How to open a dental office

Written by gail cohen
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How to open a dental office
Today's dental office has come a long way from the past. (© Red Bubble)

Whether this is your first experience or you are simply moving from one dental office to establish another, you'll need good direction and an infusion of cash to handle myriad arrangements required to open a dental office. The list is long. You'll need treatment room equipment, a complete waiting room set-up, plus laboratory and staff quarters to keep patients, assistants, hygienists and other personnel moving through the day effortlessly. It's a challenge, but it can be a fun experience when you see the final result of a dental office that's as pleasant to look at as it is calming for the jumpiest patient.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Funding source
  • Good office location
  • Balance sheet with estimated expenses for start-up
  • Equipment and supplies
  • Legal and accounting help
  • Insurance coverage
  • License to practice
  • Design consultant (optional)

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  1. 1

    Find the right location. According to, a practice can operate effectively in from 36 to 60 square feet, but some offices require 24 square feet just for suction pumps, compressors, X-ray processing and chair setups. You'll want a 35-square-foot vestibule to meet Americans with Disability guidelines and 20 feet each for utility storage and office personnel. This doesn't take into account private offices, staff break rooms and a full-blown dental lab. Should the practice include four dentists, space demands increase. Obtain as much room as you can afford in one of three areas: close to your home, within clusters of other service providers and in urban office settings so patrons can seek you out where they work.

  2. 2

    Shop for equipment once you've signed a lease or a mortgage document. Check the resources below to compare prices for both new and used goods. You'll need a full chair/lighting rig and irrigation equipment for each treatment room. Add a CAD/CAM set-up if you're using your computer for chairside tasks, a laser system, compressors, lab and X-ray equipment. Technology changes fast in this industry, so you stand a good chance of getting quality items at a fraction of their cost if you opt for used goods put out to pasture by seasoned dentists when new designs are introduced or offices are upgraded.

  3. 3

    Hire a local contractor to oversee office installations not provided by vendors from whom you have purchased large pieces of equipment. Choose a professional well versed in all aspects of commercial renovation - someone with expert plumbing, electrical, carpentry and other construction skills. If you're unsure about references given you by the office lessor, contact dental colleagues in the area. Find out whom they use when they require such work as dental office cabinetry, auxiliary plumbing outlets to service dental chairs and other construction projects.

  4. 4

    Transfer or file for new permits, insurance, licensing and other legal requirements you'll need to put on display. In addition to an occupancy license, post your dental school degree, state license to practice, permits to administer anaesthesia and certifications for yourself and your professional staff. Meet with your insurance broker to acquire medical insurance for your staff, a policy to cover fire, theft and other catastrophes and assess your malpractice risk by purchasing enough to cover all eventualities. You may want to add an umbrella policy. This inexpensive addition can pick up coverages where other insurance plans leave off.

  5. 5

    Finally, order wholesale supplies from a one-stop-shop (see resource below) so you don't waste time and energy filling drawers and cabinets with must-haves. You'll need such items as protective gear, hand tools (probes, burs and tweezers), drills, syringes, anesthetic agents, model-making moulds and compounds, cotton rolls, bibs and other essentials, for starters.

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