Design your practice to serve you best

January 2011 | products in practice Design your practice to serve you best Whether remodeling or starting from scratch, make sure your practice i

January 2011 |

products in practice

Design your practice to serve you best

Whether remodeling or starting from scratch, make sure your practice is set up to allow you to work efficiently, stay healthy.

by Stan Goff


A lot of factors need to be considered when you’re looking at remodeling your practice, building a new facility or maybe opening a second practice.

The obvious factors include costs and locations, but what sometimes gets overlooked is the importance of designing a practice that gives you the ability to treat patients in the most efficient manner and in a way that also enables the dental staff to work better, longer and safer.

Ergonomics is a word often associated with assisting dental staffs in their goal to stay healthy and extend their ability to deliver care. But designing your office to make you more efficient while delivering that care is just as important.

John Bettencourt, Vice President, Marketing, Equipment and Technical Service for Patterson Dental, said his company considers the doctor’s efficiency from the early planning stages.

“At Patterson Dental, we are committed to being the single source for dental professionals. As part of this commitment, our equipment specialists serve as the point people for each step involved in the process of building or remodeling an office.”
This includes communicating office design concepts with the equipment specialist and staff based on meetings with doctors and their goals for the practice. “We help assemble the optimal team for the practice and work very closely with these trusted advisors so every detail is tended to from start to finish-office design and workflow that helps meet objectives for staff efficiency and productivity; equipment and technology installation; doctor and staff training and much more.”

Steps to building a new place
Henry Schein Dental’s Jim Hammon, who has plenty of experience in architecture, office design and dental equipment, suggests dentists work with someone like the Henry Schein Dental Design Group as soon as they decide they’re going to put together a new work space, especially when it’s a newly constructed facility.

Henry Schein’s team will design a plan that takes advantage of optimal use of space, equipment, and design elements, to transform your practice into a well-organized business and an efficient public space that offers the ultimate in patient care.
“We can do a lot of the preliminary fact-finding up front,” Hammon said. “We can do preliminary floor plans in 2D or 3D. Every dentist is thinking about it (remodeling, expanding or moving into a new facility) so I would say let us help you plan.”
The design team consists of credentialed design experts who specialize in coordinating dental ergonomics and design elements to give practices all the advantages, including improved patient care, increased efficiency, and increased comfort for staff and patients. For more information on the Henry Schein design team, visit

Bettencourt suggests doctors check out other practices to help decide what will and will not work best for their own new offices. Office tours are one way to help doctors visualize ways to achieve an efficient, esthetically pleasing practice.

“We invite doctors to research and see optimal practices and potentially implement ideas they like in their own practice,” he said. “Specifically, we recommend 450 square feet for every operatory. That doesn’t mean every operatory is 450 square feet, but with sterilization needs, mechanical room, front desk, doctor’s office, etc., you have more than the operatory to consider.”

Design the practice of your dreams
Dr. Mark Tholen, who has more than 3,000 office designs to his credit, offers a CE-accredited practice design workshop ( During this two-day learning experience, attendees will gain the knowledge to make the esthetic and practical decisions that will result in a smoothly functioning office with the ‘wow’ factor. With Dr. Tholen’s expertise, you will learn to avoid the costly errors that plague many projects.
As you begin to consider floor plans and evaluate building sites or lease space, you will (or should be) asking some critical questions such as:
Should I build, lease, buy a condo or remodel?
How long will this project take?
How much will this project cost, and how can I calculate an accurate
How should technology be incorporated into the office and what should I have?
How large should my office be? How can I plan for growth in my design?
Knowing the answers to these questions can mean the difference between success and failure.
Taking advantage of Dr. Tholen’s experience, course attendees will replace guesswork with objective facts in considering topics like:
Site selection…what do you need to know?
Cost analysis…how much is too much?
Tax considerations that can save tens of thousands…if you had only known!
During the conference, you will view hundreds of beautiful and exciting dental office designs. And perhaps most importantly, you will understand and embrace the benefits of dramatically enhanced efficiencies and productivity that come from an office environment that reflects the quality of care that you provide.

Ergonomic focus
Patterson discusses ergonomics now more than ever. When it’s time to invest in a new chair or other operatory equipment, Bettencourt said they typically ask doctors if they are experiencing back problems or other aches and pains.

“Dentistry is physically taxing, so we need to create an environment in the operatory that reduces this tension and hard work as much as possible. The more ergonomically correct we can create the environment for doctors, the less fatigue they will have at the end of the day and the more productive they’ll be each day and at the end of the year,” he said. “If practitioners ignore ergonomics and focus on esthetics or only patient comfort, they are compromising their own good health. What do you have if you don’t have your health? Nothing.”

Your input is critical
We all know a lot of research and planning takes place long before products and equipment hit the dental market. But when you’re talking about your own practice and the operatory where you will be working on a daily basis, a lot of customized planning needs to go into making that space just right for you. And when it is just right, you’re in the best position to deliver the best care comfortably for both you and your patient.
To help achieve this, one of Patterson’s equipment specialists, for example, asks doctors to provide an example of an experience they’ve had and why the experience was memorable. Something about the experience was so good that they didn’t forget about it and were excited to talk about it.

“That’s what we need to do for their office. We try to help doctors create an experience-which is not difficult to accomplish,” Bettencourt said. “The reason one dentist is more successful than another often can be attributed to clinical performance.”
But there’s more to the whole picture than just a doc’s skill and technique. Besides clinical expertise, another main factor for creating the best experience for patients and staff is environment.

“When the practitioner feels good and is comfortable, if the facility is inviting and the staff is friendly and positive, by default, patients are going to come and see you,” Bettencourt said. “Patients leave the office saying, ‘Wow, I just went to the dentist’s office-you have to see this place!’ When doctors complain about not having a thriving practice, oftentimes it’s due to a dull, uninspiring patient experience. Most people would rather not have to go and get their teeth cleaned. But if the visit is a pleasant experience, it’s really not that bad.”

After doors open
As critical as planning is in the early stages, it’s just as important to stay on top of things after you’ve started working in your wonderful new operatory. Adding or upgrading new equipment can change the way you practice as well as the way your office is designed. Knowing when the time is just right to add that new technology or delivery system and how best to implement it can allow you to improve your efficiency and to improve that patient experience.

Working closely with your reps and talking to colleagues who have worked with the products and technologies you are considering can come in quite handy. Just like the office tours helped get you started, finding out how to expand your services with new equipment in your current space helps you to continue offering care in a fashion suited best for both staff and patients.

“At Patterson, we know that providing full-service support long after a building, equipment or technology upgrade is completed is critical to long-term success and peace of mind,” Bettencourt said. “That’s why we continue to support our doctors through the industry’s largest number of local service technicians dispatched through our vast network of branch sales offices, but also through our investment in a new 100,000-square-foot Patterson Technology Center with all the high-technology capabilities to evolve with the needs of dental professionals in the future. Our number one priority is taking care of our doctors by driving more value to the practice and continually improving the experience they have when they partner with Patterson.”
So as you prepare to remodel your office or build a new practice facility, keep in mind that you know what’s best for the way you plan to practice dentistry. But don’t forget that there are a lot of specialists out there whose expertise can help ensure you have the most efficient, safest set-up so you can practice better, longer.


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