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Feeling at home in the office

Jan. 1, 2001
Susan Love takes us on a tour of the Idaho office of Dr. Cynthia A. McKim. Her comfortable office combines organic materials, soothing colors, and lush fabrics.

by Susan Love

Making patients feel at home was a top priority for Dr. Cynthia A. McKim when she worked with designers to create her new office in Boise, Idaho. Her practice, the Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, won first place for Outstanding First Dental Practice in the Matsco Companies Dental Office Design Competition 2000. The practice also tied for first place in the competition's high-tech integration category.

Dr. McKim eschewed the sterile feel of many dental offices in favor of a cozy and comfortable environment. "I wanted patients to feel as if they were entering a good friend's home," she said.

Dr. Cynthia A. McKim's office in Boise, Idaho won first place for Outstanding First Dental Practice in Matsco's Dental Office Design Competition.
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The building's façade of stucco and stacked stone reinforces the feeling of entering a home, as does the large palladium window over the front door. Signage matches the building - a stucco structure on the corner of the lot with the practice name in gold script on a black background. The name of the practice and the doctor appear in simple black letters on the glass front door.

Patients enter the practice through a cozy vestibule - much like a home foyer - which provides a transition from the outdoors to the reception area. A highly glazed slate floor gleams beneath an alabaster pendant light. A rattan settee with Thai silk cushions provides a comfortable place for patients to sit after treatment while waiting for a ride. Lush plants on either side of the vestibule bring a touch of nature inside the office.

The reception area is accented by a unique brown Portuguese cork floor.
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The reception area takes comfort to an even higher level. Painted in soothing tones of cream and organic green, it is a space that invites patients to sit back and relax. A unique brown Portuguese cork floor leads to a curved reception desk. Made of Italian walnut with a terrazzo top, the angled desk is designed to provide a nonthreatening barrier between the receptionist and patients.

A fireplace that elicits a comfortable feeling from Dr. McKim's patients.
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Even the most apprehensive patient relaxes in this reception area. A couple of wingback chairs cozy up to a stacked stone fireplace that provides a warm glow from autumn until spring. A rough-hewn wood mantel showcases a handsome collection of candlesticks. Another sitting area boasts an oversized sofa and chairs, all covered in soft chenille. Oriental rugs in rich organic tones, as well as plants in terra cotta containers, complement each area.

Yet pampering at the Center for Cosmetic Dentistry means more than beautiful surroundings. Every day, the practice provides fruit and freshly baked cookies as well as hot and cold drinks to patients. The beverage bar, located in the reception area, is actually an antique chest that Dr. McKim refurbished. The chest now houses a small refrigerator where patients will find juice or bottled water. On top of the chest sit carafes of coffee and hot tea, as well as mulled cider during the holidays.

The consultation room is a cozy space painted a deeper version of the creamy green in the reception area. A focal point is the floor-to-ceiling window that allows natural light to flood the room. Outside the window, a rock garden leads to a waterfall and small pond. This is a view that is enjoyed by patients not only in the consultation room but also in each of the practice's three operatories.

Large panes of glass give patients a good view of the waterfall and rock gardens located just outside of Dr. McKim's office.
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Inside each operatory, the paint becomes a shade lighter still, and the floor changes from carpet to a laminated surface. Yet even inside the treatment rooms professional doesn't mean sterile. Cabinets in each operatory are maple rather than laminate. The floor colors are an earthy cream and taupe. Fresh flowers and warm hand towels scented with lavender provide patients with soothing spa-like touches.

Of course, no great design happens by chance. Dr. McKim first worked with a realtor to find the ideal location - a high-growth area of Boise known as the "Million Dollar Mile." The stand-alone office is situated on a one-acre lot near the entrance to an upscale subdivision. Several other medical offices are nearby, as well as corporate office buildings and high-end retail outlets.

Dr. McKim then chose Boise architect Larry Knopp to design the space. Knopp, who had designed more than a dozen dental offices, understood the special considerations required by a dental practice. He and Dr. McKim discussed her vision for the office, then Knopp went to work, designing a building with "a residential quality that makes people feel at home," he said.

Yet a comfortable office doesn't preclude cutting-edge technology. In fact, the Center for Cosmetic Dentistry is at the forefront of high-tech healthcare.

The practice is one of only a handful in the country to use a CEREC 3 CAD/CAM system, which allows Dr. McKim to fabricate ceramic restorations while patients wait. The office also uses two lasers, which are housed out of view within elegant custom cabinets. The cabinet doors fold back to reveal two sliding drawers that hold the equipment and related supplies. An air-abrasion system is also on a pullout shelf that doctor and staff can access from two of the three operatories.

The technology doesn't end there, however. The office is also fully networked with EagleSoft Select 2000 practice-management and chairside-imaging software. Every workstation is configured with an interoffice messaging system, and clinical workstations utilize Reveal Solo intraoral video cameras, voice-activated periodontal and restorative charting, and CAESY DVD patient education.

Additional high-tech capabilities include integrated DEXIS digital radiography with viewing, editing, and printing capabilities at each workstation. Doctor and staff can scan documents, files, and X-rays via a tabletop Micro-Tek Scanmaker with a transparent media adapter. Three networked printers provide high-resolution printing.

A look at Dr. McKim's operatory. Notice the Global surgical microscope tucked against the wall.
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Perhaps Dr. McKim's favorite high-tech tool is the Global surgical microscope found in operatory three. Suspended from the ceiling and folded back against the wall when not in use, the microscope has video capabilities so that patients can view procedures on either a flat-panel LCD monitor or an overhead 20" TIMMS multimedia monitor. Both doctor and staff enjoy using high-tech tools that assist with patient education and, thus, build relationships.

After all, great design and state-of-the-art equipment may be the cornerstones of a good practice, but "the bottom line is caring for people," said Dr. McKim. "We treat patients like family."

That often includes serving lunch to patients who are undergoing lengthy procedures or providing warm paraffin hand baths during breaks in treatment. As a result, patients frequently note that visiting the practice is like spending a day at a spa.

What advice does Dr. McKim offer colleagues who are contemplating building a new office? "Get involved at every stage. The more involved you are, the better your result will be. Think of everything, visualize everything, and then go back and do it again. The rewards are tremendous."

For more information about the next annual Dental Office Design Competition, visit Matsco's Web site at or call (800) 326-0376.

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