Dental Office Renovations: Catering To The Patient Experience From Floor to Ceiling

Dental offices are no longer the cold, clinical environments of the past. Renovations are giving way to warm, welcoming spaces that offer advanced functionality for patients, dentists and their staff.

To execute a successful renovation, and to ensure that downtime for a dentist is kept to a minimum, there are several project planning items to consider.

The Patient Experience

Image: Canadian Dental Construction

Planning a renovation and choosing who will manage your project may seem like a daunting task, however choosing a provider experienced in understanding today’s dental office requirements is a dentist’s best bet.

The patient experience has become a key factor in driving both visits and retention. Demands for new aesthetics include warmer and more inviting colours. Elements such as fireplaces, coffee and water stations, iPad stations and free wifi all play a significant role in both renovations and new builds. Competition in the dental office sector has also been a contributing factor with increased growth in dental office renovations and builds in suburban areas.

It All Starts With Flooring

“Dentists are now doing everything they can to make the waiting area as comfortable as possible,” said Dan Burns, President of Canadian Dental Construction, who has 30 years of experience in dental office builds and renovations. “One of the first concepts to consider before all else is the flooring. It will dictate the tone for the rest of the office as it will set the style and comfort a dentist wants for its patients.”

There have been many changes in today’s dentist offices as compared to 20 years ago. “For example, we now design the operatories to be less intimidating so we take as much focus as we can off of the patient chair and plan the room around audio visual. All of those intrusive instruments are now tucked away and hidden. The look is much neater, cleaner and less intimidating for the patient. Even softer lighting in the ceilings is taken into account,” explains Burns.

The Patient Experience: Operatory rooms

Image: Canadian Dental Construction

For flooring, there has been a move away from using only ceramic tile. Many of the newer flooring finishes like vinyl plank flooring and luxury vinyl tile (LVT) are being used as they offer a variety of finishes and colours while providing protection from water damage. These materials also offer more padding for staff, are damage resistant, easier to clean and require very little maintenance.

After installation, if an accident occurs, these modular flooring systems, including vinyl plank, LVT or carpet tile, offer an easy way to isolate a damaged area and provide the flexibility of spot repair rather than having to replace the entire floor.

Patient welcome area

Image: Canadian Dental Construction

Emerging Flooring Technologies for Dental Offices

“From a flooring contractor’s perspective the biggest change has been dental office flooring moving away from linoleum or ceramic tile to LVT”, said Brent Fader, Director of Operations for Toronto-based Darwin Fisher Commercial Flooring. “LVT is a better solution acoustically over tile. It also offers more cushion for dentists and staff who are on their feet all day. Plus, it’s easy to maintain and repair. There are still some ceramic tile requests for the lab or sterilization area where you can get the spill of chemicals, but 80% of our installations are now LVT. We are also getting requests for carpet tile in the dentist office and consultation rooms.”

Emerging flooring technologies have also delivered time efficiencies for renovation projects. Darwin Fisher was able to decrease the flooring installation time from three weeks to one week for a Greater Toronto Area dentist by using a new product called Loose Lay.

Loose Lay LVT can be directly applied over existing flooring materials and does not require adhesives, staples or click and lock systems. Instead the backing of each tile is made with materials that use friction to effectively grip the sub-floor beneath. These vinyl tiles are dimensionally stable so that they will not expand or shrink depending on moisture levels. This eliminates expansion gaps between the tile and the wall. It is a more environmentally friendly solution, cleaner, cost effective and less disruptive in terms of downtime required.

For Darwin Fisher, the design community drives 75% of the flooring chosen. Rita Valente of Toronto-based Rita Valente Designs has worked with Darwin Fisher on several dental office renovation projects.

Patient experience waiting room

Image: Canadian Dental Construction

Dental Offices: Design Trends and Finishes

“The main changes I have seen since starting in this industry 17 years ago would be the personal touch dentists are putting into their offices. If they love marble, they will use it, if they love art, they will plaster the walls with one of a kind,” said Valente. “Of course, we still make sure the clinics are practical, affordable and the dental ergonomics and room adjacencies are still what matter most to have an effective and properly designed clinic for patients and staff.”

Another trend is that offices are becoming more ‘green and eco-friendly’ in the selection of dental equipment and finishes being chosen throughout. For patient privacy dentists also stress the need for soundproofing. Walls, ceiling and flooring materials selected need to help protect patient privacy and hinder sound travel.

Valente explains that the flooring and its characteristics are frequently requested design requirements for renovations. Walls and counter tops will weather wear and tear, but nothing is in more need of repair than flooring. The biggest concerns are the wear layers for flooring, warranties provided for commercial flooring and what flooring will give the dentist the least maintenance.

“I do think there has been a move toward LVT especially as the product further develops its qualities into becoming more sound absorbent, chemical resistant and water resistant. Everyone loves the look of hardwood, but it is very rare that a dental office would install hardwood. LVT gives you options for look along with its own benefits and characteristics. It has been a great product so far in the offices I have used it in and you will see it used in many offices to come. Tile of course does remain popular as well, but it is a much harder surface to work on all day, and it’s all about personal preference.”

New dental offices: The patient experience

Image: Canadian Dental Construction

Rita Valente Designs and Darwin Fisher have worked on numerous dental office projects together. Darwin Fisher has provided flooring installations for over 50 dental offices over the course of the company’s history

“In the times I have worked with Darwin Fisher, I have had a great experience in regards to service and products alike. When called on answers were given, when needed, support arrived. When samples were requested, they were delivered. Some projects do not always run smoothly, but even at the worst of times, Darwin Fisher provided attention to detail, support and resolutions. Darwin Fisher works with you as a team to ensure the end user is happy with all final products and installations,” said Valente.

Dental Offices: Successful Planning and Execution

From planning and design to implementation and installation there are many things to consider for a dental office renovation or build, but all roads point to the patient experience. Burns, Valente and Fader all agree that the most important element is understanding what the dentist needs and how to properly execute. Detailed planning is critical to a successful project that is completed on time and budget. As there are many moving pieces and different trades that must come together, teamwork is paramount. If one link fails the project will end up having set backs.

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