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Dental Office Design: How Many Dental Operatories Do You Really Need?

By Jayme Amos.  Get free updates of posts here

Dental Office Design:

 “How many Dental Operatories are best?”

It’s a question we get asked with every new office. And some will attempt to make the answer complex. Our answer can be summed up with a simple equation.

3 and 2 = 5

5 Operatories is best: 3 for the Dentist and 2 for hygiene.

How dare I be so bold?!

People write very expensive books on this dental office design topic, yet I’m offering you a definitive answer in the first line of a blog.

I’ll elaborate below, examining two broad categories of dentists.


Bonus Offer: Read to the end for an offer to discover how many Ops are best for your unique practice plans. Every doctor has unique clinical and financial criteria. We’ll help you uncover yours.

There are 2 broad categories of Dentists we’ll examine below:

1. The Growth Dentists and

2. The Refining Dentist


We’ve seen plenty of both broad categories across the country. But before we discuss that, you may want to know why I can boldly say 5 Operatories is best in a (your) dental office design.


To be a bit more open, I should clarify my “3+2” operatory math.

For clarification’s sake, 3+2 is only the “simplest”, most productive, most efficient, most profitable and arguably the most clinically excellent way to put it when considering a 1 Doctor practice. But there is a long list of variables that you probably want to consider.


“The simple answer is this:
If you’re looking for the “simplest”, most productive,
most efficient, most profitable and arguably the most
clinically excellent 1 doctor practice,
pay attention to 3+2.”


dental office design
Rules of Thumb

When 5 is the Wrong Number Of Op’s

Every new practice, if planned and built properly, will be completely customized.

Your clinical, financial and personal goals must be included in this conversation if you hope to fully enjoy your new office. Often times, when we talk with doctors they find the right number of operatories for their goals is different from what they originally considered. The best number of operatories for you will be unique to your goals. When we work with clients and earn a deep knowledge of their current and long term goals, we can help create the right custom plan for your new office.

With access to your unique long term goals and your current practice numbers, we can pinpoint what dental office design is ideal for you.

But over a blog post, doing that is a little tricky!

So I’ll give you some rules of thumb.


The Assumptions

I’m going to assume that you’re building a new office or renovating an existing space so that you either a) accommodate growth or b) start up and build into the future or c) build the dream office.

In those 3 cases, (a) and (b) both deal with the need for growth and capacity which probably include a desire for increased efficiency and profitability whereas (c) deals more with personal preference for refinement, improvement, and more services.

In other words, you could broadly categorize the reasons for your new practice into GROWTH or REFINEMENT.

Growth Category of New Practices

First: Lets first discuss those who could be broadly categorized as pursuing GROWTH (the startups and the fast-growth accommodators).

An entire book could be written on the topic of efficient and profitable dental practice operatories but I’ll share the broad strokes that make up the realities in nearly all practices.

For a standard 1 Doctor practice, you need the capacity to perform restorative procedures on 2 operatories and you also need an overflow operatory for emergencies. Then you need 2 rooms for hygiene. Why? The average doctor in the U.S. needs two columns of hygiene to diagnose enough dentistry to keep the doctor busy with a 4 day per week schedule.

All that to say that it’s most efficient and most profitable and best for clinical care to have 5 ops available.

PLEASE NOTE: this does not mean in your new office you’ll need to buy and install all thedental office design equipment and cabinetry on Day 1.

The vast majority of clients who we help plan and build a new office start with 2-3 “equipped” operatories. That means we’ll coordinate with the contractor team to build the entire office but only install cabinets and chairs in your two beginning operatories.

Your first two ops should be “multi-functional” so that you can grow into them, making them useful for hygiene and/or restorative care without overspending on bells and whistles during your startup stage.  With 5 operatories you will have the potential to meet maximum efficiency, profits and clinical results while maintaining the deepest level of trust and relationship with patients.

For a practice with 2 full-time Doctors, you won’t need 10 operatories.  Those two full-time doctors can share the emergency overflow room but the second Doctor will still need 2 hygiene rooms to work with. So in the case of 2 doctors, the ideal is 4 Dr Ops, 4 Hygiene Ops and 1 overflow room. 9 total.


Refinement Category of New Practices

Second: Lets discuss those who are broadly categorized as pursuing REFINEMENT. Those doctors should spend a couple of weekends wondering what they want long term. This isn’t to be taken lightly because it truly makes the decision for you. If you’re in the refinement stage, you are probably happy with your income, your patient relationships and your style of practice. If this is all true, it important to consider your retirement plans.

WHOA! Where did the retirement topic come in to play?

Trust me…we’ll talk about retirement for just a few moments. I know, it’s a heavy topic but it DOES play into your dental office design planning. Here is why – if you are ready to retire, just build the practice of your dreams, based on your standards or the standards you hope to pass on to the heir of your throne.

Be proud.

You’ve done well and it’s because of your hard work. In other words, if the future sale value of your practice doesn’t matter to you, congratulations and build however your heart desires. You’ve earned it!

In other words, if you’re ready to retire and you’re merely doing dentistry for fun or for a short period of time, build whatever makes you happy. 1 Op? Do it.  50 Ops? Go for it.


For Doctors More than 1 Month from Retirement

But if you plan on selling your practice at some point please don’t build your “refinement” practice with any fewer ops than you already have.

dental office designWhy? If a practice declines in production, it has dramatic effects on the sale price of the practice. Banks and buyers will value your practice based on the last 3-5 years of production…not on the potential and not on what the practiced grossed 10 years ago.

In other words, make sure you maintain production levels or you will take a major financial hit. In order to maintain production, I highly recommended not decreasing the number of operatories in your new practice.


A lot of answer for a simple math equation.


My Strongest Recommendation for You

Don’t short-change yourself. Do this right – you may not do it again for a decade or more.

In your dental office design make sure you have at least 5 operatories for 1 dentist.

Without that setup, you will inevitably have a hard time reaching your financial goals and you’ll do it with much more stress while limiting access to care for your patient base.



Financially speaking, many will ask, “how the heck do I afford a 5 operatory new practice?!

In order to afford the right practice that meets your unique goals and vision we need to do 4 things:

1. Understand and make clear your unique vision

2. Align your vision with the right demographics

3. Secure financing with a potent business plan

4. Project your finances for your income, investment and peace of mind


We help clients refine vision, business plans, demographics and financial projections every month.


But we’re not the right fit for everyone.

For the clients who we fit well with, we find ways to blend their precise desires for ideal patients, future plans and clinical standards all into your new office.

Many of our clients have gotten creative with us to leave room for the number of 5 operatories to fit into the budget.

It CAN be done. We’ve helped accomplish this on some shoestring budgets.


Bonus Offer: The first 25 people to respond to this offer will get a free 1-0n-1 session to discuss the ideal number of operatories for your practice. Each plan must be customized to fit the needs of the practice. Discover if this is a good fit for you and your new office. Click Here and schedule time.


Let’s get this right.

This will be right your way for your practice.

My team knows how important this is, how it will define your future and how it will be a life-changer.

We can’t wait to hear about your plans. Schedule a time to talk with us and let us know how we can put concepts together with you at the center.


I hope this dental office design information gets you excited and adds a good dose of confidence for your next steps!

By Jayme




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