Patient-and-Parent-Centered Design in Pediatric and Orthodontic Practices

By: Henry Schein Integrated Design Studio’s Jennifer Rhode, Sr Manager of Design, and Robyn Connors, Designer with Henry Schein Equipment Sales Specialist, Ben Oliver

Delivering an exceptional patient experience is a key factor in differentiating one practice from another. As the dentist is often the practice owner, they must wear the hat of a salesperson to draw in and retain patients. In orthodontic and pediatric practices, the practice must consider the needs of both the patient and the parent or caretaker. Through the concept of human-centered design, we can achieve a design that balances the need of both the staff, patients receiving care, and accompanying guests.


The human-centered design approach involves three phases:

  • Inspiration: Learn from those who inhabit the space through observation and conversation.
  • Ideation: Make sense of what you learned and design your space with those considerations in mind.
  • Implementation: Bring your solutions to life and gain the trust of your patients for years to come.

Identifying your target demographic is the most crucial step when utilizing this design approach. Who are you looking to serve and what are their distinct needs? Pediatrics and orthodontics overlap in their target demographic, resulting in many combination practices. This pairing creates an opportunity for seamless referrals as well as a one-stop-shop for parents with multiple children and varying needs. For these practices, we have identified three essential considerations:

  • Welcoming & Comforting: Design a space that accommodates all guests and incorporate features to reduce stress and anxiety and enhance safety.
  • Time Optimization: Create versatile space that enhances convenience for both staff and guests.
  • Engagement & Patient Experience: Create a multi-sensory experience designed for engagement that reinforces overall practice branding.


Waiting & Reception

Create a space that will make your guests feel welcome from the very moment they step in the door. This begins with providing visibility to the greeter. Consider designing the reception to have a clear sightline to the entry and implement a lower counter for additional accessibility.

When laying out the waiting room, consider your demographics. In a practice serving a wide demographic, we recommend designating key zones. In this combination pediatric and orthodontic plan, we have identified a kid/parent zone on the left, a media zone in the upper right, and a quiet area. Despite the separation, the overall waiting area remains open and inviting.

You might also consider additional amenities to make patients feel comfortable. Some practices include a beverage station, a charging station, a quiet reading nook, or different forms of child-friendly entertainment. And with heightened safety concerns, promoting a sense of safety by adding air purification units as well as hand sanitization stations is especially helpful.

The Business Area

Check-in and check-out are common bottlenecks for practices; resolving this can have a significant impact on the patient’s experience. A circular flow around the business desk with separate check in and out prevents any unnecessary cross-over or queuing of patients. A larger, semi-private checkout with seating off this patient flow is beneficial for longer discussions regarding treatment or finances. Additionally, providing the right technology for online patient forms, mobile booking, and in-office patient kiosks can add convenience for both patients and staff.

Patient Restroom

Design the space to accommodate people of different ages and needs. In a pediatric practice especially, consider adding child-sized fixtures, as well as additional hooks or surfaces for parents with younger children.


In this zone, design elements are focused on practice efficiency and functionality. Yet the patient experience is still central, and that means promoting safety, privacy, engagement, and ease of care.

Designing for a variety of treatment spaces maximizes the types of patients you can serve, and the type of procedures you can perform.

  • Open Bay: While an open bay can help maximize space, it is still important to respect the safety of patients. Partitions between chairs provide added separation and privacy while retaining that ease of treatment from the staff perspective.
    A semi-private bay is a terrific addition for those wanting more privacy, a family treatment bay, or as a multi-purpose space for treatment photography or scanning.
  • Quiet Rooms: We highly recommend at least one private, enlarged treatment room for each practice, no matter the specialty. This room covers a multitude of needs such as a space for longer procedures, adequate space for mobility and guests, treatment planning conversations, and patient education.

Just as in waiting, consider the amenities to include in treatment that enhance the overall experience. Some options include sinks for handwashing or brushing, ancillary seating, and entertainment for both those in treatment and accompanying guests.


Whether or not a plan incorporates a designated consultation room, a stand-up consultation adjacent to treatment offers a space for efficient conversations pertaining to treatment plans, payment, or reappointment. This will reduce time spent relocating to another room and minimizes patient traffic and potential anxiety.


The size of a practice’s imaging relies on the type of technology utilized in the office. If a practice uses both intra-oral and extra-oral imaging to create an extensive digital profile, the practice may want to consider creating one, fully equipped room to efficiently gather all the necessary images. However, separating the intra-oral imaging equipment can alleviate wait-time for a practice that utilizes this often such as orthodontics.

The location of imaging should be centralized, but not necessarily right by the front office. The key is to place this area convenient to treatment and the patient path of travel, but not to impede upon those flowing in and out of the clinical space.

Flex Spaces

Parents appreciate the convenience of a practice that serves the needs of all their children, from infants through teens, hence the increase in group practices. This has also spurred a demand for “flex” spaces. For the same amount of space, you can design a room that covers multiple needs, such as a mother’s room to offer privacy to nursing moms, a pre- and post-op space, or an infant exam room.

Having a pre- and post-op space minimizes the amount of time each patient is in the chair, so your staff can more quickly turn over treatment for the next patient. The flex space can also be used for visits that do not require the full operatory. This saves chairs for additional appointments, resulting in better patient flow and higher revenue for the practice.



A practitioner is not judged solely on their skill, but on how a patient perceives the overall look and feel of the office. The visual branding is a large component of this perception. The brand should reflect the demographic that the practice is looking to attract and serve. Create a brand that creates a sense of trust and stands out from others through a cohesive color palette between the logo, interior finishes, and marketing material.

The 5 Senses

When designing a memorable space, consider the five senses:

  • Sight: Choose inviting materials, layered lighting, a cohesive color palette, and architectural interests such as decorative soffiting.
  • Scent: A well-thought-out space with appropriate division helps prevent unwanted smells from getting into public areas. Scent masking or air purifiers can further enhance the overall scent of the office and tie in with branding.
  • Taste: If providing a beverage station, include flavors such as lemon or coffee. Consider offering children multiple flavors of toothpaste to make tooth brushing a positive experience.
  • Sounds: Create a relaxing environment with appropriate music, sound masking, or water features. Choosing the right materials and acoustical products can also absorb additional unwanted sound.
  • Touch: Select textures, surfaces, and materials that are comfortable and interactive. A textured wallcovering or green wall can provide added dimension to a space. However, it is also important that these materials are both durable and easily maintained and sanitized.

Key Takeaways

The first step in designing your space is to understand your demographics and then build your space around your patients’ desired experience. Determine key areas of optimization for patients and the practice by evaluating your individual practice’s workflows. Working with a design team that is experienced in dental practices can help maximize practice efficiency and increase patient and practice satisfaction. Finally, create a memorable and consistent environment both in person and online. All these aspects help draw patients in and keep them coming back.

Check out the full webinar for further exploration on Patient and Parent Centered Design within Pediatric and Orthodontic practices!