Dental and Medical Counsel Blog

What to Consider When Building a Dental Practice

February 18, 2021
What to Consider When Building a Dental Practice

Opening your dental practice is an exciting prospect, but it does take work and dedication long before you take your first patient appointment. The design process is a major part of the early stages of your practice. With careful planning and consideration, you can begin building a dental practice that will perfectly meet your needs. Here are some considerations to make as you move forward with the plans and designs for your dental practice.

Benefits to Building a Dental Practice

The first consideration when setting up a new dental practice is whether you will build a practice from the ground up, or if you will buy an existing location and modify it to meet your needs. Starting with a new construction has several benefits over buying an existing practice.

When you build from the ground up, the practice can have all of the features and the layout you want exactly how you envision it. You won’t have to worry about a landlord’s permission to make major changes to the building. Everything will be where it needs to be from the moment you open your doors. 

By building, you retain complete say over everything. This ensures that when you open the doors, your new facility will have the flow you want and help you welcome patients warmly. It also gives you the chance to plan well for future needs, such as adding a specialty down the road. 

Building also lets you embrace the latest technology advancements in dental practice, rather than being forced to upgrade outdated tech from the old practice. When you open, you will have everything in place for a positive patient experience.

Choose Your Location

The location you choose for your practice will have a big impact on how successful it is. Here are some important considerations to make when choosing a town and a location within that town.

Scope out the Competition

Make sure there is a need for your services and the area isn’t saturated with too many dental practices. Too much competition will hurt your success because people won’t be looking for a new dentist. That said, you do want to be in a location where there is a decent amount of traffic, so people will be able to see your office. It is important to do a demographic study when you narrow down the area you are considering for your new dental practice.

Determine Your Square Footage Requirements

With location, you need to determine how much space you need. Determine how many operatories you want, how large your waiting area needs to be, and what other spaces you need. In general, you will need 400 to 500 square feet for a treatment room. A small practice with four operatories would require between 1,600 and 2,000 square feet, on average. Be sure to plan for:

  • Accessible restroom facilities
  • Mechanical closet
  • IT closet or room
  • Lab
  • Sterilization area

Calculate how much square footage you will need and use that to determine what spaces will fit your needs. Don’t forget to give yourself enough space to remain ADA compliant and help patients who have mobility concerns.

Calculate the Area’s Personal and Professional Desirability

What is the economic potential of the area and the desirability of another dental practice? Does the city or town you’re considering fit your practice goals? Does the region feel like a place you want to live and raise a family? Also, consider professional desirability. Is it easy to practice in that region, and would you have access to continuing education and personnel to help run your practice?

Make sure you want to put down roots and that the area will meet your professional and economic goals before opening a dental practice because you will be investing a large amount of time and money into the process.

Planning Out the Space

Your location is one factor in building a dental practice, but the way you set up your space is another. There are several components to planning a functional space. Here are some considerations to make when planning the space.

Analyze Needs Versus Wants

It’s easy to picture yourself in a dental practice with every feature imaginable, but that may not be what your budget allows. Partner with an architect who knows has experience building dental practices outline what your needs are and what your wants are. Make sure your space has everything you need and a few things you want. Then, design it so that you can add more of those wants as you grow.

Keep Your Team and Patients Needs in Mind

As you choose a location, keep the flow of patients and team members in mind. For instance, do you want a first-floor location where patients can enter directly from your parking lot? Do you want easy-to-navigate hallways? By making the location easy to navigate and the flow from the waiting room to the exam room to check out simple, your team will be able to do a better job.

When you have a good flow and ergonomics in your practice, your team members are not wasting time walking long distances to gather supplies or bring patients to their location. To answer these questions, you will need to understand how your basic workflow will go.

Evaluating Costs

Starting a dental practice will require an investment of money as well as your time and energy. Failing to determine the actual costs of building a dental practice is one of the 10 most common mistakes new dental practices make. You need to determine these costs while designing the practice, so you can get a loan for the right amount. There are several costs you have when you first start your business.

Construction and Remodeling Costs

Getting your building ready is one of the biggest costs you face. You will need to carefully consider the total project costs to build or remodel your building. These will include:

The best way to evaluate these costs is to get bids from contractors that understand your local building codes and the demands of a dental practice. Costs are going up significantly so it’s important that you have updated information.

Setting up the PracticeDental Office - Dentists Consultant

Once you have a building that is ready to go, you will need additional features inside. Consider budgeting for:

  • Security system
  • Phone service
  • IT needs
  • Cabinetry
  • Furniture
  • Equipment

Have a Contingency Fund

When seeking funding for your practice, consider the contingency costs. These are extra funds you build into your loan to help cover costs you haven’t thought of or unexpected expenses that arise while you build or remodel your location. This, again, is where working with a knowledgeable contractor can help.

Negotiate with Your Landlord

If you are leasing instead of buying your practice location, make sure you negotiate the terms of your lease. You might be able to negotiate a build-out/tenant improvement allowance or abated rent for the first year or months of your lease as you build. Landlords with commercial properties are often quite motivated to lease, so use that to your advantage. Hiring an experienced dental commercial broker is very important. Contact us if you’d like some referrals to reputable firms.

Factor in Compliance and Zoning

As you build your practice and choose your location, make sure you factor in HIPAA and ADA compliance as well as your local zoning laws. Choose a location that is zoned properly for dental practices, because trying to get the property zoned differently after you sign a lease or buy a building is going to be challenging.

ADA compliance is also vital. Federal law requires you to make your building accessible to people who are in a wheelchair or who have other mobility concerns. This law applies if you are leasing or if you own the building, so be certain to discuss compliance with your landlord. Staying ADA compliant is also good business. When your location is friendly to people with disabilities, you will see a greater number of patients.

HIPAA compliance is also worth considering. Your practice must be set up in such a way that computers that display private patient information cannot be easily seen from waiting rooms or examination rooms.

Consider the Timeline

Finally, consider your timeline. How quickly do you need the practice to be up and running? Do you have flexibility or a tight deadline? These projects take time, so make sure you plan accordingly.

Create an Advisory Group

Making all of these determinations on your own is not a good idea. Instead, set up an advisory group that can help you set your timeline. This group should include:

Working together and keeping the lines of communication open between these professionals will help ensure a successful project and an on-time opening.

Be Realistic

You’re excited about your new dental practice, but you need to be realistic with your timeline. Talk to contractors and designers to see what is manageable. Remember that it can take months and even years just to plan the practice.

Plan Carefully

Planning well early in the process will save you money and time. Realizing you need to change the design part way through the building or remodeling process will add a lot of time to the final project. Put in the time during the planning stages so your opening timeline is more realistic.

Understand Your Geography

Geography plays a role in how quickly you can build. If you live in a place with a cold winter, you may not be able to dig during the winter months. If you live in a place with a heavy rainy season, construction may slow down a bit when the storms hit.

How to Dental & Medical Counsel Can Help

Planning, designing, and building your space is critical, but so is making sure you have all of the legalities in place to open. If you are looking for additional help, contact dental attorney Ali Oromchian at Dental & Medical Counsel for a complimentary consultation to discuss your practice startup. You can also read our Comprehensive Guide to Building a Dental Practice or download our whitepaper on The Top 10 Pitfalls to Avoid when Building a Dental Practice. Let our team help you make the right choices as you move forward with the launch of your practice.

Contact Us to Learn How We Can Help You with Your Practice Startup


Subscribe to Our Blog

Stay updated with industry news!