Proper positioning of monitors

Nov. 1, 2004
As dentists transition towards a modern dental practice, many of them realize the value and benefits of placing computers in the operatory.

Lorne Lavine, DMD

As dentists transition towards a modern dental practice, many of them realize the value and benefits of placing computers in the operatory. While a recent study seems to indicate that only 30 percent of offices have computers in the treatment room, many practices are moving in this direction over the next 12 to 18 months. One of the issues that has created resistance is the confusion over proper positioning of the monitors. In this month's column, we will examine the decisions that must be made in positioning monitors for maximum benefit.

One scoop or two?

While the concept of having more than one monitor in the operatory was a foreign thought a few years ago, it is becoming more and more common today. The main benefit of two monitors is the ability to pick and choose what patients see and what they do not see. Most practices want patients be able to view intraoral camera images, digital camera images, digital radiography, patient education, and DVD or TV. However, in many cases, there is more HIPAA-sensitive information that is best not seen by the patient, such as the day's schedule, financial statements, and other private information. In these situations, a dual-monitor setup is ideal.

It's important to differentiate between two monitors and a dual-monitor display. Many offices already use two screens, such as a TV and a computer monitor. However, the TV is not connected to the computer, and these are really two separate systems. In a dual-monitor display, both screens are connected to the computer. This requires the use of a dual-display video card. These cards can have outputs for both monitors (VGA or DVI) and TV (RCA or S-Video). By setting up the monitors in Windows, they are basically treated as two halves of one monitor: drag an image to the edge of one screen, and as you continue to drag, it appears on the leading edge of the other screen. With this system, you can pick and choose what appears on each monitor.


A number of options are available for the monitor being viewed by the patient. Many offices currently have TV monitors positioned in the upper left or right corner where the wall meets the ceiling. While adequate for watching TV, this position is not ideal for viewing digital images. The monitor should be positioned about 18 inches from the patient's face, and the corner position is simply too far away. This narrows down the options to three: 1) the ceiling, 2) the wall, or 3) the light pole.

For maximum flexibility, the ceiling is the best location. When connected to an articulating arm — such as those from ICW ( or Ergotron ( — ceiling placement allows the monitor to be viewed from both a sitting and a reclining position. Since many offices have drop ceilings, it also is easier to run the necessary cables (video, audio, and power) from the monitor back to the computer. Another excellent option is a new system that can be mounted directly to a ceiling track light, called Monitor Track (

If viewing the monitor with the patient in a reclining position is important, then a pole mount also is a good option to consider. Many dental chairs have built-in options for a Radius-style monitor mount. The one limitation is the issue of the cables. If the floor is concrete slab and there are no conduits in place, then there is no easy way to run the cables from the monitor to the computer. Also, it makes sense to position the monitor as high as possible on the light pole because the higher the monitor is positioned, the easier it is to view while in a reclining position.

If viewing the monitor from a reclining position is not crucial, then a wall mount can be considered. These mounts come in many shapes and sizes. Dentists will have to decide if they need the monitor to extend out across the patient or just to the side, if up and down motion is required, and if they want a keyboard tray to be mounted to the monitor.

As practices add new technology systems, it is important for dentists to evaluate the various options available for positioning monitors. These are ergonomic and aesthetic issues that must be considered, but with proper planning, the ideal result can be achieved.

Lorne Lavine, DMD, practiced periodontics and implant dentistry for more than 10 years. He is an A+ certified computer repair technician, as well as Network+ certified. He is the president of Dental Technology Consultants, a company that assists dentists in all phases of technology integration in the dental practice. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at (866) 204-3398. Visit his Web site at

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