Going Bigger Transforms General Dentistry Practice in Rural New Mexico

Smile Xpressions - Artesia, New Mexico | Kay Younggren, DDS


An earth-toned, neutral color palette in the bright reception area is accentuated by colorful, contemporary leather furniture, from a paprika sectional to embossed ottomans and chairs. Metal artwork ties the interior to the materials on the striking exterior.

Building a new general dentistry office in the small community of Artesia, New Mexico, when you already own a successful practice there may appear to be a gamble for a dentist to take, but for Dr. Kay Younggren of Smile Xpressions, it was actually a carefully calculated decision based on hard data. Even so, the transition required a healthy investment—and now, two years after making the move, that investment has paid off. After opening the new office, the doctor has been able to expand the services she offers, increase her patient load while offering an incredible environment, and adopt the latest technologies, which has energized her staff and patient care.

Smile XpressionsThe Smile Xpressions office was completed in summer 2014, and in less than three years, it has drawn the attention of those in the community for its creative architecture, which is different from most other buildings in the area, and its superb care. In a growing part of this community of approximately 11,000, it is visible at the intersection of two busy streets. The stand-alone building is modern, with a flat roof, rows of metal beams, and large glass windows; it does not look like a typical dental office.

“One of the biggest surprises to me is how many more patients have come in because of the building itself,” noted Dr. Younggren, who said her previous location was a 60-year-old office. “It appeals to patients because it shows I’ve invested in the practice.”


The stand-alone dental office building is modern, with a flat roof, rows of metal beams, and large glass windows.

Form and Function Define This Contemporary Beauty
The contemporary design, while eye-catching, is more than that. It has been designed intentionally to meet specific goals, including more functional and efficient square footage than the last office, which had fewer operatories, little employee space, and minimal digital technology.

“Before we built the new office, Dr. Younggren’s technology was limited to DEXIS and Dentrix software only,” confirmed Shawn Lehmann, the Henry Schein Equipment Sales Specialist who spearheaded the build. “She was using a phosphorous-plate system and had older chairs, cabinetry, and delivery units in the operatories. Storage was also a huge problem.” Outside, parking was another issue, and at times, it required patients and employees to park around the block or in the alley.

Treatment room

Ergonomics and reliability were huge factors in the doctor’s selection of operatory equipment. The operatories feature A-dec 511 chairs and Pelton & Crane Renaissance cabinetry.

Mr. Lehmann was one part of an extensive Henry Schein team that also included Field Sales Consultant Rick Dolk, and Equipment Service Technician Eddie Fierro. The first step was to crunch the numbers using, in part, Henry Schein’s practice analysis to calculate whether a new office would be financially viable. With that confirmation in hand, the doctor moved forward by attending an office design seminar, in which best practices were discussed. It was there she considered how to layer those recommendations into the office of her dreams. Henry Schein Integrated Design Studio created the office layout, and Henry Schein TechCentral designed the IT infrastructure plan and completed the cabling and installation of the computers and network.

“Our design work included a total network design that included placement of computers, screens, and data connections based on best ergonomics of the operatory and other peripheral areas of the office,” said Mr. Lehmann.


On the right side of the office, there are six closed-bay operatories and a consultation room. Two have doors that close the rooms to the rest of the practice for greater privacy and quiet.

After VIP visits to both A-dec and Pelton & Crane facilities, Dr. Younggren made final selections on chairs, cabinetry, lighting, and delivery units, as well as the new technology she wanted to add to her practice.

“The A-dec chairs were selected because of the ergonomics of the 511,” explained Mr. Lehmann. “The Pelton & Crane Renaissance cabinetry was chosen because of the design, storage capacity, and accessibility it offers. The configuration allows easier access to the oral cavity. It also provides quick access to procedural supply storage within a comfortable patient setting that enhances treatment plan acceptance.”

Larger Square Footage Leads to Shorter Wait Times and More New Patients

Sterilization room

The sleek main sterilization room is spacious and has a walk-through layout that provides quick access from both sides of the practice. It features equipment from SciCan and Pelton & Crane and a VistaPure water filtration system.

The first thing
Dr. Younggren’s patients notice about the new office, after being wowed by its sleek exterior, is its expansive, comfortable size. At 4,800 square feet, there is generous space for the doctor and her staff to work and welcome patients. In keeping with the crisp, simple lines on the outside of the building, the waiting area remains clean, with jewel tones on the walls and neutral carpeting. Leather seating, in both couches and round stools, breaks free of the subtle color palette, adding interest in deep orange, purple, and gray upholstery. The rounded stools tie into a matching rounded wall that opens to the check-in desk, and metal artwork connects the exterior architecture to the ambiance inside.

There are nine operatories and another plumbed for future use. Before building the new office, four-month wait times for appointments were typical for patients; in the new office, that is cut almost in half. The patient flow splits into two, separating the clinical space into separate hallways: treatment rooms on the left and hygiene rooms on the right. Each hallway has a dedicated consultation room for private treatment planning discussions. An oversized staff lounge sits at the back of the practice, with enough space to allow the team to meet as a group. Key functional areas, including sterilization, the imaging alcove, and the laboratory are set right in the middle of the office, accessible to both hallways.

Planmeca PlanScan and PlanMill 40

Dr. Younggren shows off one of her most impressive pieces of technology, the Planmeca FIT CAD/CAM system, by displaying it out in the open in a main hallway. She fabricates most patient restorations onsite using the PlanMill.

Both the imaging alcove and the sterilization room have wide doorways that open to walk-through configurations. In addition to the main galley-style sterilization room, which features the Pelton & Crane Solaris Sterilization Center, there is a small secondary sterilization area around the corner, along the treatment room hallway. Facing the hygiene rooms,
Dr. Younggren’s Planmeca FIT CAD/CAM unit—including PlanScan and the PlanMill—is displayed in the hallway so patients can see it at work. Important equipment purchases patients cannot readily see are the Vista Pure and Vista Clear water filtration systems, which ensure both the sterilization process and operatories have the best water purity possible.

Digital Technology Demonstrates Doctor’s Commitment to Patients
Closer to chairside, patients have direct contact with some of the new digital technology available in the practice. The doctor utilized DEXIS sensors in the previous location, but they were tied to a dated and inefficient phosphorous-plate system. The current office has ushered in a fully digital experience for patients, using DEXIS Platinum sensors, an Instrumentarium panoramic machine, and Digital Doc intraoral cameras. Dr. Younggren is a long-time Dentrix user, so she simply upgraded to the latest version of the practice management software when installing the new computer network.

Front Office

The spacious 4,800 square-foot office provides plenty of workspace for the front office staff. The practice, now fully digital, integrates digital X-rays, intraoral camera images, and more into Dentrix, which can be accessed from the computer workstations in the treatment rooms.

“The features they find most beneficial,” said Mr. Lehmann, specifically pointing to Dentrix, “are electronic billing/insurance management, paperless charting, and access to reporting.”

Adding the Planmeca FIT CAD/CAM was also a huge advantage, since the doctor now fabricates most of her restorations in-house. The CAD/CAM and all of the digital imaging equipment has had a side benefit: the staff has the opportunity to gain mastery of new, advanced technologies.

“The change in Dr. Younggren’s office was important because her staff has learned new skills through technology, explored new opportunities within her practice, and exercised more creativity, which ultimately benefits her business,” added Mr. Lehmann.

Overall, the doctor made a calculated gamble when she opened a new office in her town, and it has proven to be a remarkable decision. Production volume is up, the working environment is more ergonomic and comfortable, and patient care is at its highest level, thanks to the state-of-the-art practice empowering her and her staff to deliver exceptional patient care.

“The biggest thing I would say about building a new office is to rely on those who have experience doing it,” concluded
Dr. Younggren. “We worked with Henry Schein plus an architect and contractor who mainly build dental practices. The combination made things much easier.”

Creating an atmosphere of quality care, comfort, and efficiency has proven to be just the right mix for Dr. Younggren, her staff, and the patients of Smile Xpressions. ♦

Group portrait

From Left to Right: Rick Dolk, Field Sales Consultant; Shawn Lehmann, Equipment Sales Specialist; Dr. Kay Younggren; Lesley Mollner, Regional Manager; Edward Fierro, Equipment Service Technician

Originally published in Sidekick Magazine.