It Takes More Than a Dentist to Make a Dental Office Successful

By Dr. David Ahearn, DDS, Founder and President of Design Ergonomics

I began my study of dental office design over 25 years ago when I realized one fundamental thing … that most dentists think that they are the machine that makes a dental office go. Call me a slow learner, but I realized that after 10 years of me practicing dentistry with that mindset. I thought that I could, and maybe even should, do everything in my office. And that mindset took a toll – on my physical health, and the growth of my practice. It was self-limiting, and in a way, self-destructive. And it threatened my dream of creating a thriving dental practice that would allow me to provide for my family and give back to my community.

This mindset is the reason that so many dental offices are 3 to 5 chairs and never evolve beyond that, despite an opportunity for healthy new patient intake that would allow for an almost exponential rate of growth. The dentist just can’t seem to do more without having that labor come out of his or her hide!

Get out of your own way

It sounds simple, but my realization 25 years ago was that the dental office is the machine and the dentist is just an engine in that machine. He or she may be the only real engine at first, but there have to be a number of other successful engines working in harmony to make the dental office machine highly successful – and they all need to run as smoothly as that of the dentist.

When you have the mindset that you, the dentist, are the machine, you will design an office around what you do well, which may not be the things that the business actually needs, which is to produce actual net results. You might translate “results” into profit here, but the important thing is that, by getting you out of your own way, you will create an office that can provide more, and better, care for patients.

Optimize flow in your dental office

When you understand that the office is the machine, you optimize something that in Real Manufacturing is referred to as flow, or “total output” in actual factories. As a result, all of the spaces and functions become optimized in a balanced fashion. And real flow is something we almost never see in a dental office floor plan that is sent to the team at Design Ergonomics for evaluation. Because 95% of the dental office designs are either created by:

  1. People that have never done much dentistry or designed an office before, or
  2. Even worse, by people that have no real idea what we actually do in practice – because they’ve never done it.

By balancing and optimizing the dental office functions (and it doesn’t matter if you’re building a tiny office or a giant facility – the importance of this is the same) flow optimization creates a productivity balance that maximizes the total result. That’s the foundation for how we create the most productive offices in North America.

What does that do for you the dentist? You get to become an engine of the growth and not the whole machine that has to prop up the entire enterprise! It’s no longer on your shoulders. You can be less stressed, and more productive. Hygienists will truly become production engines, not just a necessary evil – as far too many doctors think! Assistants are an engine. Billing, scheduling, and consultation all become optimized in both space and functionality to become powerful tools for success.

But again, to make that happen, each one of those pieces must be ideally crafted to meet its productive needs. You also need to understand the The Math of Dental Practice Growth to create a machine around you that will make doing the dentistry much easier, less stressful, and more productive.

One last thing, I mentioned that 95% of the dental office plans weren’t designed this way. That means that we are only designing 5% of the offices in North America. And, frankly, that’s about all that we can do! It takes a lot of work to make an office into the machine so that it can become a highly-productive, low-stress, patient magnet. We really can’t design many more offices per year. So, if you think that we might be a good fit for your future – as thousands of doctors like yourself have – then make sure to reach out to us at your earliest convenience. We’d love to help you grow and thrive in your practice.

Contact us. We will turn that dream into reality. More productivity, in less space, at a lower cost.


David AhearnDr. David Ahearn, DDS, Founder and President of Design Ergonomics (desergo.com) and Ergonomic Products (ergonomic-products.com).

To learn a little more about my journey in dentistry, and other principles you can apply to make your practice a fun, easy, and productive place to work, take a look at our This Can All Be Easier playlist on YouTube at:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdy8h3FzbwzK-LWXejuKHmpcETFy_cGm8

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