Th 289717

A pathway to healthy smiles

July 1, 2008
Using a blend of technology and Christian beliefs, this Michigan dental office is providing a"ministry of service to the community.
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Using a blend of technology and Christian beliefs, this Michigan dental office is providing a"ministry of service to the community."

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: office design, philosophy, Dr. Richard Beckermeyer, patient comfort.

Editor's note: This month's cover story is about a very unusual office in Niles, Michigan. They have written their story about how the new office came about. I think that you will enjoy their inspiring story if Dr. Richard L. Beckermeyer and his team tell it.

As the sun rises on our patients' pathway to healthy smiles, our commitment is to their total experience of calm peacefulness. Our philosophy is to be attentive to patients' emotional and overall physical needs as well as specific oral needs. We see their visits as not only an opportunity to impart the knowledge and skills to aid in keeping a healthy mouth for a lifetime, but also as the motivation toward that goal. Our tagline therefore is "A Pathway to Healthy Smiles."

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We believe this approach encapsulates the blending of esthetics and technology for the patients' dental treatment, and the office environment reinforces that belief. This particular quality has directed our decisions in the design and construction in the following ways:

  • Our new office is in the form of a curve — like a smile.
  • Our spacious main hallway has an open design that allows the music of laughter to permeate the operatories.
  • The warm hues of blue, green, and honey throughout the interior and exterior elicit peaceful and calm feelings.
  • The art gallery highlights personal photography taken while doing humanitarian dentistry in several countries. Many of our patients have expressed their appreciation of getting to know their dental care provider in this way. We find it a very personal and relaxing approach to the operatory experience.
  • Each operatory has a double-walled entrance which maintains the privacy of patients, yet continues to communicate the idea of openness.
  • These alcoves also serve as hand-washing sterilization centers.
  • The location of our office was perfectly chosen to overlook a golf course through the large operatory windows along the east wall.
  • The rooms were designed extra long to encourage patients' family members' presence, lessening the anxiety factor.
  • The rooms were also designed to accommodate the technology of dentistry, tastefully hidden behind beautifully crafted custom cabinetry.
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We believe one's philosophy of dental care is absolutely fundamental in deciding what kind of dentistry is provided. We believe the patients' esthetics and the company's profits will benefit when this foundation is clear. Therefore, many specific decisions were based on our philosophy of care.

Where our pathway has led us

Patients seeing the hygienists are in the east rooms and those seeing the doctor are on the west. We have handicap accessibility. Ours is a brightly lit and cheery environment in which to work. Employees have a place to sit and enjoy their lunch break. They also have a comfortable place to change into and out of their scrubs, with laundry facilities and personal lockers. The children's nook has been expanded so more than one child can "entertain" themselves while waiting. We have a separated check-in and check-out station, as well as a private consultation room for financial and treatment presentations. The consultation room is conveniently located near the check-out station. The assistants have their own workstation near the printers as well as computer accessibility in each operatory for charting. We use an interoffice software program for discrete communications, which lessens messages by foot. (Please refer to the main floor plan and photos included.)

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It's all so wonderful, we still feel the thrill months later, and no doubt for years to come! We still maintain German efficiency (Dr. Beckermeyer hasn't changed). What has changed is our capacity to serve the community. We now utilize seven operatories. The sterilization center is housed in a centrally located position, making accessibility easy for our sterilization assistant, yet it is as carefully designed as the operatories. The doctor utilizes overflow operatories for specific oral surgery and endodontic procedures.

Our private consultation room for treatment presentations contains computer access for optimal patient visualization. We have a computerized sign-in for check-in. Our hygiene staff has voiced their appreciation for their own assistant who handles X-rays, computer entries, charting measurements, and sterilization. This allows more patient-to-caregiver time. We have experienced what a real benefit it is to now have specific places for specific tasks for the patients' ease of flow through their dental visit.

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The most unique aspect of our office design has been to incorporate spiritual features to enhance patients' familiarity and calming assurance.

  • The very curvature of the building is seen by many as an illustration of the earth's curve, with warm color tones throughout the interior and exterior.
  • Although our staff was efficient at our old office, our use of time and space was extremely condensed. The problem was that we were beyond capacity and needed greater functionality in seeing more patients than what we could safely accommodate.

Because our pathway is to be sensitive to patients' total health and well-being, we strive to be responsive to patients' total sensory experience. Sights, sounds, and smells, therefore, have been purposefully chosen to encourage the best possible encounter.

  • There is a sweet floral smell in the foyer entrance.
  • There is the soothing sound of an "In His Hands" water fountain in the waiting room.
  • There is the sight of the "Shepherd's Psalm" hand scripted in the vaulted ceiling, a local (but internationally known) artist's work in the gallery hallway and reception room, as well as fun, decorative ceiling panels in the operatories.
  • Specifically chosen iPod music softly floating throughout completes the experience and has actually caused some patients to fall asleep in the waiting room and operatories — without the use of general anesthesia!
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    Patients have commented that it feels like a fine hotel when they first come in. Others have said it feels like a coffee shop, because of our bistro designed information and marketing area. Our highest compliment is when patients say it feels like home.

    New technology we have incorporated includes:

  • Electric handpieces in each operatory
  • Digital X-rays in the operatories
  • Digital panorex
  • Hydrim washer and Lisa Class B Sterilizer in the new sterilizing room
  • Computers with patient screens in each room
  • Self-contained water supply in each operatory
  • Rear delivery systems in most rooms with one room having the side delivery option

    Not all of the equipment was new when we moved. Some was purchased just prior to our move in anticipation of our expansion. We have been using digital for a number of years and only needed to expand it to the seven operatories we now have. Optimum function is achieved with the use of electric handpieces and a highly efficient sterilization room. We previously had used computers in the operatories, but in a limited way. We have greatly expanded on this mode of communication, which has led to greater patient education and case acceptance. We believe, ultimately, optimum function is determined by three key areas — training, systems, and equipment. With the ever-changing nature of dentistry and technology in particular, we strongly support continual training for our staff.

    Our staff has always been an integral part of this business. Actually, it was a staff member who initiated the idea of a curved building. We also had a team brain-storming session to create our logo and tagline "A Pathway to Healthy Smiles," which encompasses the foundational philosophy we hold. Their ideas and input have been pivotal from conception of design to implementation of service. Because of their involvement at the planning stages, it is certain that they gave 110% of their energy and time! Even their sons, husbands, and boyfriends came to lend a hand! We were able to move everything and set it up in one and a half days so services could be performed on that very Monday. There were only some equipment kinks affecting the schedule that first day. What a team!

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    This has truly been an investment in people. It is not solely a return of investment dollars. When patients feel sincerely appreciated, it is not difficult to help them see the value in the services performed for their benefit. Our restorative services are growing. Our hygiene department has grown. Our staffing positions have increased. We are actually growing all over since three of our team members have given birth this year!

    Because we see ourselves as "A Pathway to Healthy Smiles," we have already begun a dynamic feature of sponsoring community seminars in our lower level conference room. We have completed two smoking cessation programs and a "Dave Ramsey — Financial Peace University" seminar. Our current success is sponsoring "Depression Recovery," a nine-step program developed by Dr. Neil Nedley from "Lifestyle Center of America," Ardmore, Okla.

    The major influences are personal and spiritual. We wanted an artful design that would highlight photographs taken by Dr. Beckermeyer in his humanitarian clinics around the world. This would help patients feel comfortable knowing about him. We wanted paintings from local but internationally renowned artists that would bring an aura of familiarity. We especially wanted the structure itself to say something meaningful and significant to our patients, not only during their appointment time, but perhaps also in life's pathway.

    Therefore, there are spiritual symbols such as stained glass panels, a two-story Biblical mural, hand-scripted Shepherd's psalm, light fixtures curved as angel wings, operatories measured in divisions of seven, 12 skylights, and three faces of the waiting room area. Six outdoor pillars lead up to and graduate in height to a seventh, in commemoration of Biblical creation. The most meaningful to us was pleasantly unplanned. There are 10 helix columns supporting the foundation of the building that the structural engineer deemed necessary for stability. How perfect, to have 10 fundamentally unmovable pillars anchoring the whole and thereby grounding us in our ministry of service to the community.

    How the new office has benefited us

    It is a pleasure coming to work, even if it occasionally means long days. There is great contentment in moving from room to room with an uplifted feeling from what I see and hear. It doesn't even take long to recover from a difficult case or a challenging patient. There is great satisfaction and motivation with such positive comments coming from patients and staff alike. I feel like a MasterCard commercial: Custom embroidered scrubs? $1,500. Landscape architect? $3,500. Having the best staff and enjoying coming to work? Priceless.

    Our advice to others considering the same move

    Put a lot of forethought and planning into what you need and ultimately want to achieve. Consider who will be benefited by which decisions, and choose those aspects that match your path. Investigate and write out all the details of how to accomplish each stage and facet. Be decisive in its fulfillment by bringing on board those individuals who have caught your vision. Then, remember your own successful pathway through dental school:

    • Jump in with both feet
    • Press forward
    • Don't look back

    P.S. To gain the full benefit of judging our office, one has to experience it firsthand. Everyone is sincerely welcome to visit. We are located two hours from Chicago, across the state line from South Bend, Ind., in Niles, Berrien County, Mich.

    Dr. Richard Beckermeyer
    Office equipment checklist

    Biolase Waterlase unit
    Midwest Comfort Control Syringe injection unit
    Emergency preparedness equipment (oxygen tank, AED, glucometer)
    100 Base-T network
    All workstations connected to the Internet
    Back-up database in certified fireproof safe
    SoftDent practice-management software (including clinical charting software)
    Microsoft PowerPoint presentations
    Image Fx by SciCan intraoral cameras
    Nikon D70 digital extraoral camera
    Planmeca Dimaxis Pro digital bite sensors
    Planmeca Dimaxis Pro digital radiography sensors
    Planmeca Dimaxis Pro digital panorex
    "T-Scan" by TekScan Inc. computerized occlusal scanning and graphing analysis
    Hewlett Packard patient-view monitors
    Planmeca digital panoramic X-ray
    A-dec surgical electric handpieces

    Richard Beckermeyer, DDS, PC
    123 Marmont Street, Niles, MI 49120
    Phone: (269) 683-6461
    Cosmetic and Family Dentistry
    e-mail: [email protected]
    Web site:

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