The task of opening a new dental office can be formidable. There are so many considerations: Is there adequate usable area for my needs? What dental equipment will best suit my practice? What are the health and safety requirements and Building Code regulations that I need to respect? How can I create a positive experience for my patients? What will distinguish my practice from others?
All these questions underline the importance of good design. The cost of equipping and building a new office is significant and a long-term investment; having a well-designed office will reward you with increased productivity, functionality, and ultimately, greater practice growth.
One of the first priorities is to select a project team who are committed to the successful outcome of your project, and who can be relied upon to make the process go smoothly.
Choose an interior designer who has experience in dental office design, who understands your vision, and who will guide you expertly through the many complex decisions involved in creating the office layout and interior elements. A good designer will welcome open communication, and make you feel comfortable and confident during the design-build process.
Your designer will need to work in tandem with your dental equipment provider. It is therefore important to select an equipment specialist who is knowledgeable, who will help you make good decisions with the selection of equipment, and see to the technical aspects of the installation. As a team, the interior designer, the equipment specialists and dental planners, along with a responsible general contractor, will provide the support and expertise to complete your project successfully.
That being said, let’s consider the process of dental office design. First, an examination of the demographics and your unique requirements will enable the interior designer to develop an appropriate concept for your new office. After measuring and reviewing the nature of the site, your designer (often in cooperation with the dental planners) will then plan out the space in such a way as to facilitate efficiency, and support day to day functioning in the office. This means locating and sizing treatment rooms and common areas appropriately, addressing issues like cross-contamination, and adhering to all current Building Codes and health regulations.
In recent years, there has been an increased emphasis on patient safety, resulting in changes to sterilization protocols. Your designer should be familiar with these, and therefore, also be encouraging of incorporating water filtration systems, clean air technology, and state-of-the-art equipment into the design.
Throughout the design process, dental office designers must always be conscious of patient well-being. The planning and design must reflect attention to the details that will help create a sense of trust and comfort, and offer patient privacy. Ceiling and lighting design, material finishes, colour selection, and the design of distinctive elements and millwork, are all key to achieving an appealing, inviting environment. A good designer will be able to marry the overall appearance of the dental office with the clean, high-tech appearance of your new equipment.
Since dentistry has become increasingly competitive over the years, dental professionals ideally should make their practices distinct from their competitors up the street. The differences may lie in the physical office environment, in the services offered, and the way in which these services are delivered. Ultimately, the goal of good dental office design is to provide a personalized and innovative approach for each project, while sustaining a comfortable and friendly atmosphere.
Good interior design will be an invaluable investment in the future of your practice. Not only does it influence a patient’s “first impression”, it also affects how you and your team feel and approach your work on a daily basis. It is wise to get the best your budget allows, because your office environment will ultimately reflect the quality of care you are offering your patients.
About the Author
Jean Akerman, ARIDO, IDC, is an award-winning Interior Designer, specializing in Dental and Healthcare environments. Her work is defined by attention to the details that promote productivity, safety and well-being within aesthetically pleasing spaces. Jean takes pride in having had many of her projects featured in this publication over the years. Her practice is based in Toronto. www.jeanakermandesign.com
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