Dental Delivery Systems and Patient Chairs for Your Operatory – What you need to know

Dental startup Dental Delivery Systems - Options & Cost

Choosing a dental delivery system and a patient chair for your operatory is another crucial step in your dental practice startup checklist.

If you’ve worked in multiple offices for other doctors, you may have run into various setups and configurations of how the operatory is set up. Now that it’s time for you to buy your own, you feel like you don’t know where to start.

That’s what I want to help you with by discussing the different options and cost for delivery systems and patient chairs.

This post will help you make an informed decision and save you $$$ when it comes to budgeting for your dental startup equipment financing.

So, let’s dive right in!

In the previous post on Dental Office Equipment List, I covered all instruments and supplies that you’ll need to start seeing your first set of patients. If you haven’t already, make sure to go back and read the post where you’ll be able to download a comprehensive list of instruments and supplies in Microsoft Excel format.

Patient Chairs for Startup Dental Office

When it comes time to buying your first patient chair for your dental operatory, various things pop up in your head such as:

  • What are my options?
  • What does it cost and what should I be looking for to make sure I’m getting most for my money?
  • Should I buy used vs new?

I mention the questions above because that’s exactly what I thought of when I was getting ready to order equipment for my startup. So I’ll do my best to give you my opinion since it’s now been little over three years since I bought my chairs.

What are my options for patient chairs?

All-in-one Dental Operatory Packages:

You can buy all-in-one type of system manufactured by one company.

Example: Engle Chairs

Here’s a picture of an all-in-one system:

All-in-one Dental Operatory Equipment

This specific model is the Engle 2200 Package – This image is directly from their website located at The dental operatory package includes the chair, the Engle Delivery system, and the Dental Light System.

I have worked with this type of setup throughout my associateships at different offices.

This package restricts you to utilize an over-the-patient delivery system.  In my post on Dental Office Design and Construction – How To Get Started, I talked about dental delivery systems and its role in dental office design. Due to the high visibility and close proximity of all instruments to the patient, I’m not a fan of this configuration.  I also don’t utilize a dental light since I already have a headlight on my loupes.

However, if you have an operatory specifically for hygiene use, these all-in-one sets can be very economical.

Stand-alone Patient Chair:

The other option is to buy stand alone chair only. This is a great option if you know you like a certain brand or style of patient chair and want it positioned to your liking in your operatory. The delivery system can be purchased also as a stand-alone system from a different manufacturer with a configuration (rear, over-the-patient, or side) to your liking.

Here’s what I have in my office:  I have a stand-alone Marus NuStar DC1700 Hydraulic Chair with an ultra-leather upholstery upgrade.

Dental Operatory Chair

None of the chairs have given me any problems so far. I paid $500 extra for each chair to have the ultra-leather upgrade  – which I now regret. I have the same chair in another room without this “premium” fabric – and the patients cannot tell the difference. So when I add more chairs in the future, I’ll opt for saving $500 additional cost per chair.

Cost of the dental chairs and getting the most for your money:

When I first started shopping around for chairs – I went to the Greater New York Dental Meeting convention and tried all the different chairs on the floor. I saw a big range in price differences among the different brands, and not much difference in features.

When you go through this process, you’re most likely going to run into the A-DEC chairs – you’ll hear about it from your equipment company, see it in the dental magazines, or some dental convention.

Difference between an A-DEC chair and buying a Marus chair – is like buying a Mercedez benz vs a Toyota. They’re both great – you know what you’re buying because of the name – and trust the reliability of their cars and customer service. You feel good buying a Benz and you’ll gladly pay for it because you’ve always wanted one. You’re in the drivers seat and you get to use it. But what about when it comes to your dental chair?

Patient will most likely NEVER be able to tell the difference. Buying one chair vs another will not lead to more patients saying yes to your recommended treatment. So why not go with something that’s bound to last a long time and is economical at the same time?

An A-DEC chair alone is most likely to run you about $10-16k, vs a Marus chair goes for around $5500. There are other great options as well which typically run around the range of $5-6k for brand new chairs, such as the following:

Beaversate –

Belmont –


To buy these chairs, you’ll need to talk to your equipment company you’re working with to see if they’re an authorized seller for the company.

Should I buy used or go with brand new?

If you’re considering buying separate pieces or all-in-one type of system used, you should also take into account whether or not you’ll want it upholstered. Upholstering a dental chair can cost (depending on color and fabric you want) anywhere from 500-1500. Plus, you’ll need to consider the shipping cost. Is the seller responsible for shipping the product to your office?

Once the chair gets to your office, you need to consider the installation of the chair – who will install it for you?  This may also add about $500 or so depending on who you find.

Buying used is worth it depending on the initial cost of the chair and the condition. If you’re saving only 1000-2000 per chair buying used vs buying a brand new one that comes with a warranty – I would opt for buying a new chair. But again, that’s me. You may very well opt for buying used if you think it’s worth the risk.

Another alternative is to buy from a dealer that sells refurbished equipment and also provides warranty. One example is Dental Equipment Liquidators. Check out their website at  to see a wide selection of refurbished equipment they carry.

 Dental Delivery Systems:

Delivery systems in an operatory is what gives you access to your hand pieces, air syringe, suction etc.

Like I said before, these can be purchased as part of a all-in-one package or a stand alone type.

Delivery systems can be installed in your operatory with different configurations – such as over-the-patient, rear-delivery(12’o clock), or side delivery.

How do you know which one is right for you? To answer that, consider the following:

  • What configurations have you already used before? Did you feel comfortable? What about it didn’t you like?
  • How much room do you have – what size are your operatories?
  • What are you trying to achieve with a particular type of configuration?

Different options & cost:

Here’s what I started with:

Dental delivery system 12'o Clock

It’s a Pelton & Crane EX15 Duo cabinet mounted unit. It has a self-contained water system with city water bypass switch.

There’s also an assistant holder bar with with one HVE, one saliva ejector and one quick clean syringe.
I also had an additional HVE with holder requested on the assistant bar because I thought I would place a suction cup over it for patient to spit into – but I never ended up using it. I simply ask patient to get up and rinse out over the sink after a procedure.

The listed price for this delivery unit was $6090. As part of the package since I was purchasing a chair, delivery unit and the ceiling light – it was $10695 + $500 for the ultra-leather upgrade = $11,195. This does NOT include the cabinetry at the 12’o clock position.

Dental Operatory Equipment Invoice

At the time, although I knew I could’ve saved more money if I went with a different delivery system – I thought the Pelton & Crane brand was worth paying a little extra at the time.

One year and about two months in there was some water leakage in the compartment which houses all the little tubes that make up this entire system. The bearings had to be replaced: $175 labor cost + $25 for the part.

The fault was in the water. Even though there’s water filter installed in my utility closet, there are still small sediments that make their way through. The technician informed me that the hard water is causing the clog and bearings to go.

I immediately switched to using distilled water in the self-contained water bottle system. Since then there have been no problems and I’m about three years three months into my startup.

If you’re not sure about the water quality, there are many economical systems available today that will allow you to switch between using city water vs the bottle system. For water going through my hand pieces, I use distilled water only.

Dental delivery dual water-bottle system

I would strongly recommend that whatever system you decide to go with – there’s a bottle system built into it. It doesn’t matter if it’s double (in the picture above, I have a dual bottle system) or single bottle, but there should be a way you can switch between the water line and your self-contained bottle system.

Other extras ($$$):

No matter which configuration you choose (over-the-patient, side delivery or 12’o clock), most manufacturers have options today of integrating electric handpieces with the delivery system. You can also integrate camera, scaler, curing light and a USB port right into your delivery system.

Here’s an example of a Pelton Crane Unit from their website:

Dental Delivery System advanced integration

Of course, as you may have guessed, this will certainly add $$$ to your total cost. So make sure to keep in mind your BUDGET and GOALS of what you’re trying to achieve.

Mobile Dental Carts:

Another variation when it comes to dental delivery systems is to use mobile dental delivery carts. Here’s a picture below of the Beaverstate unit from American Dental Accessories.

mobile dental delivery cart

It has an umbilical to connect to a junction box assembly in your operatory. If you’re not equipment savvy, I would definitely recommend having a local dental technician help you install this into your operatory.

When would you ever use a mobile cart? – There are many scenarios. Let’s say you bought a used/refurbished patient chair for around $2500 without a delivery system. Then, along with the delivery cart above, you’ll need the assistant’s mobile cart or a cabinet mounted bar along a side wall for HVE, saliva ejector, etc. Assistant’s bar/cart can also go for about $700-1500.

This means that for under $6500 (approximately a price of a new patient chair only), you can have a simple operatory set up to see your patients.

This kind of setup can be great for hygiene operatories, where you won’t need an assistant’s cart/bar.

Self-contained mobile dental carts:

In a self-contained mobile dental cart, the plumbing and vacuum system comes built in. If you’re doing a new build-out, laying pipes so you have central vacuum and compressor should be the preferred method.

Self-contained systems is usually an overkill for an operatory if you’re trying to equip multiple ops. It’s certainly a valid option if you plan on expanding and for some reason, running the lines from your existing compressor and vacuum is not possible.

You will save more money long term by going with a central compressor and vacuum system – (where it’s located in one place) and all your opearatories in your office are powered by it.

Here’s an example of one offered by ASI Dental Systems:

Self Contained Mobile Dental Delivery System


When you’re starting to think about patient chairs and dental delivery systems, understand there are TONS of options out there by multiple manufacturers.

Knowing how much you want to spend by setting a budget is the first step BEFORE looking at all the options out there. How do you set a budget before knowing all your options and how much they cost in the market?

I’m hoping I’ve given you the basics of what you need to know when comparing options and cost with the information above.

If you’re confused about whether you want rear delivery, over the patient, or side delivery for your delivery system – just think about how you’re used to working. Do you like it or hate it? Is there anything that bothers you a LOT about HOW you use the system wherever you’re working now?

All three configurations have their advantages and disadvantages – but in the end, don’t overthink it. One system is NOT going to outdo another in terms of how much you produce per hour or efficiency.

There’s nothing wrong with going with an A-DEC chair – as long as YOU know what you’re getting into. If you’re financing your equipment with a loan from the bank (like the most of us), then understand that more you spend on your equipment means bigger loan and in the long term, more you’re paying the bank back with interest.

I want you to make an INFORMED decision knowing what’s out there and what it can cost – that’s the ultimate goal with this blog post.

I can only tell you from my experience of going through this process that it was NOT my ultra-leather upgrade that led to more patients coming through the door. I did not purchase the convenience of having a scaler, USB  camera, electric hand pieces integrated into my delivery system.

Yet, my patients are still impressed when they see the photo of their tooth (taken with my $100 ebay intra-oral camera) enlarged on a screen in front of them.

Although the top brands such as A-DEC, Pelton & Crane exist, do not rule out brands like Marus, Belmont, Beaverstate, Engle, and DCI because they will also provide a great quality product with warranty at a good price.

If you’re going towards buying used route, then you want to make sure you buy from a dealer that sells refurbished equipment and also provides warranty.

Don’t forget to leave feedback or any questions you may have regarding anything discussed above!

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