"How many operatories do I really need?" 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 this article.
There are 2 broad categories of Dentists we’ll examine below: The Growth Dentists and the Refining Dentist.
On the east coast and in the greater Philadelphia area, we’ve seen plenty of both. 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.
Well, to be a bit more open, 3+2 operatories 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.
First, this topic is one that can be answered instantly…as long as I have access to all of a client’s previous 2 years of coding data and have a deep knowledge of their current and long term goals.
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 since we’re not sitting face-to-face in front of your practice data.
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.
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 the 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.
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's important to consider your retirement plans.
WHOA! Where did the retirement topic come in to play?
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.
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!
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.
Why? 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.
Wow. That is a lot of answer for a simple math equation.
Those are some things to think through but my strongest recommendation is this:
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 of our clients have gotten creative with us to leave room for the number of 5 operatories to fit into the budget – so it CAN be done. We’ve helped accomplish this on some pretty tight budgets.
I hope this dental office design information gets you excited and adds a good dose of confidence for your next steps!
By Jayme Amos
Jayme and his team have helped hundreds of dental professionals pursue their goals. Now you can learn from the best in the dental industry.
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