What is dental furniture?

Aug. 1, 2010
I first heard the term dental furniture two years ago in a meeting with a leading manufacturer of dental equipment.

Jeff Carter, DDS, and Pat Carter, IIDA

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

I first heard the term dental furniture two years ago in a meeting with a leading manufacturer of dental equipment. Not wanting to sound ignorant, I failed to ask the question, What specifically do you mean by dental furniture? I had visions of toddler-scale tripod stools shaped like upper first molars. Surely, tooth-shaped novelty seating was not the largest area of growth for this manufacturer.

At least I was correct on that assumption ...

Dental furniture is a term used by leading manufacturers of dental equipment and associated clinical cabinetry systems. The implications of conferring this term on what may be more commonly identified as dental cabinetry is significant. A-dec, Midmark, and Pelton & Crane are representative manufacturers of dental furniture products.

Manufacturing of "furniture" implies precision, quality control, and craftsmanship above what one would expect from a "cabinet shop." A furniture manufacturer is more likely to have laser-cutting technology, CAD/CAM units, and other precision machining units vs. a cabinet shop's table saws, miter saws, and routers.

The recent advancements of "furniture quality" cabinetry for the clinical area of dental facilities that also deliver on function and esthetics is impacting our projects and expanding the design solutions we offer our clients.

Economics of custom cabinetry vs. dental furniture

An equitable cost comparison between dental furniture units and custom cabinetry solutions with similar functional objectives is nuanced and challenging. To declare custom cabinetry significantly less in cost than dental furniture can be an unfortunate and misleading assumption in many instances.

Custom cabinetry is often quoted in linear feet. Typical cabinetry shop quotes for a 2"-deep base cabinet with accompanying overhead cabinet are $400 to $700 per linear foot.

» The choice of countertop materials (plastic laminate vs. solid surface), substrates, and quality of hinges and cabinetry hardware are significant factors in pricing for custom cabinets.

» The custom cabinetry option requires a "designer" to design and document the solution. Ideally the designer should also verify that the fabrication and installation is consistent with the plans and specifications. The design cost is not included in the $400 to $700 range.

» Custom cabinet solutions require dental equipment and technology installers to "navigate" utility chases and utility connections in which they may be unfamiliar. Increased installation costs for equipment and technology are not included in costs per linear foot in custom cabinetry.

Dental furniture is more accurately viewed as a combination of cabinetry, equipment, and utilities. It is not uncommon to hear quotes in the range of $1,000 to $1,200 per linear foot.

  • Dental furniture often contains pre-wired electrical outlets and other utility-related features that simplify and reduce construction costs for electrical, plumbing, and technology subcontractors. For example, every electrical outlet housed in the dental furniture product (that would otherwise be installed independent from the custom cabinetry) reduces electrical construction costs by $100 to $200 per outlet.
  • The leading manufacturers of dental furniture offer higher quality construction materials and cabinetry hardware, as well as a range of solid-surface countertop options.
  • Quality control is consistent in dental furniture. What you observe at the tradeshow display floor is what will be delivered to your office. Custom cabinetry shop outcomes can be variable.
  • Installers of dental equipment and technology are trained by dealers and manufacturers to integrate products into dental furniture. Detailed installation guides are also available to help installers save time and installation costs.

As part of the new HIRE Act, the $250,000 limit has been extended for 2010. For property (primarily furniture and equipment) placed in service in 2010, you can elect to deduct the cost in one year rather than depreciate it over five to seven years. This can be a huge opportunity. – Rick Willeford, CPA

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 www.practicedesigngroup.com.

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