Looking for a place to launch her own practice, dentist Erin Walker set her sights on St. Clements.
In the village’s Foodland plaza on Lobsinger Line, a jade-green sign for Dr. Walker’s dental practice now welcomes. The Waterloo-born, first-time business owner is optimistic about the future, hoping to become a fixture in the community.
“It’s not difficult if you have a vision for what you want. I was a little bit nervous at first because everything is so new and I don’t have any dentists in the family but if you take it one step at a time everything falls into place,” she said of her initial plans to start the practice.“I decided I was ready to take that next step I had a good vision for my own office and here I am.”
A graduate of the University of Western Ontario, Walker began her dentistry career working at other practices, learning how an office is run. This proved beneficial to the new entrepreneur when she decided to branch out on her own.
Where in the past Walker’s work primarily included treating patients under someone else’s roof, now she’s running things herself as part of a two-woman team with receptionist Cheryl Veevers, who also acts as a temporary chair-side assistant: an extra pair of hands helping Walker with procedures like fillings, root canals and extractions.
In the past Walker worked alongside dental hygienists and assistants. Now she prefers to do cleanings and checkups herself, using that time to get to know her patients.
She said part of the reason for her decision to open a practice was a wish to focus on overall healthcare in her patients and having the opportunity to make lasting relationships with them.
“Dentistry is a branch of healthcare where ultimately you are dealing with dental health and overall health as well and dealing with patient relationships. Having someone come into your office who is, say, four years old and taking care of them from their very first experience up until they are an adult is really what it is about.”
Many people who are afraid of dental procedures have had bad experiences in the past or are not sure what to expect, she suggested. It’s important to make people feel comfortable from the start when they call in for an appointment and to take an interest in them as a person, “not just as a set of teeth.”
The same goes for children who slip into Walker’s chair. Kids should come in at very early ages – as early as six months according to Walker – in order to get used to a dental office environment. Dentists often give kids chair rides and count their teeth during first appointments in order put them at ease.
“The key with kids is just making them feel very comfortable. Talking to them and making them involved in what is going on,” she explained.
With construction on the property taking place from March to September when the office received its permit, many locals have had a chance to drop in on the owner and ask questions.
When Walker purchased the building on 3650 Lobsinger Line, her practice had to be built from the ground up, with new plumbing and electrical work as well as floor plans fit for a multi-room dental office. That was one of the steps after she created her business plan and successfully approached the bank.
Adding Veevers to the business was an important step, as the two women are so far are running the practice on their own, hoping to hire an assistant and a hygienist as soon as business picks up.
Last weekend Walker held a grand opening barbecue in town to celebrate her new business and clientele.
Prior to the event, getting to know the community took a team effort. Word of Walker’s presence in the area was also spread by the people she worked with on the construction of the office as well as surrounding businesses.
“My first step was deciding what I wanted. I looked around at some different locations and fell in love with St. Clements,” Walker said of her decision to relocate her work. Walker hopes the addition of her office to St. Clements will help deepen her roots in a community she has long felt a part of.