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Bondings: In the smile business


Smile sisters: Lisa and Vanessa Creaven are two of a family of four sibling dentists and they run a practice together in Galway. Photo: David Conachy.

Smile sisters: Lisa and Vanessa Creaven are two of a family of four sibling dentists and they run a practice together in Galway. Photo: David Conachy.

Smile sisters: Lisa and Vanessa Creaven are two of a family of four sibling dentists and they run a practice together in Galway. Photo: David Conachy.

You'd have to feel sorry for poor old dentists, who are generally kind and caring, yet are ranked among the most unpopular professions in the world by nervous patients. Which is why glamorous and warm sisters Lisa and Vanessa Creaven from Galway are such great ambassadors for their field, because they offer innovative, patient-friendly services like sedation and a modern approach to orthodontistry.

"We offer IV sedation, where we put Valium into your veins, which appeals to anxious patients," says Lisa.

It's probably a bit of a mystery to their parents, Margaret and Jim, that all four of their children went on to became dentists, given that Jim is a farmer and Margaret is a special needs assistant, and there is no history of dentistry in the family. There are almost six years between Lisa, 30, and Vanessa, 25, and they have an older brother Paul, and a sister Alma who comes between them.

"I was a bit of a sensible Suzie and quite studious growing up, and myself and Paul were closer because Alma and Vanessa were a good bit younger," says Lisa. "I was a tomboy who was very much into sport. Vanessa was very bright, but she was quite bossy and stubborn as a child. She had our mother's heart broken because she was so assertive."

"When you're the youngest, you have to be assertive," chuckles fun-loving Vanessa, who readily admits to being a handful as a child. "Our granny, Margaret, used to come shopping with us, but she refused to go after a while because I would always go missing and hide in clothing racks, even though I knew Mum was looking for me. Lisa was really good to us, and I remember her minding me when I had chickenpox, and walking us to the bus. I used to think that she was really cool. We played a lot of traditional music, and I play the flute and fiddle, while Lisa plays piano and the flute."

Lisa left home at 17 to study dentistry at Trinity College, and her passion for it seemed to inspire her siblings to follow suit. Paul has a master's in engineering, but went back to study dentistry as a mature student at UCC, while Alma also trained at UCC and Vanessa went to Trinity.

Both Lisa and Vanessa say that while they considered studying medicine, dentistry ultimately appealed to them more, particularly as they could set up their own business after qualification. The sisters loved their years living in Dublin though and enjoyed their new-found freedom. By the time she graduated, Lisa was ready to return to Galway and she took a job there for two years. "I think it's a very natural progression for dentists to want to work for themselves," she says, explaining why she opened her own practice, Quay Dental, in 2010.

Vanessa worked for a few years in Dublin, and then moved home to go into partnership with Lisa. There are 10 people working at their clinic now, which also offers services like cosmetic dentistry, Invisalign and Botox. They offer customised smile makeovers, and a lot of older people who had never looked after their teeth in the past come in now for help.

The pair are the only two of the siblings in Galway, as Paul is moving to Canada, and Alma works in Dublin in a pop-up dental service called Onsite Service Dental, which provides mobile dentistry to workplaces. Vanessa is dating a guy called Barry Duffy, who co-founded a social gaming app with his brother Mike called Bet You. She and Lisa like to socialise by eating out, and they also like to run - they both completed the Dublin Marathon last year.

Lisa is married to Patrick O'Malley, and they own popular seafood restaurant The Fisherman Seafood Bar and Grill in Salthill. They were married last year in Sicily, with Vanessa acting as maid of honour. "Lisa was the calmest bride," Vanessa recalls. "She didn't even know what time the mass was at, and the wedding was great fun and really relaxed."

Lisa and Patrick are expecting their first baby at the end of October, and she plans to take six weeks off and then return to work on a phased basis. She can't take much time off because of some of the specialist services they provide, but the advantage of owning your own business is that you can choose your own hours. "Everyone is so excited about the baby," she says. "It's the first grandchild on both sides and we'll have loads of help, babysitters and support."

Although they share the practice, the sisters say they don't see that much of one another throughout the day as they're in separate rooms with different patients. Vanessa does a lot of surgery and Invisalign (teeth straightening with nearly invisible braces) whereas Lisa does a lot of smile makeovers and sedation. Even so, many people couldn't work with family members, so was that a consideration for Vanessa and Lisa in deciding to form a partnership?

"We have really similar personalities and knew we would work well together," says Vanessa. "We're both straight up, so it's good that we can be brutally honest with each other. Also, when you're working with family, there's a comfort in knowing they will always have your back. Lisa is very loyal and clued-in, and she's my best friend. I would completely trust her advice, and can always go to her when something is bothering me."

What drives them spare about one another is that Vanessa is slightly on the messy side, so Lisa can always tell if she's been in the kitchen at work before her. And while Vanessa is always 15 minutes early to work, Lisa tends to run late - usually by precisely four minutes, she says.

"Vanessa is very smart and she's my best friend too, so if I have a problem I would trust her and ask her advice even though she's younger than me," says Lisa. "She's great fun, and is a good energy to be around."

Woodquay, Headford Road, Galway.

Tel: 091 565 068, www.quaydental.ie

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