Dental News

Roadside Dentistry

by Joyce Slaton

3:00 a.m.  31.Jul.99.PDT

Going to the dentist is just a little less painful now that one practice has taken its office on the road.

When the founder of On-Site Dental Care noticed his techie clients skipping appointments because of their hectic schedules, he decided to make his practice mobile. Now, On-Site caters to Silicon Valley workplaces like Netscape, 3Com, and Intuit with dental care in specially equipped vans parked in the company lot.

“My father has been in practice in Palo Alto for 30 years, and the bulk of his clients are techies,” said Seth Keiles, DMD, of On-Site. “They were so busy with work they literally couldn’t make it in for appointments. We decided to bring the dentists to the clients, instead of the other way around.”

The Keileses launched the service in 1996 with accounts at Siemens and two other firms. Now, On-Site serves 36 tech companies with six roaming dental offices, and are planning to take the idea nationwide. All companies provide is electrical and phone hook-ups, a space in the parking lot, and employees with teeth.

“This service saves both company time and employee time,” said Christine Wilcome, facilities administration manager at Adaptec in Milpitas. “What with traffic in the Valley and wasting time in the waiting room, you can burn half a day going to the dentist. Now, employees are seen immediately and go right back to work.”

The On-Site vans are the kind of tech-happy creations that make geeks smile. In addition to a full dental operations room, the 37-foot vans are equipped with digital X-ray systems and intra-oral cameras that allow patients to see imaging previews of their dental procedures. The vans also carry televisions and VCRs for those who want to catch up on their movie- or soap-watching while lying back and saying aaaah.

“Hey, we deal with techies. We have to be up-to-date. This is a state-of-the-art dental office that just happens to be on wheels,” said Keiles. “Sometimes, with the kinds of clients we see, we’ll be having a problem with one of our servers or a computer, and the client will hop right up in the middle of the exam to fix it.”

Though the van does have a supply of movies, Keiles acknowledged a lack of interest in films like Marathon Man and Little Shop of Horrors.

“We don’t want to give our patients any ideas,” Keiles said.

On-Site’s busy clients appreciate the convenience of their dental visits.

“I love On-Site!” said Ruth Cox, systems administrator at Adaptec. “Even when you do have a dental appointment at an office you usually have to wait and waste time. But On-Site is right here; I don’t have to drive all over the place to get there.”

With the intense Valley interest in keeping employees at their desks as long as possible, campuses have become like mini shopping malls full of services for employees. Mobile services like On-Site are cropping up in the Bay Area and nationwide as companies compete to provide the most time-saving perks for their people.

“Recruiting around here is so competitive,” said Oracle spokesperson Kelly St. Dennis. “If employees can get better perks elsewhere, they will.”

“Time is a commodity, [and] we want to save both personal life time as well as company time,” said Wilcome. “We want to give our employees services that keep them from having to leave to do errands. When our employees leave for lunch now, they’re really leaving for lunch.”