How to reinvent an industry

Plenty of day-to-day tasks have been turned into a business, but not every business knows how to make them enjoyable.

Meet Doctor David Leong and Doctor Angela McCarthy, the hip, Inner-West Sydney dentists who have thought of a way to make flossing and fluoride fun by bringing the unexpected to their dental practice.

Erko Dental is Erskineville’s local dental surgery that reflects the edgy, hip atmosphere of the bars, pop-up boutiques and trendy eateries you’d find in the area.

“When you think of a dentist, you think of an old guy with big glasses. We try to break those boundaries and change that perception”

Determined to break the mould of dental practices, the yellow door and an exposed brick aesthetic makes the dental practice look more like a popular Sunday brunch spot than a place of oral hygiene. 

Though not a notoriously hip industry, standing out with branding was crucial to compete in the saturated Dentistry market. With an ethos centred on creating enjoyable customer experiences, and breaking tradition with unexpected, memorable design, instead of buying an established practice and list of patients, Angela and David set up their own practice from scratch.

“We wanted to start from scratch and build up our patient base, with people coming to us because they really want to come to us,” David explains.”My father’s a dentist as well. He had two very successful practices in the North and he said we could take one over. But we lived around here and wanted to stay living and working here.” He reflects, “It was taking a risk to go out on our own, but we wanted to do it, because it represented us and our lifestyle. We wanted to show our personalities.”

“Erko Dental, for us, is about avoiding everything about how normal dentists set things up”

The pair’s personalities extend into a beautifully-designed website and social media channels, projecting a fun, friendly and non-frightening experience of going to the dentist that is reinforced when you meet them.

Since opening, the practice with a point of difference  has had an impressive 1000 patients through the door.

David and Angela are the only two practising dentists at Erko Dental and they employ people to be both receptionists and dental assistants at the same time.

“Good staff can be really hard to come by” David tells us. “Our philosophy is to hire completely inexperienced people and train them ourselves to a high standard and in a way that suits how we do things.” Hiring purely on personality, Erko Dental typically employs people from a mix of backgrounds.

“Most of the people we hire are studying part time. One’s an artist, one’s a mum – it’s a real mix and works really well,” David tells us. “The most important thing is to treat your staff well.”

Just like the general image of the practice thrives on bringing the unexpected, so too was the decision to be a dentist for Angela and David.

“I never had a moment when I thought, ‘I want to be a dentist’

“I wanted to do something medical but didn’t necessarily want to be a doctor. I sort of fell into dentistry and really liked it and ended up doing three degrees" Angela admits.

“There’s a movement towards integrating the most modern technology into dentistry now which makes it fun and really interesting”

David followed in the footsteps of his father, but hadn’t planned to. “My dad was a dentist, so I’ve always grown up around it. But I never wanted to be one in the beginning.”.

Bianca Farmakis