With its largely mall-based chain of clinics, Metro Dental merges franchise savvy, the latest in dental technology, and an understanding of the patient as customer

You sit down, you open your mouth, you say “ahhh.” The dentist leans down and peers in, metal probe in one hand, angled mirror in the other, and starts poking.

It’s a scene that plays out in dentists’ offices every day. But in a recent visit to Metro Dental’s Eastwood Mall branch for a routine oral prophylaxis, the process was a bit different. The key word here is “co-diagnosis”, which rides on the idea that patients will gain a better understanding of their dental dilemmas if it’s explained to them fully while seeing it on a wide-screen monitor. Though many patients would rather forego the pleasure of viewing one’s mouth using dental imaging technology, the premise is that they will be more willing to go ahead with a dental procedure if they have witnessed the sorry state of their molars.

This is just one among several factors that single out Metro Dental from other dental clinics in the country. Largely mall-based, Metro Dental is a joint venture between the Equicom Group of Companies and leading dental practitioner Dr. Steve Mark Gan, who stands as Metro Dental’s chief executive officer.

“The vision is to provide and maintain exemplary dental health care for Filipino families by equipping our clinics with state-of-the-art digital equipment and a team of professional and highly trained dentists,” shares Rene Buenaventura, vice chairman of the Equicom Group.

Accessible, top-notch dental healthcare

Metro Dental offers a wide range of services—from preventive and restorative dentistry to prosthodontics (crowns, dentures, bridges), endodontics (root canal therapy), and orthodontics (braces), and even teeth implantology, which Dr. Gan admits is his specialization.

“I studied prosthodontic implant education from the University of California, and I had my implant surgery training at the West Coast Surgery Center for Osseointegration in Los Angeles,” he informs, adding that Metro Dental’s team of dentists are also trained “at par with world standards. We send them to Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States for additional training and we fly in foreign prosthodontists, surgeons, etc. to train our dentists as well. As much as possible, we try to follow OSHA Standards (Occupational Safety and Health Association).”

With its core of licensed dentists working in malls like Eastwood Mall, SM Megamall and Robinson’s Galleria, among other key locations in the metro, Filipino families now have access to quality dentistry set at competitive prices. Dr. Gan shares: “We also have a charity dental center in Pasay. In cooperation with the Pasay City Lions, we’ve set up an outreach program—the clinic is open five days a week, and we give purely free dentistry to the less fortunate.”

Raising the Bar

For a chain of clinics that opened its first branch last August 2010, Metro Dental has its eyes set on expanding at a rapid pace. Dr. Gan relates: “We’re now at nine branches, but by year-end we target to have a minimum of 30 branches. We’re expanding as far as Subic and Tarlac, but as we progress, we will go further. We’re opening two branches in Cebu, and one in Davao. All this year.”

The challenge, Buenaventura shares, is keeping pace with the company’s objective to grow as fast and as competently as they can. “We do not want to just grow, while our standards suffer,” he says.

Dr. Gan agrees, adding: “This is one of the reasons why we decided against positioning Metro Dental as a franchise. We want to maintain the quality for the patients—standards have to be met at all times.”

Though steadily growing, dentistry in the Philippines still lags behind its Southeast Asian neighbors. Dr. Gan explains: “We’re always trying to catch up with Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand. That’s why we’re putting up Metro Dental—to be a benchmark in our industry so other dentists will follow and keep up. The major challenge is really to attract more dentists to join us who are willing to be further trained. While that would be an attraction to some, others may feel intimidated because much more will be demanded of them. But I think that’s the way to go if we want to elevate dentistry here in the Philippines.”

Published in the February 21, 2011 issue of the Business Agenda section of Manila Bulletin.