Optimizing Operatory Design for Efficiency

Dental Products ReportDental Products Report June 2024
Volume 58
Issue 6

Dental operatories are the heart of the practice, so it is vital that key details and technologies are implemented to ensure efficiency and function.

Optimizing Operatory Design for Efficiency. Image credit: © BrunoWeltmann / stock.adobe.com

Optimizing Operatory Design for Efficiency. Image credit: © BrunoWeltmann / stock.adobe.com

As a systems integrator in the dental field for more than 25 years, I often tell clients that I have “seen it all,” and this is true. In this modern era of identity theft, ransomware, and tons of other pitfalls, I feel genuine concern for my colleagues as the need to protect and secure your data has never been higher. As I mentioned in my previous column, these next few articles are going to focus on the infrastructure that every office needs in place.

One area where I have “seen it all” is in operatory design. I am always amazed that, considering the amount of time most dentists spend in such a small space, many people have not taken the steps to properly plan their operatories for function and efficiency.


It is often not enough to choose a computer based on processor speed or hard drive. Other issues that must be evaluated are the need for DVD players, CD-RW drives, and video cards. Just as important, although often overlooked, is the size and shape of the computer cases. Many offices have cabinets at the 12 o’clock position where an area has been designated for placement of a computer. However, these spaces will not fit all computers, and the dimensions of this space should be evaluated before purchasing the system. Although it would be easy to say offices should simply purchase the smallest case, there are trade-offs that are part of this decision. Many add-on cards, such as those used for video capture and some CBCT systems, will not fit into these smaller cases and therefore will affect which case is chosen. Dentists may also elect to mount their computer systems on a wall or cabinet, although they should understand how much space is required to do this.


The positioning of the monitors is crucial to get the most out of the digital systems in the operatory. The first decision is whether to have 1 monitor or 2 (or more) in the operatory. Many offices are electing to have 2 monitors: one in front of the patient to show digital images, patient education, streaming, or TV, and another behind the patient that can be used to show Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act–sensitive information, such as the schedule or financial information.

To properly design this, there are certain decisions to make. First, the exact location of the monitor is chosen. In many cases, an articulating arm, such as those from ICW or Ergotron, is used to give the monitor positioning some flexibility. Most offices will mount monitors to the ceiling, light pole, or wall. If mounting to a wall, the location and type of the wall studs will determine how the monitor is mounted. Secondly, there is the concern over cables and cords. Each monitor requires at least a video cable to be run to the computer, and each requires electricity. Because most dentists do not want to see multiple cables snaking across the floor and walls, it is often a challenge to determine the best way to run these cables and end up with a visually pleasing solution.


Although touch screens are an option, their cost often makes them prohibitive for dental offices, so most dentists still prefer to have a mouse and keyboard to input data. Wireless devices are almost mandatory in the operatory, but the positioning remains important. If the dentist or staff member must twist their body to use the devices, back and shoulder problems can develop rapidly.

Although the digital dental operatory is evolving, dentists should understand that many minor issues need to be addressed in the planning stages to get the most benefit from their new systems.

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