Beckenham Dental Centre, a history

Beckenham Dental Centre, a history

The practice was started before the last war by two fine Beckenham Gentlemen -Bob Wheatley and Gordon Lyle. As dentists, they set up their practice in Southend Road where patients would be greeted at the door by a butler who escorted them to the surgery. The equipment was foot pedal drills and the practice still has their original saddle stool which looks as if should be in a museum- the British Dental Association is keen to have it as an item of historic interest.

This original surgery suffered extensive damage in a fire in the mid 60’s and the practice was relocated to Bromley Road, next door to where it is now. By that time, the practice had changed hands but Bob Wheatley continued on part time until 1974 when he finally retired aged 70. Sadly he died six months after retiring.

Nick & Polly Patsias took over the practice in December 1973 shortly to be joined by Janet Wright, all three having trained together at Kings College Hospital Dental School in Denmark Hill.

At that time, the accommodation comprised just three surgeries, all on the first floor making access for more elderly patients difficult and access for wheelchair users impossible. The practice proved very popular and the need to accommodate more surgeries for dentists and hygienists quickly arose. So, after just five years later when the current premises became available, an offer was immediately made to the owners and accepted subject to planning approval. This simply required the planners to allow what was then a sweetshop with a flat above to be turned into surgery space suitable for five surgeries and large waiting room.

Sadly the planners did not initially agree to the change of the premises (which, incidentally, also did a good line in adult magazines) into a dental surgery so the permission was turned down. Not deterred, the practice immediately appealed against this decision and was eventually granted consent to use just the ground floor as surgeries, but only after many patients wrote in to support the proposal – in fact so many that the planners said afterwards that it was the largest number of letters they had ever received FOR a project- too many for them to answer individually and so they had to revert to a generic response.

So, patient power and common sense won out at the end of the day . The permission included a rear extension and the basement which, initially, was used for storage being only dimly lit. The dental nurses reported strange noises and other happenings so that some were very reluctant to go down there. But hand help was at hand from St Georges Church when the vicar kindly consented to deliver a blessing which would banish all lost spirits. His blessing must have worked because none were heard again

The next expansion occurred in the early eighties when the Department of Health wanted practices to pilot a new dental scheme for children. The consent for the new rear extension was then taken up and a new dedicated Preventive Dental Unit was constructed. This innovative concept consisted of a childrens’ education area with an ensuite surgery for the hygienist. It was the only one of its kind in Bromley but sadly, after the pilot scheme, the Department of Health changed all the rules to the extent that its use as originally envisaged became impractical within the NHS system.

The patient lists and range of services continued to grow to the extent that even with six surgeries it was bursting at the seams. In 2009 it therefore expanded into its present form of eight surgeries using the second floor as well to provide the much needed additional surgeries. Even since then, the practice has developed still further, pioneering new techniques such as in house CAD/CAM designed porcelain restorations and even offering a ‘seven day’ service. It now includes 14 dentists, five hygienists including staff with specialist skills in such areas as oral surgery, implants , orthodontics , periodontics and advanced restorative/cosmetic dentistry. The patient database now stretches to 45,000 people!( including NHS , Private and Denplan patients)

The practice has individual contracts with the NHS for oral surgery and supplies the out of hours weekend and bank holiday emergency cover for the whole of Bromley – and many miles beyond. As an example of their commitment to patient welfare, on Boxing day alone when most people were tucking into their leftover turkey or nursing their hangover, the two practice principals, Nick and Polly Patsias saw over 20 patients.

More recently Abby Leigh and Alex Sayer have joined Nick in running the practice and we look forward to many more years of serving the community with dedication and enthusiasm.


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