'You can watch TV during the dental treatment'
There aren't many people who look forward to a trip to the dentist. But Chris Gocher has done everything possible to make sure patients at Galgorm Dental feel at ease when they come through the doors. Set in the majestic grounds of Galgorm Castle on the outskirts of Ballymena, Co Antrim, the practice opened in August last year.
And while the building is historic, the facilities inside are anything but.
Mr Gocher (50) said: "We're very lucky to work in such a lovely place, and hopefully it is a nice place for our patients to be treated as well.
"We pretty much had a blank canvas inside, so we were able to design the practice exactly how we wanted it.
"That meant we were able to meet the requirements of the regulatory body, the Regulation and Quality, Improvement Authority (RQIA).
"For existing practices that can be quite difficult, because there are certain ways they expect processes, like sterilisation and decontamination of equipment, but we were starting from scratch.
"I realise it can be quite arduous for existing practices, but these regulations are in place for the patients' benefit, so it is necessary that we meet them."
As well as meeting strict regulations relating to hygiene, access, record keeping and fire safety, Mr Gocher wants his patients to find their treatment as enjoyable as possible.
"We have a 50in television screen on the ceiling and the patients have noise reduction headphones, which drown out the noise of the dreaded drill," added Mr Gocher.
"The patients have the remote and can pick a programme from BBC iPlayer and watch that while they are having their treatment.
"We also have a television on the wall that they can see when they are sitting up.
"The idea behind that is that we can show them X-ray results straight away, and we can show them the results of treatments on other patients, so they can see what they can expect to happen.
"It helps us explain the treatments to the patients and helps them to make the best choice about their treatment."
Of course, none of this comes cheap and the initial investment for the practice was £250,000.
"There are three of us involved; myself, Dougy Thom and Alan Crockett, so the cost is spread between us, but it is not a small amount. That has been funded through a funding loan from Ulster Bank and has covered the cost of the waiting room, sterilisation room and two surgeries.
"There will be more investment in the next two or three years to fit out the other two surgeries, but this won't be as much because a lot of the ground work has already been done."
Having worked in Australia and spent time training in London and America, Mr Gocher says Galgorm Dental is also able to offer a wide range of cutting edge treatments, including implants, cosmetic dentistry and invisible braces, as well as normal NHS dental care.
"We want to be able to offer as much as possible under one roof," added Mr Gocher.
"We don't want our patients coming in and us looking at them and then telling them they need to go off to Belfast to see something else for a part of their treatment.
"For a start, we have lots of free parking outside and I actually think that means a lot to people."
Galgorm Dental has already exceeded the expectations of the business plan drawn up prior to the opening of the practice.
"We've had 1,400 patients register with us in the last six months," said Mr Gocher.
"Some patients register for NHS check ups, some because they want a diagnosis and treatment, or to replace a missing tooth.
"We've had an advertising strategy, we've had marketing to try and get the word out and there does seem to be the demand there.
"We're trying to do something convenient, we're open from 8am to 8pm, we're trying to be more relaxed, more modern, but it's going to take time.
"We're still very pleased with how everything is going so far and I'm excited about the future.
"I get sixth formers coming in on work experience and I say to them that when they go to university they will be taught everything about dentistry, but nothing about business," he added.
"You're actually going to have to be a businessman as well, but there is a fine line with ethics as well because you're a health professional.
"If a patient in their twenties comes to me and asks for veneers I would treat them as though they were my daughter and would give them the advice they should have their teeth straightened.
"The veneers would make much more money, but that isn't the point.
"You have a duty of care to your patient.
"Of course you're in business, but your patient is your priority."