The 245 m2 clinic appears spacious and light, and the dominant colors are white and blue. It has three treatment rooms and an inviting waiting area with a dedicated space for children. The staff consists of two dentists, five assistants and one trainee. “We aren’t a big practice. The bigger the team, the more difficult it can be, with small groups forming. This is the perfect size for keeping it more like a family,” Dr. Manja Bönchendorf tells us.
The clinic also serves as a sort of mini art gallery displaying local artists’ paintings. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the unusual career of the two dentists is reflected in the colorful and lively art. The pictures on the wall are themed around nature – plants, water, animals – and just like the butterflies depicted in the colorful paintings go through different stages in their life cycle, Drs. Bönchendorf have gone through one of the biggest transitions a dentist can experience in their career: from employed army dentist to independent clinic owner.
Relationships are important
Dr. Manja Bönchendorf joined the German armed forces in 2001. She completed military training and studied dentistry until 2007. Afterwards, she went to the military camp in Regensburg, where she started working as a dentist for the stationed soldiers. It was here that she learned all the basics of dentistry, creating many fond memories in the process. However, military dentistry also had its downsides. So, when her husband Felix opened his own clinic in November 2016, Dr. Bönchendorf decided to work part-time in the military and part-time in her husband’s clinic. This meant she was able to directly compare both work scenarios. It soon became apparent that the advantages of having one’s own clinic outweighed those of military employment.
One disadvantage of the military was the fact that Dr. Bönchendorf couldn’t establish a steady ongoing relationship with her patients, as soldiers typically didn’t stay at the camp for long. This has completely changed in her own clinic. “I like the idea of growing old together with my patients,” Dr. Bönchendorf explains. “And being able to plan with them for the future.”
She herself worked in five different military camps over the course of 10 years. This also meant that she was often working with different dental assistants. It made work life very impersonal and so the longing for stability grew. Today, she enjoys the cordial atmosphere of the clinic’s dental team: “The friendliness and openness that’s prevalent in our team works great. In the military it was more rigid. Here, we’re like a family,” she explains.
Another factor was that while dentistry basics in the military were excellent, the urge to become more specialized grew stronger and stronger, and the only possibility to accomplish this was in her own clinic. As a result, Dr. Bönchendorf has been working full time in her clinic since 2018, leaving her military career behind.
A comfortable working environment
One of the main ambitions of the two dentists is to ensure that new patients feel comfortable and welcome. Therefore, the first appointment usually takes 40 minutes. It is essential to Drs. Bönchendorf to thoroughly get to know the new patient’s wants and needs and to make sure that there are matching expectations.
One aspect that contributes to the feeling of a comfortable and relaxed working environment is the choice of dental unit. For Dr. Felix Bönchendorf the XO unit was an obvious choice: “It’s a beautiful unit. It has everything you need – and you can really focus on your work.” The dentists enjoy the vibrant and warm atmosphere they have created. The rigidity and conformity of military life have been replaced with openness and flexibility. In the end, everything comes together. Experiencing the differences as a military dentist has given Dr. Manja Bönchendorf the ability to define what is most important to her as a private dentist: “In our practice I can do my job with passion.”