Dental practice design is more important than you think

looking over design sketches

One of the most important aspects of a new dental clinic is planning a functional dental practice design that will meet future practice growth needs.

Understanding the three functional zones within your office, including the public, production, and private areas, is essential to having a balanced, functional, well-designed practice..

As you plan your design, be sure to keep these areas separate as much as possible, with the sub-functions of each grouped together. 

Do your best not to intermix the areas. You will experience extra work, lost production, and frustration with your end design if you do.

Below is a list of a few essential elements to consider for each functional zone within your dental office design.

Public Areas 

Waiting Area 

A waiting room is all about making a good first impression with your patients. Your patients should perceive the waiting area as clean and inviting. This area will set their expectations for the rest of your office and the work you and your team perform.

Reception 

The check-in desk should be as close to the entry door as possible. Avoid placing the check-in counter where people will have to walk a great distance across the room or walk through people to reach. Proper check-in desk placement dramatically reduces stress and improves the overall experience for patients. Make the front desk inviting and open. I have dedicated post about best practices for reception design.

Manager’s Office 

Place the manager’s office close to the front desk and checkout. Think about the function of this office. This office should have enough space (about 10’x10′) for small meetings. However, you may need to make this room larger depending on how the room may be used.

Consultation Room 

The consultation room can be a separate room or shared with the office manager’s room. It is usually positioned in the front of the office. This area typically averages 12’x13′ for orthodontists and can be as little as an 8′ x 8′ area. The consultation area usually consists of an L-shaped or shared radius work area with a dental chair for consultation and data entry. 

Public Restroom 

Try not to situate the restroom in the public waiting area or where the restroom door is visible to people in the waiting room. Having the restroom or restroom door visible to others increases your patient’s apprehension of using the restroom, even if they need to. Keep the patient experience at the forefront when working through designs to ensure their needs govern your decisions.

Production Area

Operatories/Exams 

I recommend a dual entry for most operatories. You and your assistants must be able to maneuver freely about the operatories while also coming and going as you need.

If you have a single entry, free movement can still be achieved by setting the door at a side, corner, or toe of the operatory. If there is more length to the operatory, staff can go around the toe of the chair, thereby allowing greater patient accessibility. 

Sterile 

The sterile should always be central to all the operatories. The countertops’ linear footage is typically 12–14′ for the average office and as much as 20′ for larger offices. Larger dental offices may require two steriles.

If you have a statum and an autoclave, place the statum below the counter in a pull-out drawer. Then place the autoclave on the counter. If you have multiple statums and autoclaves, it’s best to stack them in a full cabinet with pull-out drawers.

Lab 

When space is available, make the lab a separate room with a door. Place it out of the way to shield noise and contain dust. The lab’s location is not as important as that of the sterile because the lab is generally not used as much. The final design depends on what you will be putting in the space and what will create the most efficient flow.

Milling Machine(s) and 3D Printing 

With technology changing so rapidly, this is one area that has quickly advanced. This advancement has meant that labs have changed. In some cases, they have been eliminated, especially by some specialists, like orthodontists.

3D printers and milling machines are often placed in prominent visual locations for dentists to display their technology to patients. Some patients enjoy seeing their teeth being made, while others could care less. Take the time to consider how you want to showcase your investments (or not).

dental practice design

Private Areas 

Dentist’s Private Office 

A 6’x6′ room is sufficient for a single small office. An 8’x10′ space is adequate for an office with a sit-down area. Ideally, your private office should be in the rear portion of the building within earshot of the operatories. 

Digital Work Area/Order Desk 

If this is a new office, invest in and start with a digital record system. If you are going to remodel, it’s time to change a digital record system. It is time-consuming and expensive to convert later. Determine the record-keeping process you want to use. Integrate the system into your office. 

Break Room

Think about the function of the break room and design it to fit your needs. If space allows, acknowledge your team by adequately sizing the break room. The breakroom is usually the first area that gets reduced in size when office square footage is limited. 

Staff Restroom 

Staff restrooms are of utmost importance. When properly placed, these can inconspicuously serve team members as well as patients. The staff restroom must look nice because patients may use it.

I suggest having the door open so that patients cannot see people enter/exit the restroom should the need arise to use it during a procedure. Proper door placement will allow patients to use it and, more importantly, enable team members to use it without patients seeing them enter or exit.

To learn more about dental practice design, make sure to download the first chapter of my book DentalEase: The Essential Guide to Building the Stress-Free and Profitable Dental Practice of Your Dreams. 

The first chapter is free to download and will give you even more insight into creating the dental practice of your dreams.

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