The 'value' of a dental office

March 1, 2011
At times, our participation in the design and construction of a dental facility frustrates the dealer, whose goal is to maximize the equipment ...

by Jeff Carter, DDS, and Pat Carter, IIDA

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: dental office design, dental office construction, Dr. Jeff Carter, Pat Carter.

At times, our participation in the design and construction of a dental facility frustrates the dealer, whose goal is to maximize the equipment and minimize the facility itself. Understandable, since it is their job to promote the sale and installation of dental equipment, a key component of any dental facility.

Though it seems an inherent conflict, we have partnered successfully over the years with equipment providers who understand longer-term benefits to the dentists' success and future sales. The budgets for these projects were driven by the dentist's objectives and a definable balance between the equipment required and the facility function/esthetic desired to deliver the best value or greatest return on the overall project investment. As a result, we have witnessed some great practice successes through the years.

We therefore resist edicts that counter the value of a well-conceived (balanced) dental facility for the dentist. I was stunned when in a recent design meeting, the equipment specialist (ES) stated, "The only thing of real value in any dental facility is the dental equipment. Everything else has no intrinsic value." My reaction to his proclamation was more about his genuine belief that this was so than any reflection on our design work.

Without solicitation, he was recommending that our mutual client downgrade his office starting with interior "finishes," because after all, in his opinion they didn't add value to the project. Unfortunately, he delivered that message to a dentist who had defined his primary objectives in terms of design impact, long-term durability, and optimum function – not in terms of the dental equipment. Unwittingly, the ES invalidated the things of "value" our client specifically identified.

To that client's credit, he knew the ES didn't understand the shortsightedness of his declaration. It was analogous to a dentist responding to a patient's request for whiter teeth by saying, "Why would you want that? It has no intrinsic value in mastication."

The statement the ES made confirmed that "values" gained with a dental facility for the dentist can be lost on those in primary roles who purport to advance that very thing. Facility value can be garnered and lost based on design decisions made beyond the equipment component. Over the years, dentists have confirmed what is gained and therefore "VALUABLE" in designing or redesigning their dental facility:

Attracting new patients ► a primary "value" is increased patient flow. A facility's appeal will foster strong referrals, loyalty, and the interest of new patients. Patients perceive an attractive, well-appointed office as providing quality care.

Distinguishing my practice ►there is "value" in having your office stand out from the "typical" dental office. A facility that attracts attention can promote how your practice offers distinctive care, expanded procedures, and quality outcomes.

Increased production with less stress ► a key "value" to lowering stress is improved productivity. When an office functions well, dentistry is produced with less effort. Optimum function is achieved through the optimum organization of spaces in a dental office. Arguably, in poorly arranged and poorly conceived spaces, the "value" of the best equipment is compromised and the investment is squandered.

Practice enjoyment ► dentistry is a challenging profession both physically and emotionally. There is great "value" gained from performing work in an environment you enjoy. Whether it is the location, the way it works, the way it looks, or the way you feel when you arrive every day, taking care of yourself through your dental office's design will translate to taking care of your patients as well.

In our experience, there are many "value" propositions – worthy, intrinsic reasons – that prompt dentists to pursue a dental office project. And those "values" are best defined by dentists, not dictated by service or equipment providers.

A dental client of ours reported he was told, "You don't need a fancy office. As long as it is clean and professional, you will make more money than you know what to do with." He responded, "First of all, how could anyone presume what is 'too fancy' or 'professional enough' for my practice, and secondly, is it possible to have more money than I know what to do with?"

Defining what is of value in your dental office involves choices. Make those choices yours, or others will make them for you.

Jeff Carter, DDS, and Pat Carter, IIDA, are owners of PDG- Practice Design Group. Located in Buda, Texas, PDG offers a full range of design and consulting services to dentists nationwide. For information, call (800) 511-7110 or visit

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