Okanagan Falls Center for Dentistry is still welcoming new patients
When Georgina Georgeson considered locating a dentistry clinic in Okanagan Falls about seven years ago, she noticed the community lacked one. And surveys of residents revealed that there was demand for one.
Until then, most local residents went to Penticton or Oliver for their dentistry needs.
Okanagan Falls Center for Dentistry has now been operating since Sept. 1, 2016, at 5350 9th Avenue (Hwy 97) just west of the former IGA store.
Ironically, her role recently has mainly been dealing with the business side of the clinic while she finishes her schooling, said her father, Jim Georgeson, who now serves as office manager and spoke to us for this story.
Instead, the dentistry is performed by Dr. Danny Zare, from Australia, who is approaching two years as an associate at the clinic.
He’s aided by one hygienist, two dental assistants, and two receptionists.
The clinic had a slow first year, said Jim Georgeson, noting that at first it was only open two days a week. But it was later able to increase to three days a week before suddenly falling to zero in March 2020 when the Covid pandemic hit.
It wasn’t until the beginning of June that year, after Dr. Zare arrived, that they were able to cautiously reopen under guidelines of the BC Dental Association. Requirements for stringent cleaning and sanitation required extra staffing and attention, added Georgeson.
“Now we’re going reasonably well,” he added. “We’re open three days a week for dentistry and four and a half days for hygiene. So we’re growing. We have patients from Princeton to Rock Creek to Summerland.”
He estimates the total number of patients are around 800, also noting that unlike some other local dentists, Center for Dentistry is welcoming new patients. The clinic has used postcard mailings and a sign in front to advertise that it is accepting new patients.
While there is no room to expand physically, Georgeson said more days for dentistry could be added to accommodate new patients.
Starting up the clinic in 2016 was expensive in part because of the cost of equipment such as dental chairs, x-ray machines, computers, and furniture, Georgeson said. As an experienced builder, he was able to do much of the construction and renovation work himself, saving considerable expense.
“I built my own house too,” he said. “My family were all contractors, and my grandfathers in Denmark too. I’ve been around it for a long time.”
When the clinic opened in 2016, it went “totally digital,” at a time when some local dentists were still using paper-based analogue systems, Georgeson said. This allows digital integration of everything from x-rays to record keeping.
Georgeson’s own experience with computers dates back to 1958 when he started working with Canadian National Railways in Winnipeg. A few years later he was transferred to Edmonton, where he’s lived, worked, and raised a family since, except for three years each in Montreal and Vancouver, until moving fulltime to the Okanagan in 2015.
The family started coming to the Okanagan in 1979, vacationing in Osoyoos, and later buying property in Naramata. When they moved here in 2015, however, they decided to settle in Heritage Hills between Penticton and Okanagan Falls instead.
When Georgeson’s daughter, Dr. Gina, graduated in dentistry in 2014, she spent a year at University Hospital in Edmonton doing a residency before deciding to follow her parents to BC.
Georgeson said it’s still up in the air whether his daughter will join the clinic as a dentist when she finishes her remaining studies in business.
“We haven’t decided because Dr. Danny [Zare] is doing such a good job,” he said. “Patients like him. Maybe she’s going to go and get a job somewhere else.”
Zare was born and raised in Adelaide, South Australia, which is in that country’s wine region.
“So I moved from one wine region to another,” Zare said. “The climate [in the Okanagan] is hot and dry summers, which is what I’m used to. It’s just the winters are a bit cold.”
Zare met his wife, who is from Oliver, when they were both studying dentistry in Sydney, Australia.
“She wanted to come back here, and I came back with her, and the rest is history,” he said. They now live in West Kelowna.
Zare says dentistry in the two countries is very similar, but one difference is that dental assistants in Canada, who are certified, can provide more help to the dentists.
Georgeson said Okanagan Falls Center for Dentistry provides a full range of dental services, although they do not yet do implants. Nor do they do oral surgery, and instead they refer patients to a specialist in Penticton.
Asked about any misperceptions the public has about dentistry, Georgeson said people don’t always appreciate the high costs of operating the business. When patients cancel appointments, the business has to swallow the costs of staffing and equipment for that time slot without receiving any revenue.
And there are still some people who are still scared of visiting a dentist.
The cost of dental work is less of a deterrent than it once was because more people now have insurance through their employers that covers most of the costs. The number of insured patients has increased markedly since the business first opened in 2016.
Okanagan Falls Center for Dentistry
#9 5350 9th Avenue (Highway 97)
Okanagan Falls, BC V0H 1R0
Story and photos by Richard McGuire