Modern Dental Office Offers a Glimpse of the Past

Columbia Smiles – Columbia, South Carolina | Nick Pournaras, DDS

Outdoor exterior details

Columbia Smiles’ new downtown location is on the top floor of a landmark building. Because the building was listed on the National Historic Register, the practice was careful to maintain the architectural elements that remained from the 1920s while infusing it with modern functionality.

On the top floor of a beautiful historic building in downtown Columbia, South Carolina, Dr. Nick Pournaras has created a state-of-the-art modern dental office that is a study in contrasts, bringing incredible advanced technology into a landmark filled with vintage 1920s architecture.

Columbia Smiles, which opened in November 2015, is Dr. Pournaras’ second location; his original office is in nearby Cayce, SC. Opened in 1999, the Cayce office was always a great success for the doctor, and as it grew, it drew many patients from the downtown area.

Consultation room of Columbia Smiles

All of the practice’s technology is interconnected through Dentrix practice management software, so digital images are accessible throughout the office and can be shown to patients during treatment planning discussions.

Having such loyal patients willing to travel, coupled with a vibrant revitalization of Columbia’s downtown, captured the doctor’s attention. When the Keenan Building—a gorgeous towering structure near the South Carolina State House—became available, he decided it was the right time and the right area to build a satellite location.

“I always saw the potential of the downtown area,” said Dr. Pournaras, explaining his decision to build the new office. “It was a great time to be buying and negotiating a lease agreement. Plus, I was ready to expand my dental services into the downtown market. This was an added opportunity to expand into a new market, see more patients, and provide more convenience and flexibility in scheduling.”

Reception area

A harmonious blend of old charm and modern design make the practice feel welcoming. The VIP waiting room offers an even more plush place for the doctor’s downtown patients to relax.

Today, he works most days in the new downtown office, while his associate, Dr. Max Frawley, cares for patients in Cayce.

Vintage, Yet Modern Décor Adds Charm

The 3,500-square-foot Columbia Smiles office on the sixth floor offers commanding views of the city. Its large windows, cased by original oversized wood moldings, suggest a bygone era. Constructing a dental office in a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places presents extra challenges to ensure its traditional character and elements are preserved.

“It took about two years to complete this entire project,” confirmed Henry Schein Equipment & Technology Specialist Stephen Raley, who worked on the design, equipment, and technology decisions for the practice. Field Sales Consultant Jared Earhart called Dr. Pournaras routinely, and when the doctor decided to build a new office, Mr. Raley and Mr. Earhart suggested a visit to Pelton & Crane’s Driven to Excellence Seminar with
Dr. Mark Tholen in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Reception area

Midcentury furniture in cheerful teal hues is welcoming in the VIP waiting area. Rich coffered ceilings and wood floors bridge the practice’s historical architectural elements with more modern amenities.

Dr. Tholen, enthusiastic about Dr. Pournaras’ vision for Columbia Smiles, visited the city to tour the building and helped him create a concept design for the practice that would offer the best efficiency and ergonomic flow. Using that concept as the foundation, Henry Schein’s Integrated Design Studio created a detailed plan for the project. According to Mr. Raley, preserving specific elements in the historic structure was a must, but it did present some challenges during the build. In one such instance, the discovery of immoveable concrete columns during the demolition phase required creative adjustments to the plumbing schematic. Maintaining the building’s character and charm—which dates back nearly a century—while adding new technology and contemporary design elements also required careful attention to detail.

“We utilized the original elements from the 1920s, which included mosaic tile, oak trim, plaster, vintage windows, and pinewood floors,” explained
Dr. Pournaras. “We also added new classic elements to the building, such as coffered ceilings and trim made from mahogany. New lighting was installed to create dramatic light levels.”

Treatment room

Patients are treated to luxurious comfort in Pelton & Crane massage chairs. The dark wood floors and bright white window frames look crisp and fresh, and even the countertops are admired by patients.

Imaging area

The Planmeca ProMax system provides superior images at a lower radiation level, and its software runs native on the practice’s Apple computer network. The doctor finds it especially valuable in capturing bitewing images.

Most of the walls are an oyster hue, a crisp contrast against the stained woodwork that lines the windows and flooring. Soft teal accent walls and furnishings add a pleasing pop of color. Midcentury modern barrel chairs and an inviting leather sofa gracefully bring together the practice’s vintage style with its modern accents in the reception area.

There are several distinct spaces in which patients can relax as they wait for their appointments, including a glass-enclosed VIP section. Generous recessed lighting complements the abundant sunlight that streams in through the grand windows, and glass walls mark off the consultation room and sterilization area, providing long sightlines and a feeling of openness throughout the practice. “Having an office downtown demands a more boutique approach, so in addition to the VIP waiting space, we added valet parking, hot towels, massage chairs, hospitality bars, and the Wi-Fi bar with a charging station,” added the doctor.

State-of-the Art Technology Keeps It Modern

Sterilization room

The sterilization area, located in the heart of the practice, displays the Pelton & Crane sterilization center with Midmark M11 and SciCan STATIM G4 autoclaves behind a large glass wall.

The practice has five operatories: two dedicated to hygiene, two treatment rooms, and one surgical suite. Dr. Pournaras chose Pelton & Crane chairs, Helios LED lights, and Renaissance cabinets and rear-delivery units. Center consoles divide the open-bay layout and provide added privacy and storage space. Contemporary frosted glass vessel sinks are as sophisticated as they are functional. While Columbia Smiles’s ambiance showcases design elements from a past era, the technology is 100% cutting edge. The office houses some of the most advanced digital imaging technologies available on an Apple computer network.
Dr. Pournaras uses the Planmeca ProMax 2D S3 panoramic X-ray unit for several reasons: its powerful Romexis software is native to Apple, its images are superior, it can be used for patient bitewing X-rays, and it has a lower radiation level but faster speed. Chairside X-rays are performed with Planmeca sensors and a handheld NOMAD unit that travels from room to room.

Behind a large glass wall, the Pelton & Crane sterilization center is on full display, showcasing the practice’s investment in patient safety and health. Now that Columbia Smiles is complete, the doctor has only glowing things to say about it: “I feel I’m finally in concert with my practice. It starts with a beautifully designed interior, a well-trained team, and state-of-the-art equipment, all features that allow me to work my craft effortlessly.”

It is too early to quantify the impact of the new office on production, but Dr. Pournaras notices patients are enthusiastically referring friends and family. “Knowing that my patients are impressed from the moment they walk in makes me very proud,” he concluded. “An added bonus is that my team feels the same way!” ♦


Left to Right: Stephen Raley, Equipment & Technology Specialist; Jared Earhart, Field Sales Consultant; Dr. Nick Pournaras; Courtney Robinson, Regional Sales Manager; Grady Yelton, Equipment Service Technician

Originally published in Sidekick Magazine