Crowning achievement

Photography by Thies Bogner

In the midst of one of those non-descript, ground-level office complexes, islanded by a sea of asphalt parking lots that border suburbia, a miracle of sorts has taken place. Oakville, a commuter community a half-hour’s drive from Toronto, can now boast of having the coolest dental office the country.

Chagger Dental is the result of a close, year-long collaboration between Oomph design principal Ian Graham and Dr. B. B. S. (“Call me Bobby”) Chagger. Its seamless blending of elements technological, psychological and aesthetic has set a new standard for dentistries everywhere, a fact which did not escape the 2007 ARIDO Awards committee. And it all started with a piece of glass.

A piece of Dale Chihuly art glass, to be more specific. Dr. Bobby owns one of the prolific American’s pricy works. It sits on a shelf in the aesthetics room to the right of reception, a colourful, striped bowl-like structure with a biomorphic motif emerging from its centre. Dr. B. finds this composition relaxing to look at. So why not, he reasoned, go for the same effect on a much grander scale? Might this not help ease the unreasonable sense of dread that still afflicts most dental patients?

Enter Ian Graham, the head of Oomph, a multidiscipinary design firm that recently relocated to Ancaster, Ont. Graham has a reputation for creating high-end medical and dental interiors, in addition to his other specialities of residential design and custom furnishings. Dr. B. and Graham met up for a preliminary meeting over coffee and found themselves agreeing about a lot of things, especially the need for branding Chagger as “the Holt Renfrew of dentistry.”

The Oakville office, one of three that Dr. Bobby owns, would be Chagger’s flagship location, designed specifically to attract young mothers, the final arbiters when it comes to choosing a family dentist. It should therefore be the antithesis of an ordinary dental office, or what Graham disparagingly labels “neon tooth” shops. It should ideally appeal to the senses, possessing the same calming atmosphere as an upscale spa. As well, the client insisted, it had to be fitted with absolute state-of-the- art technology.

Their first imperative comes through in spades in the front waiting room. Flatscreen TVs display a series of serene landscapes, while soothing music lulls the background. A colour scheme of dusty sage, ecru and baby blue complements bone textural wall tiles, beige-mix limestone slab flooring and matching striated carpet squares. Well-padded, U-shaped armchairs, in sueded brown fabric, look and feel specifically built (as they were) for relaxation.

A grouping of colourful, long-necked glass vases sits perched in shallow niches that run the room’s circumference; the niches themselves are backed with opaque Plexiglas sandwiching a tranquil waveform fabric. The main wall, which took three weeks alone to complete, features a Moss and Lam custom finish of marble dust over plaster with a grass striation relief.

But even in this outer sanctum, imperative number two is more than hinted at. Along the back wall a length of windows echoes the niches and allows waiting

patients (plus, one assumes, their fidgety children) the distraction of sometimes watching Dr. Bobby in action as he hand-finishes porcelain crowns, inlays and veneers. These are produced via an all-in-one process, trademarked under the Cerec label by German wunderdental company Sirona, featuring a CAD/Cam system hooked up to an on-site milling machine and a 3-D impression computer program (the same technology used to map craters on Mars can now map craters in our mouths).

For patients requiring cosmetic dentistry, these computer-driven machines mean no more nasty impression plates, no two-to-three-week wait for the milling and finishing process, no time-consuming extra trips to the specialist for fittings. Dr. Bobby can have them in and out of his chair with a new ceramic restoration in just one hour, all for the same ODA-approved price as any ordinary tooth jockey charges.

The epicentre of this activity is the remarkable “kaleidoscope” cube Graham erected in the midst of Chagger Dental. This surgical operatory, dubbed “the James Bond of all dental facilities” by its construction engineer, is kitted out with closed-circuit plasma monitors, the central Cerec computer and a top-of-the-line Sirona chair. With the touch of a finger, the dental tray can move on silent rollers around the chair; panoramic, low-radiation digital X-rays and other files can be called up on a screen; probably the bill will be electronically prepared even as Dr. B. examines an oral interior with his miniature camera probe.

The cube’s glass walls are filmed light blue; deeper sea blue and green coat an extra set of sliding glass doors that can be adjusted according to whim (thus the “kaleidoscope” appellation). This configuration of colour, according to Dr. Bobby, is meant to mimic the hues of a sunlit Mediterranean scape, offering further

calming comfort to patients. But, if privacy is more important, the cube also comes equipped with floor-to-ceiling electronic blinds. “It was very complicated to make it all look simple,” Graham commented on a recent walk-through of the office. “There are tons of different colours here, textures on textures, lots of custom designs and fabrication.” Light, too, played its part: “A typical dental office might have a couple of kinds of light. Here, we’ve used 12 different mixes -incandescents, fluorescents, MR16s, other halogens -and lots of indirect light to reduce glare.”

Technology and design harmoniously entwined. This, says Chagger, “is where dentistry is heading in the next five to 10 years.” Ian Graham goes one further: “This is one of the most progressive offices -of any kind -out there today.”

Chagger Dental has come a long way from a single piece of glass, just as dentistry has come a long way from the days of steel pliers and chloroform. If only, thinks this Toronto-based writer, Oakville itself weren’t such a long way away. cI