn doors.
“Our artwork comes from places my family has visited or it reminds us of those places. It all tells a story.”
Staff Plays Key Role in Equipment Selection
Dr. Freeman said after several months in the new office, he can’t think of any one thing they would change, and he believes that’s because every single team member was deeply invested in the new office build-out. He asked each staff member to create a wish list for the new office, and he tried to make each of those requests a reality. While choosing chairs and cabinetry, team members were given the run of the showroom and told to test all the chairs from both a patient and provider standpoint. Before flying home that afternoon, the order was placed, based on their recommendations to Dr. Freeman.
“It’s all about developing a great team,” concurs Dr. Freeman. “We have four hygienists—Jessica Torre, Sarah Reilley, Evelina Criscitiello, and Tina Sicsico—most of whom have been with us close to 10 years. We also have a wonderful front desk staff and office manager: Sara Wasylean, Phoenix Perez, and Kat Figueroa. Our dental assistants are second to none: Bridget Bieler, our head assistant, who has been with us for 15 years, along with Gina Alvarado, Tracy Gallon, and Omaira Dejesus. Christine Fitzgerald is our human resources person and bookkeeper. She keeps everyone happy and is crucial to maintaining the team.”
The practice has eight operatories, most with views of the river. All were standardized with Spirit 3000 chairs and delivery units, and Helios LED lighting. The configuration in all rooms is identical, so team members and doctors can rest assured they know where everything is located for maximum efficiency, no matter which treatment room they are in. The pediatric treatment room was designed a bit differently, based on suggestions from pediatric dentist Dr. Ahn. It utilizes a rear delivery set-up that keeps instruments tucked out of sight, a TV monitor embedded into the ceiling, and a small waiting area right outside so parents can remain nearby.
Practice’s Advanced Technology Sets it Apart
Westport Dental was already digital and paperless, utilizing Dentrix practice management software to connect DEXIS sensors. However, in the new office, Dr. Freeman expanded and updated his imaging capabilities. He chose the flexibility of a portable Nomad X-ray unit, which moves throughout the office as needed. The doctor already utilized KaVo hand pieces in the original office, but in the new location, he upgraded to dual motors, reducing the need to switch out attachments. The office also upgraded to 3D imaging, incorporating an Instrumentarium OP300 Cone Beam unit, which was installed in an open alcove in the middle of the treatment area.
“We paid attention to every detail, and we tried to use reclaimed materials like chestnut barn wood that’s more than 100 years old. We know exactly what barn it came from!”
“The diagnostic ability of the Cone Beam is unbelievable especially when we are trying to determine the cause of discomfort and a 2D digital x-ray is not diagnostic.” said Dr. Freeman. Recently, a patient came to Westport Dental complaining of pain they thought was due to a failing root canal. After taking a 3D image, they discovered it was actually because of a huge cyst! “With the cone beam, we can diagnose things we never could before.”
Even the sterilization area was upgraded and designed as a spacious walk-through double in size and length to that in the original office. It does exactly what it is supposed to do, notes Mr. Finkel, but in a more efficient, state-of-the-art manner, utilizing top-of-the-line equipment like a Midmark M11, Statim 5000, QuattroCare, and VistaPure water system. It was purposely located out in the open, in the middle of the action: “Patients can see the sterilization protocol for themselves from any area of the practice.”
Maximizing Technology Workflow in Beautiful Environment
The new office opened in August of 2016, so it’s still too early to report hard numbers, but what is known is that patients are thrilled with the new office and comment on its beauty and modern sensibilities. That reaction and enthusiasm extends to the doctors themselves and their staff.
“Everyone who sees our space cannot believe what we have accomplished. We were working with many of these technologies already, but we developed a space that allowed them to be fully appreciated in a better workflow.”
The doctor credits his relationship with both his internal team and the team at Henry Schein as the reason the office build went so smoothly and has been such an incredible success.
“Our mission,” explained Dr. Freeman, “is to offer our community exceptional dentistry through our passion, integrity, and dedication to the art and science of dentistry. Through education, technology, techniques, and continued training, we challenge ourselves to make a difference.”
This new office has put Westport Dental Associates on a fast track to achieve that mission.