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FAMILY MATTERS

Three’s Company

A sparkling new practice is helping one tight-knit trio bring top-notch dental care to their longtime patients in San Antonio.

By Mellanie Perez

IN 1980, WHEN Dr. Dirk DeKoch opened his San Antonio office, Alamo Heights Dental, he never could have imagined, he says, that “A DeKoch Family Practice” would one day be part of the establishment’s slogan. Nearly four decades on, though, two of his three children—son John and daughter Susie—have not only chosen to follow their father into the profession; they’ve decided to work within the same four walls as well.

John DeKoch, 35, joined the practice in 2009; Susie, 33, hopped aboard in 2016 after a successful stint in orthopedic surgical sales with the medical-equipment firm Smith & Nephew, followed by dental school. “We both just had a lot of respect for what our dad does,” Susie says. “It just made sense to work together, and we love it.”

The family’s patients do, too. Dirk, 63, is adamant that what sets the practice apart isn’t so much how it treats teeth, but how it treats human beings: “People first, teeth second, money third.” In order to better serve those people, then, last September—after 37 years of plying their trade in what Dirk describes as an “old, tired building”—the DeKochs completed a move to a beautiful new practice in Alamo Heights, a large, bustling neighborhood within San Antonio. (They share the space with Britton Orthodontics, winner of Best Specialty Practice in the Incisal Edge 2018 Design Competition. Britton occupies the ground floor; the DeKochs are one story up.)

The catalyst for the relocation was Benco Dental’s CenterPoint Experience in Pittston, Pennsylvania, which John and Dirk visited several years ago. One piece of advice stuck with Dirk: “‘You cannot control that your facility makes a statement about your practice. The thing you can control is what statement it makes.’ So when we began with this new building,” Dirk continues, “[we wanted to] make the statement that quality matters and patients’ comfort is important.”

They certainly have plenty of room to spread out. At around 7,000 square feet, the new space is nearly double the size of the old. Benco equipment specialist Jeff Harmon and territory representative Ryan Holliday helped ensure that ample natural light floods each of the 12 treatment rooms. Soothing blue is the dominant color throughout the office, and the spacious reception area is something you might more commonly see in a five-star hotel. “It’s prettier,” Susie says of the new office, “but the No. 1 response we get from patients is ‘Wow, this is so calming.’ ”

That light and the good views are Dirk’s favorite features; he, his children and their staff of 14 look out on a historic area just minutes from downtown San Antonio. “There’s just a lot of old-school people with strong relationships and traditional values,” Dirk says—which, as it happens, is exactly what drew the DeKochs to Benco in the first place as well.

Some challenges do arise from working together, the DeKoch triumvirate al- lows, but nothing too serious. Aside per- haps from talking about work outside of the office a little too often, the family prides itself on its tight bond and confidence in one another. “We have different takes on similar philosophies,” John says. Their faith is a grounding constant; Dirk is an elder at San Antonio’s First Presbyterian Church, and John and Susie are active members.

For Dirk, one of the unexpected surprises of having his children on hand is that some of his longtime patients have specifically begun asking for appointments with them. “They’ll say, ‘I don’t want to have to find another dentist; I want you to be the last dentist I ever have to go to,’ ” he says.

That transition won’t happen just yet, however. Dirk retains a spring in his step—he’s an avid hunter and golfer— and has no imminent plans to retire. Still, he does occasionally find himself pondering the virtues of a clean and orderly professional succession. “There’s continuity,” he says. “These patients will always be able to come to a practice where they feel connected, and we worked really hard to build a staff that understands that we put people first.”

Which raises an obvious question: Is there a chance of a third DeKoch generation ever taking the reins at Alamo Heights Dental? Susie points out that John’s two boys, ages 3 and 5, spend a lot of time there. “They love to come to the office, put on my loupes and look at all the fancy equipment,” she says, laughing. “Right now they’re too young to know—but one day they just might!”