Dental Office Design Floor Plan – How to Review and Revise

Dental Office Design Floor Plans - How to Review & Revise

You’ve just received your first dental office design floor plan for YOUR VERY OWN office – but you have NO idea what you should be looking for when reviewing the plan.

It’s crazy! First, you’re just super excited to see the drawings of your own office in front of you. You may be associating at another office or this may be your second office.

But there’s no feeling like it, every office feels like your first office!

Once you’re done drooling over your design, it’s time to make sure the plans actually fit your vision without costing you an arm and a leg.

So what should you be looking for?

Where can you look to avoid unnecessary expenses without sacrificing quality of service patients will receive and maximize efficiency?

How do you design for good patient flow?

Understand that I’m no expert in office design, but now having gone through the process and realizing the mistakes, I sure wish there were things I did differently.

I’m going to tell you all about it in this post, which is our second in the series of posts on Dental Office Design and Construction.

If you haven’t yet thought about what it is you want in your office, refer to the previous post Dental Office Design and Construction – How to Get Started before going forward.

When you’re looking at your dental office design floor plan for the very first time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You don’t know where to start. Don’t worry, I’ve been there!

Like with any big project, I find that it always helps to break the entire process down into major areas / elements you need to think about:

  • Cabinetry / Storage
  • Front Desk / Reception area
  • Operatory size / design
  • Other rooms and areas

Let’s dive right in!

Download the PDF version of this ENTIRE blog post so you can reference all the valuable content at a later time, or print in a printer-friendly format!

1. Cabinetry & Storage for your Dental Office:

How much storage space do you really need?

Think about the other offices you’ve worked in. Recall the cabinetry inside the operatory you worked in.

Now think, most of the drawers in the cabinetry are usually filled with lots of junk you barely used. You may have even thought about organizing it differently, but usually you take things you need and onto the next patient. That’s what I did because I didn’t know any better.

The random stuff stored in those drawers can be organized better to save space. It could be arranged by procedures most commonly done in the dental operatory. I won’t get into the best practices for storage and organization. That’ll be for a future discussion.

Well, all that cabinetry is expensive! Chances are those operatories were filled with “Dental” cabinetry installed by a dental equipment company.

What if you could avoid the cabinetry completely within the operatories and had centralized storage and mobile carts with drawers for most supplies you needed for procedures?

The answer is – you CAN avoid the cabinetry that is most commonly found along the side walls of the operatory.

Going from my residency training and having worked in two offices after as an associate, I knew I did NOT want the side cabinetry.

I submitted my first sketch of what I was looking for to the equipment company I worked with, they sent me their FIRST floor plan design.

Here’s what it looked like (notice no side cabinetry on the walls in the operatories):

Office Floor Plan Initial Drawing

The office  design floor plan you see above is AFTER I told them I want minimal cabinetry.

The pink arrows point to all areas of cabinetry: For the sinks in each operatory, under the counter in the front desk reception area, insurance / office manager room, private consultation room, sterilization, bathrooms, and kitchen area.

The green arrows point to huge storage closets – huge because I have high ceiling.

At the first round of revisions, I got rid of one of the storage closets (1st green arrow on left) and instead turned the nitrous room into closet space (with no cabinetry).

I turned the the last storage closet (3rd green arrow) into maintenance storage and added a mop-sink to it.

I got rid of the nitrous room because I don’t plan on using plumbed nitrous in my office.

I opened the doors to my office with two plumbed ops – both of which had the cabinetry under the sink. At this point, I really didn’t know any better.

When I added the third operatory, I did away with the cabinetry and kept a sink only. As I add more ops in the future, I will keep the same design as my newly added third operatory.

I decided to leave out the cabinetry under the counter at the front desk reception area and replaced it with a mobile file cabinet from Ikea. I still have more than enough room for storage of folders and organization. Patients don’t see this area anyways as it’s hidden under the counter.

You don’t need tons of filing cabinetry when there are no paper charts and office is mostly digital.

For sterilization, I left the cabinets on the left wall, but on the right wall – I went with open shelving instead.

Here’s a pic below:

Dental Sterilization - Cabinetry

Dental Sterilization - Open View

Don’t be afraid to make revisions. I made tons of revisions before signing off on a final invoice.

For the company I was working with, balances are paid 1/3 at the beginning and final at install.  After signing off on the final invoice, I was able to find one year old Progeny x-ray units for the operatories and once again I changed my mind to remove the ipad station at the front desk area.

I was always nervous to keep asking for revisions (even though it’s my money at the end of the day), but I once again sent an email to my dental equipment company as you can see in the picture below.

Revision for Dental Office Floor Plan

Of course the company was not happy since I wasn’t going to move forward with their brand new x-ray units. But I bought four Progeny x-ray units for the price of one brand new one.

Here’s a drawing of the planned cabinetry for the staff lounge:

Staff Lounge - Dental Office Floor Plan

Here’s my revision of what I wanted:

Staff Lounge - Revised Office Floor Plan

The initial drawing by the equipment company included space for only a small fridge. But for staff lounge, I wanted a bigger fridge because there’s never enough room for all the food and birthday cakes we have throughout the year.

With a quick search at the Home Depot near me, I found a reasonably priced tall fridge that was 29 inches in width – so I had to have the company revise the width of that area as well.

I did away with the cabinetry above the sink because I was able to have my contractor place a wooden shelf with some support to hold a microwave.

As of now, we have kept our last operatory (top right on the office drawing), which is already plumbed, as our staff lounge, with a dining table, chairs, some mobile cabinet carts – so staff can relax.

So after removing all this cabinetry, let me show you the difference it has made:

Here’s a picture of the FIRST invoice I received from them:

Dental Cabinetry Quote For Floor Plan

Here’s page 2 of the invoice with the grand total:

Dental Cabinetry - Invoice Total

And here’s what the last page of the final invoice looked like after I made my revisions and removed some cabinetry:

Dental Office Design Cabinetry

Here’s a summary of the minimal cabinetry that I removed which resulted in savings of $3835:

What I Removed Why?
iPad Station
  • Realized there wasn’t enough room for it
  • Replaced instead with more patient seating
Under counter cabinetry in the Reception area
  • Replaced with Ikea mobile filing units ($250)
  • As a result, now have more leg room for front desk
Cabinetry for microwave in staff lounge
  • Replaced with a piece of wood with support built in (Free – placed by contractor during construction)
  • Bought mobile storage cabinetry from Home Depot ($80)

2. Dental Front Desk / Reception Area:

When reviewing your office design floor plan, take a look at the number of check-in/check-out stations you have.

Think when you’re busiest, how many front desk personnel you’ll be able to accommodate.

If you’re going to have multiple hygienists and doctors seeing patients, you should take into account of the time when the hygienists and the providers are walking their patients out for check-out and at same time next set of patients are waiting to be seated or being checked-in.

This situation is referred to as bottleneck, and your design should as much as possible prevent it from occurring.

It’s not to say that design/layout is the only thing that affects the possibility of a bottleneck occurring.

If you have a small office space, you may be able prevent bottleneck with better patient flow.

For example, by offsetting some of the responsibilities of the front-desk to the clinical personnel (hygiene, or clinical assistant), you can have a patient walk out of the operatory and out the door of the office without stopping at the front desk.

Your hygienist can pre-book next hygiene appointment. The clinical assistant can set up the next procedural appointment as dictated by the doctor right from the operatory (considering all the financial arrangements are in order).

You could take it a step further by having the clinical assistant collect the out of pocket co-pays for the patient right from the operatory with a mobile payment device.

If your floor plan doesn’t prevent a bottleneck, by planning your patient flow and delegating front desk responsibilities to other staff members, you can prevent a bottleneck from occurring.

Make sure to have a door separating the clinical and waiting area. This will help with separation for noise control from the clinical area, as well as keep kids from running from waiting area into hallway lining the clinical ops.

3. Operatory size / Design:

Depth and Width of the operatory:

Before coming up with a right size, the kind of dentistry you do will dictate YOUR “ideal” operatory size.

Mine are 9 x 11 and they work perfect for me. My hygiene ops are a little bit smaller – 8 x 11.  Since I have no side cabinetry, I have plenty of room on both sides of the patient chair. I have plenty of room to roll my mobile carts in and out of the room. That way my assistant can quickly turn over an operatory to do procedures such as endo or implant surgery.

Even if my ops were a little bit smaller, I’d still be fine.

If you plan on getting a microscope, unless you’re going to mount it on a ceiling, they need a lot of room if you’re going to roll them from one operatory to another.

Go visit a colleague or two who has the type of office you may be thinking about.

Dual vs single entry operatory: 

I have dual entry doctor ops and single entry hygiene ops. Because of the dual entry in the doctor ops, the assistant can go in and out without me moving out of the way. It helps with patient flow. 

Just because the hygiene ops are single entry ops, doesn’t mean a doctor cannot work out of the same operatory doing an operative procedure. Due to our usage of mobile carts, any operatory can quickly be turned over into getting any procedure started.

In terms of the width of the entries into the operatories, you need to check with your architect in your state to see how wide entries need to be for ADA compliance.

If dual entry, both entries may not need to comply with ADA (so one can be wider than the other to save space) – but be sure to check with your architect.

4. Other considerations:

  • Mechanical room: It should be placed far from operatories as possible. If your space doesn’t allow it, you need to consider sound proofing, so make sure to talk to your architect / contractor as well.
  • IT closet: Don’t forget the IT closet. You don’t need a ton of space, you can have everything placed in a stacked arrangement.
  • Central Sterilization:
    • Try to keep the sterilization room centrally accessible to all ops if possible. This will be important if you’re going to have minimal to no cabinetry in your operatories. Storage units / compartments for storing small dental supplies can be set up in the central sterilization area easily accessible by the clinical staff.
    • You may want to consider having air, vacuum into sterilization area if you’re thinking about putting in a handpiece lubrication system. Because some lubrication systems run on compressed air, you’ll need it.
    • I didn’t do this. I don’t use a lubrication system. I have my assistant do it manually with a bottle of oil into the handpiece per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • ADA Compliance: Make sure to check with your architect if he or she’s aware of ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliance requirements when it comes to bathrooms, operatory entrance, front-desk reception counter heights, etc.
  • Consultation room: If your total office space allows, make sure to have a separate consultation room built for discussing finances with patients, or treatment plan presentation, etc. Keep this room close to the waiting area / front-desk / check-out area.
  • Utility room: You should place a mop sink with water tap in the utility room. This will make clean-up much easier for staff instead of dumping dirty mop water into a sink in the patients’ or staff bathroom, or kitchen or the lab.
  • Plumbing: Plumbing is $$$$$. If you can do sinks for every two to three operatories, you’ll save a ton of money on the plumbing, the fixtures, etc.

Closing remarks on Reviewing your Dental Office Floor Plan Design:

I don’t proclaim to be an expert on clinic design. But from my experience of having gone through the process and been practicing in it for 2.5 years, there are things I wish I had done, but I’m happy I did not go with the bells-and-whistles I see in many other offices.

My suggestions may not be ideal for everyone, but it’ll SAVE you money for sure.

As you’re reviewing your dental office floor plan design, don’t be afraid to go back and forth for multiple revisions.

If you know a colleague or a friend who has started out and gone through the process, share with them your office design floor plan – get their feedback.

You can email me your floor plan and I’ll tell you what I think.

When you think you’ve got the perfect design and it’s ready for construction, you’ll realize later “Oh I wish I did it this way”. And that’s OK!

But it’s more important to push ahead!

Feel free to comment below if you have questions or comments!

Best of luck and continue to tune in!