5 Design Ideas for a Kid-Tested, Mother-Approved Pediatric Dentist Office

Cereal companies know that while kids are easy to please (just add sugar and artificial colors), their mothers are the real decision-makers. You have to appeal to the one, but cater to the other. When planning a pediatric dentist office redesign, the same theory applies. Today’s pediatric dental offices balance what moms like and what kids want with clean, modern designs that are fun – and sophisticated. Here are 5 ideas on how to achieve that balance yourself.

What Kids Want and Moms Need


First: A safe play area out of the path of traffic, but in easy sight of seating areas. This could involve a kid-height table with crayons and coloring books, a reading nook with bean bag chairs, a lego area, or even X-Box stations. Most importantly, make sure Mom and Dad can see their child at all times from any seat in the room.

Second: A TV screen. Sometimes it seems like nothing will mellow out an anxious child – until you plop them in front of a television. Even the most virtuous parents tend to acknowledge that a TV can be very useful. Here’s an idea: Don’t just install a television in the waiting area; try putting one in the operatory to distract children while you work.

Third: Handwashing station or convenient bathroom. Whenever you have dozens of children in the same space, germs aren’t far behind. Parents will appreciate conveniently placed hand sanitizers, wash stations and bathrooms. Incidentally, studies have shown that automatic paper towel dispensers are the most hygienic way to dry hands, as opposed to blow-dryers or reusable towels.

Fourth: Mom needs coffee, or at least some nice soothing tea, while she waits. Ply her with a little quiet time and caffeine, and she’ll sing your praises at the next school parents’ night. Is it bribery? Maybe.

Fifth: Don’t dumb down your dental office design. Your dental office doesn’t need to look like a Disney’s Toontown set to appeal to kids. In fact, you don’t need a single cartoon character, and some designers may argue that you shouldn’t theme your office at all. Here’s the theory: Kids grow up fast, and if you want to capture years of repeat business (there are still 30-year olds who see the same dentist they saw when they were 8), you can’t afford to alienate them. No 30-year-old, or even 13-year old, wants to come to a dental office that looks like a preschool classroom.


You Can’t Use What You Can’t Reach – Flaws in Your Dental Office Design


The average undergraduate dental program lasts 4 short years. During this time period, an astounding array of topics are introduced and memorized.

Understandably, the studying of the biomedical sciences is given top priority. After all, without a working knowledge of anatomy, biochemistry, histology, microbiology, pharmacology and so on, a new practitioner wouldn’t be able to successfully serve his or her patients. Unfortunately, this jam-packed curriculum often creates a problem: In lieu of taking extra classes, many graduates are “left in the dark” regarding the practical elements of running a successful practice.

One of which is that of basic ergonomics and how it impacts the productivity, enjoyment and health of dentists. What exactly is ergonomics?

Put simply, it’s the interaction between man and machine – or the habitual movements, postures and actions you take everyday. And what are most dentists doing everyday?

Sitting in a chair and hunching over their patients in the most awkward of positions! As with any job requiring such precision to detail, it can be easy to forget about what the rest of your body is doing while your hands are working. But that doesn’t mean such carelessness is to be taken lightly.

According to the American Dental Association, dental practitioners who don’t adopt proper ergonomic practices are more susceptible to repetitive stress injuries, musculoskeletal discomfort and headaches. Besides taking routine breaks to stretch over-worked muscles, the ADA suggests outfitting your operatory with ergonomically designed furnishings and equipment. When designing your next office, you can incorporate the following ergonomic elements for increased health and comfort:

1. A good operator stool with adjustable seating. Options may include saddle stools, contoured seats and/or ball chairs. Such designs naturally encourage good posture and support dynamic movements.

2. Should you desire more traditional lower-back support, look for a chair with unobtrusive armrests and elevated seating. The ideal posture allows a back/hip angle of approximately 90 degrees.

3. Patient chairs with thin, tapered backs that allow easy access to the oral cavity, while providing you with neutral balance (ie. head over shoulders, shoulders over hips and arms relaxed at the sides).

4. As handpiece usage comprises less than 10 percent of average procedure times, place instruments in unobtrusive places, preferably over the patient and over the head.

5. A sterilization sequence that works in conjunction with your resupply and stocking stations. Such attention to detail can reduce labor in a typical 10-chair practice by as much as one full employee equivalent, thus reducing turnaround times.

As you can see, achieving optimal ergonomics is a balancing act between the comfort of the patient and practitioner. Thankfully, relaxation for both parties can be achieved with careful planning, smart design and the development of good postural habits.

While isolated ergonomic practices are useful, it’s important to remember they are just a small part of a much bigger picture: Your primary goal of creating an enjoyable, efficient and rewarding work experience. And, at its most practical level, that begins with smart workflow design.

3 Questions to Lay the Right Foundation for Your Dental Office Design


If you’re like most practitioners, you have one primary goal when opening a new practice: A successful launch – on time and on budget.

While this is a worthy goal, planning for what happens after the doors open is just as, if not more, important as the initial launch. Whether you’re opening your first practice, expanding upon an existing one or moving to an entirely new location, it’s easy to become so absorbed in the numerous details required that you overlook “the big picture.”

And the big picture is that you’re not just designing an environment, you’re designing an experience – for your customers, for your staff and for yourself. An experience that should operate like a well-oiled machine! With that in mind, here are 3 questions to ask yourself before setting up shop:


1. Have I developed an infrastructure that will accommodate my projected growth plan?

Every business begins with a plan, and your dental office is no exception. And a major part of that plan is outlining your financial requirements for getting and staying in business. After assessing your projected costs, investments and cash flow, it’s important to consider exactly how many patients you will need to accommodate to meet your desired profit level. Oftentimes, an additional 500 square feet can be the difference between thousands of dollars made over the course of a calendar year.

Another incidence requiring consideration of patient volume is mergers. Combining the volume of two practices into one will require a careful assessment of space needed to meet long-term goals. A final word to the wise: The old adem “open the doors and they will come” applies to no one. Invest in a solid marketing plan for gaining new business.


2. Have I secured all the resource providers I need?

As a business owner, you will only be as successful as the team you surround yourself with. And that includes your team of service providers. Specialists you will need to partner with include IT technicians (for set-up + support), equipment providers, financial institutions and of course, an experienced accountant. You may also want to consult with a practice management provider to help implement your overall plan. Before deciding to work with any provider, we recommend asking if they a). Have experience working within the dental industry specifically and b). Have past clients who could speak to the caliber of their work. Over the years, Apex has cultivated a huge database of reputable, dental specific providers we gladly share with our clients.


3. Have I considered the ergonomic needs of my employees and patients?

According to a recent study conducted by Dimensional Research, respondents who suffered a bad customer service interaction were 50 percent more likely to share it on social media than those who had good experiences and 52 percent more likely to share it on review sites, such as Yelp. One of the easiest ways to create an outstanding service experience? Taking care of your staff and patient’s ergonomic needs. That means providing furnishings that support peak performance and comfort levels. Chairs should offer appropriate lumbar support, lighting should be pleasant to the eyes and all stations should be easily accessible.

Answer these three questions while planning your new dental office design and you’ll create a foundation that will support your practice for years to come.

Case Study: Elements Dental Studio and Dr. Meira Berman


The Challenge

Like many newly licensed practitioners, Dr. Meira Berman approached opening her first practice with some trepidation. Understandably, many doctors – fresh out of school – have very little knowledge of what’s required for “setting up shop.” The numerous details of doing business can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned of entrepreneurs.

Trusting the recommendation of a colleague, Dr. Berman contacted Apex to help with the construction and design of her new space in Evanston, Illinois. She’ll be the first to admit she had a lot of questions, ranging from, “What are my best financing options?” to “How do I determine how much space I really need?” All of which were easily answerable after a few in-depth discussions. But her biggest concern was timing. Dr. Berman wanted to move in and begin seeing patients by the end of 2014.

The Solution

We began our work with Dr. Berman by conducting a detailed information audit and delving into her long-term objectives. After assessing her unique capital goals, one of the two spaces Dr. Berman was considering emerged as the superior choice. The larger space would allow her to fit four operatories (as opposed to three), ultimately allowing her to see that many more patients over the course of a calendar year. After crunching the numbers and rendering some “2-D space plans,” outlining the projected workflow of each choice, Dr. Berman realized the larger space was the better long-term investment.

The Result

The doctor received a modern, completely done-for-her dental office that was ready for practice 2 weeks ahead of schedule. Besides collaborating with her assigned project manager (and one point of contact) to customize an architecturally unique ceiling for her waiting room, Dr. Berman was thrilled to have everything completely taken care of on her behalf.