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What’s it like being a... private dentist with a passion for reducing sugar consumption? James Goolnik

Blog Author James Goolnik

Blog Date 27/09/2019

James Goolnik is the founder and principal dentist at Bow Lane Dental Group in London and has recently channelled his entrepreneurial skills into a new charity called the 'Rewards Project', which challenges the idea of using sugary foods or drinks as a treat for children (and adults!), weaning people off sugar and encouraging healthier alternatives. 



My alarm goes off….

I wake up just before my alarm at 5:50am. I drink a large glass of water, then write in my journal what I am grateful for and the top three items I am working on today. I get ready for work and cycle to the train station. 

I meditate every day and today it's on the train for twenty minutes. It helps me check in with how much noise is going on in my head. It's a Wednesday so I go to a spin class before work; and my first patient is usually 9am. 

I'm responsible for…



I'm the principal of Bow Lane Dental Group with a team of 24 talented people.


I am now also responsible for a new charity Rewards Project, which has one full-time member of staff plus three trustees. The charity aims to tackle the idea of sugar being used as a reward for children and encouraging alternatives to help better oral health, as well as general health.  

I got the job

I was working as an associate in the City of London and really loved the buzz and pace of the place. Rebuilding the mouths of some of the brightest brains in London, I felt this was where I belonged. 

I instructed a property agent to find suitable premises for a dental practice. After a year of searching I found Bow Lane, a beautiful pedestrianised street in the heart of the city. The only problem was a corporate wanted it too!

It went to sealed bids, but after a tense night, we heard that we had won.

We opened our doors in September 2001 with two treatment rooms and now we have six.

My typical day



Today was really fun as some of my team are photographing for our charity cookbook, Kick Sugar. Our chef, Giancarlo Caldesi, has spent the past four days cooking delicious breakfast, lunches and dinners that are all sugar free. 

Between patients, I am getting emailed photographs of the dishes and suggestions for improvements to the recipes – makes me feel hungry!

At lunchtime we have a management meeting with my dental business manager and operations manager to update our progress on our KPI's and discuss any challenges in the business. 

The afternoon is full of patients, some of which I have been treating for 18 years, so sometimes it is more like catching up with old friends. 

I finish at 6pm and jump on the train home just in time for bath time and dinner with my wife. 

The worst part of my job…

Managing patient's expectations. As we are a relatively high-profile practice, we attract some patients who want perfection, but are not prepared to take the time to go on a journey with us.

Today for example a patient with a missing tooth wanted to discuss replacing it with an implant-supported tooth but was adamant she didn't want any incisions. Unfortunately, her mouth was full of more pressing needs, but she only wanted to focus on the missing tooth. 

I've learnt that you cannot win them all, and sticking to what you know is right, is key. So I was unable to help her and had to refund her consultation fee. Over the years, I am getting better at realising you can't help everyone.

The best part of my job…

It has to be my patients. I have some amazing people from household names to our postman, many of whom I have watched develop in their careers, achieve great things and now treat their own families too.

I love turning around an anxious or phobic patient, and getting them to start looking forward to their dental visit. 

I have been known to meet the patient at the exit to the tube so they can find us ok, and overcome their fear! 

I also love my team - I feel we are a big family and I am proud to be able to lead them. 


What's your biggest achievement to date?

I am very proud of my family- Alison, Kate, Harry and Emily, without their support I couldn't do what I do.

And currently, I am very excited about my new charity, Rewards Project. I set it up because it's shocking to still see so many cases of tooth decay in children today, which we know is entirely preventable. I've published a cookbook, called Kick Sugar, to help support people to reduce the amount of sugar in their diets.

As a parent of three children I was constantly fending off the sugar pushed to my children. My two-year-old was given a lollipop bigger than her as a "reward" for her first haircut from the hairdresser. I thought, there has to be a better way, and the idea for the Rewards Project was born. 

We all want recognition, but we can encourage things other than sweets or treats to motivate us. 

The project is currently working with over 550 schools looking at how they can reduce sugar in the children's school day. As mentioned, we are also developing a cookbook, which I hope will help thousands of people reduce sugar in their diet and reboot their taste buds to experience a full range of tastes rather than just sweet, as well as helping to look after their oral health. 

After work…



I like to keep fit and constantly stretch my body. It gets bored easily so needs new challenges.

I'm training at the moment for the Prudential Ride London, 100-mile bike ride through the London streets. 

Theatre is one of my passions and, luckily London has some incredible shows. We go at least twice a month, and I try and support as many theatres as I can. 

My Plan B

I love teaching and writing so would probably be doing more of that. I'd also like to find time to try to inspire more people to stretch themselves, use their skills and make a difference.

James Goolnik, Founder, Bow Lane Dental Practice


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