Comparing Single Entry vs. Double Entry Dental Operatory Designs

Posted in Medical Construction.

While two is greater than one, it isn’t always better. As new dental offices are being built, designers and dentists are challenging the conventional wisdom on operatory design. Specifically, we are seeing increasing use in the United States of single entry care spaces, a method of managing clinical space that has long been the more popular approach globally. Find out more about the double entry versus single entry debate to determine what approach will make sense for your next office build.

Where did double entry operatories come from?

For at least the last 30 years in the United States, dental office operatory designs were dominated by double entry arrangements. For an operatory to be a double entry design, there were simply two doorways that opened into it. Often there was a door on either side of the dental chair.

This design made it so that, should the dental assistant need to leave the room during a procedure, it would not be necessary to make the dentist stop the procedure to let the assistant out of the room. Having a second door meant that assistants could come and go as needed without disrupting or slowing down the procedure the doctor was engaged in. This meant that double entry designs were seen as a significant boon to productivity.

Why not stick with a double entry design?

Globally, a single entry design is the far more popular route. Having a single entry to the practice area provides patients with a greater sense of privacy and allows for greater control of ambient sounds such as drills and cleaning tools. A quieter, more private space can help to create a more soothing experience for patients.

The need to have two entryways to a room can also have implications for the overall sizing of operatories and can serve as a limiting factor on the number of chairs a practice can accommodate. Furthermore, double entry rooms tend to be more open, making them a higher risk design for things like pathogen control.

Making a single-entry design work

But what about the traffic pinch-point problem that double entry operatories were designed to solve? Won’t there be issues with assistants needing to leave rooms and not being able to without disrupting procedures?

Critics of double entry designs say that we’ve gotten it wrong this whole time. For them, the problem isn’t that the path out of the room is crowded, it is that the dental assistant doesn’t have everything that is needed in the room to begin with.

The way to make a single entry design work is through careful space and process design that allows staff to create set-ups in advance for patient procedures and have them pre-stocked in the room before a patient even arrives. Smart choices in cabinetry and in-operatory storage makes it possible to have what is needed readily available, minimizing the need for mid-appointment departures. Keep in mind that one size does not fit all. Depending on the particulars of your office and the types of procedures performed, you may benefit from having a combination of styles. Contact Real Services and let our team of experts help you determine the best options and space arrangements to meet both your short and long term business goals.