Building or Remodeling a Dental Practice?

Five Questions to Ask Before Construction Begins

Even though GPS has taken over and made maps virtually obsolete, the idea of carving out a route to a destination is important. Designing and building your dream dental practice should follow that same process. Asking the right questions and plotting a course before you begin ultimately saves time, eliminates mistakes, and enables you to achieve your dream dental office. Henry Schein Equipment Sales Specialist Ben Oliver has walked many doctors through a thoughtful, methodical process. This Henry Schein exclusive process asks doctors some key questions that impact how they move forward with a new practice design and build.

Question #1: Do you know how much practice you can build?

Treatment roomEven before a doctor tours other practices or scours Pinterest for design inspiration, Mr. Oliver recommends they first meet with a banker. He connects doctors with financial professionals who understand the unique needs of dental practices. Doctors also need to plan for dental equipment purchases. Mr. Oliver believes it’s better to know going into the project instead of finding out along the way they are not financially in a position for a lender to do their project.

How much practice can YOU build? Learn more.

Question 2: What is your ideal location?

Many doctors point to communities where they want to locate, but there are additional questions that must be asked to pinpoint areas that are ideal now and in the future.

“The first question I ask is where they live. Then I ask, ‘Where do you want to live in the future?’ Long commutes across town get old.” In Mr. Oliver’s territory, Southern California, a 5-mile difference can mean a 30-minute variance in commute each day.

Another question is what the doctor’s ideal dental patient population is. Families? Upscale clients? Children in need of braces? Does the market around that location supply enough patients for that type of dentistry? One doctor grew a strong practice in a college town by catering to students. However, he really desired to have longer-lasting, multi-generational relationships. Since college students came and went in his existing practice, he decided to build a new office in a residential section of town.

Let us know what your ideal location is, and we can start planning out your new practice build.

Question 3: Do you want your office to be in a retail space or professional building?

Exterior buildingMost doctors have a strong, immediate opinion when asked this question. Through Henry Schein’s exclusive dental practice design process, doctors learn about the pros and cons of each type of building site.

“There can be a big price difference,” said Mr. Oliver, noting that retail space can reduce the project funds available due to typically having lower tenant improvement allowances.
“In general, retail space landlords give little tenant improvement allowance compared to medical spaces. Medical building landlords may give triple or even more. The less money a doctor spends on improvements, the more they have for dental equipment, such as a 3D cone beam or a digital scanner.”

Professional buildings come with costs of their own, including the load factor, which is the amount paid for common areas shared by everyone in the building. That space is listed as part of the rented space, but it’s not usable by the practice, which can lead to confusion when signing lease agreements. Mr. Oliver has worked with doctors who later discovered they had less square footage than they thought, which required them to remove an operatory from their design.

“One operatory can produce $250,000 in a year,” said Mr. Oliver. Losing one unexpectedly due to a misunderstanding about the actual amount of square footage available can be frustrating and damaging to a practice’s projected production and profit.

Is a retail or professional building in your future? Contact us for additional insights for each type of building.

Question #4: How much square footage do you want?

Mr. Oliver starts this conversation by going through the dental practice design budget line by line. Using the typical loan amount for his area, which is about $550,000, he and the doctor go through a detailed checklist.

Hallway in a dental office“A large-square-footage office can eat up the entire budget. Or, it can be the opposite…upscale finishes and equipment can reduce the construction budget so much that the doctor can only afford a small office with fewer operatories,” Mr. Oliver said. Equipment Sales Specialists always try to help their doctors find the right balance.

The other conversation that comes up with many doctors is planning for the future. “Some established dentists don’t use 3D cone beam imaging or same-day digital dentistry, and they don’t want to build an office around it,” noted Mr. Oliver. “I tell them, ‘You are not building this office just for you, but also for the doctor you may be selling it to one day.’ Dental students are using this technology every day in school; they expect it in their practice.” Most experts recommend constructing a new practice for a 20-year lifespan.

Square footage is your friend! Let us help you determine what's best for your practice.

Ben Oliver, Henry Schein Equipment Sales Specialist (left), meets with one of his customers to plan out her dental office design.

Question #5: What are your expectations for the project?

Knowing what a doctor wants out of the practice build helps the team connect him or her with contractors best suited for their specific job.
A company that has an excellent reputation may still not be the best fit for your project.

“Does the doctor want a fast turnaround, in 10 weeks? Then certain contractors, even if they are very good, will not be on my list because I know they have three other projects going at same time,” explained
Mr. Oliver.

Henry Schein Equipment Specialists draw on years of experience and networking in dental office construction to help match the doctor with vendors, from general contractors to architects to interior designers.

“It’s not a choice between bad or good,” concluded Mr. Oliver. “Instead, I’m trying to educate the doctor on the characteristics of each vendor so I can help find the best match for them.”

To find out more about Henry Schein’s proprietary dental practice design process that leads doctors through the steps of building or remodeling an office, click here for more information.