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Top 5 Rules for Startup Dental Office Floorplans

This is one of the moments of greatest pride in dental practice ownership…

Or at least it should be.

When you see the final floorplan for your new practice, will you experience joy? Or will you wish it could have included the extra operatory you desired? 

How good will that moment feel?  It’s at that moment that you realize you are making the most important planning decision for the future of your startup practice. This is NOT the time to settle. Your dental floorplan design needs to perfectly fit with your vision of your future dental practice.

Doctors who design their dental office layout the right way, the first time, enjoy higher levels of production, better team unity, and more positive reviews from excellent patient experiences.


Because your floorplan will affect every minute – and every inch – of practice ownership.

Here at Ideal Practices, we have helped hundreds of associate dentists open successful dental practices that thrive for years to come. Our knowledge of the entire process is built on our tremendous experience.

In this article, we will share some secrets regarding dental office floorplans and designs for your new practice, including the surprising impact they have on practice ownership.


The Top 5 Rules for Dental Office Floorplan Designs

These are the 5 Rules we will explore below:

  1. 6 Effects of Proper Dental Office Design

  2. The Top 3 Design Considerations for Every Dental Startup

  3. How to Get Everything to FIT without breaking the BUDGET

  4. Appropriate Dental Office Color Schemes

  5. The Operatory: Planning the Most Important Clinical Room

When you finish this article, visit this free training guide:

The Top 7 Floorplan Models for Startup Practices at: www.

Let’s get started with the first rule for Floorplans and Office Design.

6 Effects of Proper Dental Office Design

From the day you open the doors of your new practice, these 6 effects are a direct byproduct of your dental office layout:


1st Effect: Increased Profits

Efficient floorplans are more profitable with less work. Avoid unexpected bottlenecks. Save time between operatories. Empower your team to do their job quickly and easily, especially in sterilization. Profitability is Profits directly tied to proper dental floorplan design. We will discuss this more in the article below.

2nd Effect: Attract the Best Team

A great dental clinic floorplan will help you attract and retain the best hires with the proper balance of space. One small example is pre-planning the breakroom so your team can enjoy their work environment. But a balance is required that delivers a highly functional, productive design which keeps the team productive with fewer frustrations in their clinical flow.

3rd Effect: Clinical Excellence

It’s true. Your clinical skills will improve drastically when the facility supports your philosophy. The specific dimensions from chair to cabinetry is one such example. Your ability to diagnose comfortably in the right environment with proper lighting is crucial. The plan for your space will affect your clinical excellence.

4th Effect: Your Physical Health

FACT–doctors with an ergonomically balanced practice stay healthier—and more comfortable—longer. Your floorplans should be planned for proper posture while supporting the physical demands of dentistry. Fewer and smaller movements chairside reduce injuries and can add years to your dental career.

5th Effect: Investment Longevity

A properly dental office design can last your entire career. Correctly done, you will have a balance of today’s budgets with tomorrow’s growth, preventing you from a future relocation or a costly “shutdown” for weeks to make changes. Many practices make mistakes in their floorplan and are forced to practice in a subpar practice for years. Do this right the first time so your investment longevity serves you and patients for decades.

6th Effect: Improved Patient Experience

Your dental clinic layout and design should create a true experience for patients. As an example, consider the differences between a Disney experience and a typical emergency room experience. Your floorplan offers hundreds of pre-planned opportunities to blow a patient’s mind! Artfully orchestrate your floorplan so it matches your pre-planned vision and avoids the traps of some colleagues who randomly assembled ideas from dozens of online opinions and Facebook posts.


“Every minute of practice ownership will be affected by subtle floorplan choices.” -Jayme Amos, CEO Ideal Practices


Doctors who develop their dental office floorplan and design correctly know that to be true.

Unfortunately, too many colleagues fail to consider the permanence of the dental office design and the impact on their career. Those doctors are trapped for a decade or more, regretting those small design choices they are stuck with.

This is why successful startup practices prioritize getting their floorplan right the first time.

Let’s get this right for you by applying what is proven to work for dental startups. Then you will be one of the doctors who can proudly say you created the dental office layout that serves you and your patients perfectly – for decades.

For more information about OPERATORY DESIGN, check out this article from our in-house designer.

The Startup Denstist

The Top 3 “Design” Considerations for Every Startup

My name is Jayme Amos, and I am the CEO of Ideal Practices. In the fall of 2015, the American Dental Association interviewed me for an article on the office design aspect of how to start a dental practice. I won’t regurgitate the whole article here. You can click on the link and read it. Instead, I’ll touch on the top three takeaways you should keep in mind when designing your dental office space.

#1. Make It Attractive

You love your work, and you’re passionate about dentistry.

Remember the perspective from a patient: very few patients share your passion. They don’t get excited about a new procedure as you do. Patients don’t know why they see a giant “radiation machine” in front of the building. There’s a reason why people describe difficult or unpleasant activities as “like pulling teeth.”

With this in mind, we must pre-plan your new practice in a way that examines the experience of a patient who has no understanding of dental practice models. For example, patients don’t know the “radiation machine” is an investment with a value equal to a small home that can diagnose life-saving concerns.

That said, few patients are excited to show up at the dentist’s office, even when they are in pain and you are the only person who can save them. Making their stay as comfortable as possible can help change this.

Even the select few who look forward to a dental checkup will appreciate beautiful décor and comfy chairs in the waiting room.

If you serve a high-end clientele, then the need for a beautiful décor is even higher. You may need to invest in higher quality furnishings, lighting fixtures, paintings, and amenities. Amenities may include cable TV, WiFi, Netflix, and complimentary coffee or tea.


#2: Prioritize Ergonomics

Dentists spend a lot of time on their feet and bending over patients. It should surprise no one that musculoskeletal disorders force many dentists into early retirement. And many who are able to continue work experience pain and discomfort.

Prioritizing ergonomics in the office design reduces repetitive injuries, especially if you are:

  • Already complaining of musculoskeletal discomfort
  • Above-average height or below average height
  • Left-handed
  • Pregnant
  • One of multiple doctors using an operatory
  • Over 45 years of age

When you ensure everything is properly measured for ergonomic concerns, you can reduce pain and increase your longevity as a dentist. Even little things make a difference. For instance, creating the ideal distance between the cabinetry and the patient headrest and reducing the need to lean into cabinetry by making them only 18 inches deep go far in improving ergonomics.


#3: Provide Efficiency

Last, but certainly not least, is how profitable and efficient the space is. A space that is beautiful and ergonomic won’t do much good if it isn’t set up to help you make a good return on your investment.

How does design affect this?

The layout decides the flow of traffic. Making sure the sterilization center is properly placed increases staff efficiency. Allowing patients to move from one key area to the next reduces congestion in the hallways.

You can also do things to limit the distractions and disruptions you face in the operatory. For instance, there are measures you can take to ensure your ability to move easily from one operatory to the next.


Resist the Urge to Be Too Excited

For many dentists, seeing their dental office floorplan can be one of the first “most-exciting” moments in building their startup. It is the first step in truly visualizing your practice in action. It makes the process feel real. It is physical proof of your dream coming alive.

It really is EXCITING!

But don’t get so excited you jump the gun.

Agreeing to a plan too quickly, before determining that it perfectly fits your vision for your future practice, can be detrimental.

One dentist who made this mistake is also one of our favorite success stories.

Our floorplan expert designed his practice, but the architect convinced him some changes were needed. The architect almost convinced him to sign off on the changes. Fortunately, this smart doctor decided to send us the architect’s changes before finalizing them. We pointed out key flaws – specific to his customized vision – that would have crippled his dental practice if left uncorrected.

Watch this short story behind Dr. David’s startup success and hear how our “re-do” perfected his floorplan.

Hear him say how we helped him achieve 1000 new patients in his first 12 months.

How to Get Everything to FIT…Without Breaking the Budget

To achieve long-lasting clinical satisfaction for yourself and your patients, your dental floorplan design must be customized to match the vision you define for your startup.

Whether you choose to partner with Ideal Practices as your consulting team for your startup or you choose to do it alone, ensure your floorplan is custom designed for:

  • your practice model
  • your growth plans
  • your ideal patient
  • your clinical philosophy


Below, we will cover the 3 top methods to achieve this. 

As you explore these methods, ensure you balance the needs of physical space to “fit” everything while counterbalancing your pre-planned budget and business to “afford” the right plan for your practice.


Here are 3 ways you can begin the planning process.

#1: Use Zones: The Hidden Planning Power

When designing your space, the best floorplan designers use zones. The zones should be proportioned to reflect your customized vision.

The Cardinal Rule of Floorplans: zones should never overlap.

Poorly designed floorplans most often break the cardinal rule of design.

For example, your administrative zone should never overlap with your clinical zone. This will create a poor patient experience and inefficiency in the flow of team members.

The result of overlapping zones is lower profits, inefficient patient flow patterns, a more distracted team, and a disrupted patient experience.

Instead, prioritize zones in your dental office design. Zones should be separate, starting and stopping outside the range of another zone.


#2: Prioritize the Heartbeat

Do you know which zone is the heartbeat of your future practice?

Many colleagues tend to prioritize the operatory and clinical zones. This is a common mistake.

It is an understandable mistake. After all, you will spend most of your time in the clinical zone. Of course, this zone is very important. But it’s not the heartbeat.

Prioritizing the clinical zone as the heartbeat is a little like a teenager spending so much time perfecting their outfit, that they miss the bus to school.

The real heartbeat of your office design? The sterilization area.

Surprised? You’re not alone. 

The sterilization center is not sexy. It’s not where you invest your time. It’s not even what you were trained to do in dental school.

But without it, the heart of your practice stops beating.

The Heartbeat Backlog: If your stericenter is backlogged, you have no handpieces. A bottleneck in sterilization means delays in seeing patients.

The Heartbeat like a Restaurant Bathroom: There’s an old culinary phrase that says, “you can tell how clean a restaurant is by the appearance of their bathroom.” In dentistry, patients view your sterilization center this way. If it’s poorly run, it makes the practice look unclean, unorganized, and unappealing to patients.


The Heartbeat Fines: Of course, there is the OSHA nightmare to consider as well. Few things can shut down a practice faster than problems with sterilization. And what does that do for your reputation? Even if OSHA’s accusations are untrue. Like this practice, which was fined $61,000 for sterilization violations.

Invest time and energy perfecting the flow and the strategy of your dental sterilization area design. Some doctors invest so much effort into perfecting the operatory plans that important zones in the practice are neglected, hurting production and the patient experience unnecessarily.

Let’s keep the heart of your practice beating at its best for years.


#3: The Impact of Demographics...on your Floorplan

Equipment isn’t the only thing you need to fit into your new office.

People will need to fit too. But do you know what kinds of people?

Here, we will discuss the overlooked impact of demographics on your dental clinic floorplan.

For this example, let’s pretend we’re designing your reception zone:

If your practice vision is to serve young families or children, you need a larger reception area for this demographic. Why? You will need more seats in the waiting room for the parents and siblings that accompany your patient. You will also need larger operatories to fit those family members. If they don’t go into the operatory, you will need a waiting bench. Will your dental layout design accommodate this? Today’s young families will expect it. 

Or perhaps your practice will focus on serving young professional adults. Typically, this demographic visits the dentist alone. If this is your ideal patient – and your practice model is built to serve this population – you can drastically decrease the size of your reception area.

But these are things you must pre-plan. There are no redos.

And this is just one example involving demographics. There are hundreds of considerations like this that will impact your startup dental office design and floorplan.


Once your office is built…

it’s not easy or cheap to make the reception area larger, even if it’s constantly full of families.

And you can’t shrink the size, even if you’re wasting dozens of empty seats and you spend hundreds of dollars per year on climate-controlling that extra space.


In the Vision Stage of planning your startup, topics like “Demographics” and your “Ideal Patient” are pre-planned. This is how you create a proven strategy to lead your startup.

Access a Free 13 Stages Study Guide and Timeline Here:

This proven 13-Stage Process is how dental practice startup owners are now creating incredible practices that bring them great success–even in their first weeks after opening.

But does your practice match the demographics of the population you enjoy serving most?

Next, we will explore the often misunderstood topic of colors in your practice.

Appropriate Dental Office Color Schemes

Your vision, your ideal patient, and the patient experience you desire determines what is appropriate when it comes to colors. While it’s considered “safe” to go for a minimalist look with neutral colors, that may not align with your vision.

Some designers recommend adding a wall of color at the end of hallways. Others recommend using a different type of material to create an accent, such as brick or tile, but this can be expensive.

Children may find a chalkboard wall they can write on amusing, but adults may prefer a mirror.

The point is, you should base your decisions on your ideal patient experience.

When you consider the patient experience you want to provide, choosing the right colors is imperative. Colors have emotional and cultural significance. They elicit responses and influence behavior. The colors you choose can influence your patients to feel anything from relaxation to anxiety.

For instance, let’s say you are a pediatric dentist wanting to suggest comfort. Baby blue conveys comfort, but too much can be quite boring, especially for children.

Maybe you want bright, active colors to give a sense of fun. Contrasting colors, such as green and red or blue and yellow, can do this. But too much can seem chaotic.

Understand, you can impact patient perception and create an effect through colors. You should want to get this right.

It all depends on your vision and ideal patient.

Finally, since there is no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing dental office color schemes–or any other office design feature–why would you go for cookie-cutter? This is why free floorplans can be so dangerous. Dental office floorplans must be customized to suit your specific personal and professional needs.

Next, we will discuss How to Plan Your Operatory.

The Operatory: Planning the Most Important Clinical Area

So, the operatory isn’t the heartbeat of your practice, but it is the most important zone in your clinical area. Here we will discuss some tips on how to design the operatory room.

I’m going to start off by saying this:

“The best size for your operatory room is 108 square feet. For a single doctor, general practice startup, you should have five of them.”


WHY 108?

9 feet wide

12 feet long

9-foot ceiling 


You need enough width to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)  requirements for wheelchair access around cabinetry and chairs.

Additionally, you need space for you, your assistant, and an additional family member. You also need to consider having enough space for overweight patients to fit comfortably without embarrassment.

A cramped space can negatively affect your ability to work chairside. But worse, a small space can intimidate patients and create a nervous, claustrophobic sense. Thus, a bigger space limits stress for you, your team, and your patients (as well as potential family members).

What About the Number of Operatories?



Why Five Operatories?

You need three for yourself and two for hygienists. This tends to contribute to the simplest and most efficient dental layout designs as well.

There are some exceptions to this rule. For more information on how to pick the number of rooms for the operatory, check out the full article

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Here are six additional tips to keep in mind when designing your operatory.

  1. Technology: Consider both current and future needs when choosing equipment, especially as it relates to technology.
  2. Cabinetry: Place the cabinetry on the assistant’s side of the room. This provides sufficient storage for any supplies needed during procedures with easy access.
  3. Flooring: Avoid certain flooring types, such as linoleum and tiles with large grout grooves.
  4. Lighting: Ensure you have adequate lighting so you can see clearly during procedures and to protect your eyesight.
  5. Efficient Cabinetry: Freestanding cabinetry that is centrally placed may save construction costs by eliminating the need for a wall. A tax professional may also assist you with securing tax benefits via depreciation.
  6. Monitors: Dual monitors are now standard in most modern treatment rooms. A third monitor is becoming more common for overhead patient Netflix viewing.

Visit the training guide with the top 7 Floorplan Models for Startup Practices at:


Are you ready for a free 1-on-1 strategy call with our Startup Strategy Advisor?

If you want to learn more about startups and floorplan design for your dental practice, this is a great opportunity.





We’d love the opportunity to know more about your vision for practice ownership and guide you to creating a dental office floorplan that serves you well for decades.

Here’s to your perfectly designed floorplan!


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