Plan for dental office expansion

Dr. David Ahearn, DDS, founder and president of Design Ergonomics

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

Many dentists struggle to understand their potential for practice growth, especially as they work with the stress of day-to-day capacity constraints. To make matters worse, the ongoing struggle to get today’s dentistry done can make it inconceivable that expanded capacity could actually result in … less stress. And so, the result is that most practices do not grow.

And if that weren’t a big enough impediment, practitioners who haven’t intentionally planned for expansion in their floor plan often find it difficult to translate a need for increased capacity into a right size for their future. As a result, it becomes very difficult to expand office capacity when you didn’t plan for that expansion from day one.

A Roadmap For Dental Office Expansion at Westgate Dental Care

When Dr. Peter Kics, and his wife and business partner Teja, consulted with my team at Design Ergonomics to plan the layout of their new building, they were focused on future growth. They opened their Westgate Dental Care in 2018 with 10 operatories fully equipped to treat patients, but another 10 operatories fully plumbed. By 2020, there were 15 operatories up and running with equipment my team designed and built at our factory in Massachusetts, and the remaining 5 ops will likely be equipped in 2023. None of this growth was unplanned. Peter and his wife were very deliberate in the development of their dental office floor plan with Design Ergonomics. They created a roadmap which was cost-effective, and minimally disruptive to the practice as the number of equipped operatories grew to match the expanding demand for their services.

Dental office expansion must be easily accommodated, with minimal practice disruption

The ability to remain fully open during a future office expansion is critical, and should be carefully considered from the outset. You cannot be expected to shut down your dental office for extended periods of time, or to go prolonged periods without vital elements such as operatories, sterilization, or mechanical equipment. As a rule, my team’s designs for expansions or phased growth will accommodate this. Occasionally, this will require temporary redundancies to bridge phasing gaps, but this is a much better alternative to shutting down for extended periods.

What poor pre-planning looks like

Expansion “A” (shown below, in light blue) resulted in a group of very disconnected ops, and required creating a complete secondary Sterilization area (circled in red). It also required complete restructuring of the Waiting Room and several other areas.

Good pre-planning makes room for growth

Expansion “B” maintained suitable centralization of operatories and support functions – capturing the same efficiency in the increased capacity as existed in the original design. Additionally, this plan required very limited downtime, and did little to disrupt existing spaces.

Understand Your Potential For Growth

When practices understand that it is both possible to make dentistry easier and less stressful and that most offices have a tremendous potential for growth automatically built into an active recall system, significant growth planning becomes possible.

To better understand your office’s potential for growth, visit The Math of Dental Practice Growth, where you will learn more about how to correlate new patient intake to future growth potential.

For more inspiration, take a look at our recent dental office design work. If you have any questions, please reach out to my team at Design Ergonomics.


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The Math of Dental Practice Growth
The average concept-to-completion time-frame for construction is nine to twelve months. By the time you need to bring on an associate with two-to-three rooms of their own, if you haven’t started planning for it, you’re already a year behind.
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Dr. David Ahearn, DDS, founder and president of Design Ergonomics
Dr. David Ahearn, DDS, Founder and President of Design Ergonomics and Ergonomic Products. 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 Easierplaylist on YouTube. If you enjoy these videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel at Turn on notifications to receive our latest video updates.