In-Practice Dental Lab Design Considerations

Posted in Medical Construction.

Dental labs have changed significantly over the years as new technology and tools have been developed. Work that once needed to be done in outside dedicated labs can now be safely, efficiently, and cost effectively completed in-house. The availability of the right tools, along with the benefits of bringing this work in-house, has increased the number of services practices are now offering. For dentists considering starting a new office or expanding an existing practice, a careful consideration of how you will use your dental lab space is an important element to consider early in your planning process.

In-house Dental Lab Benefits

Dental labs provide vital services, including the fabrication of many types of dental restorations such as full dentures, partial dentures, crowns and inlays. Beyond providing dental practices with an additional revenue stream, in-house dental labs have other benefits for patients.

By completing the work within the office, many issues can be resolved in a single visit rather than having to create a temporary restoration and then wait while an outside lab completes the production of the dental appliance. If any modifications are needed at final fitting, the lab is fully equipped to handle the changes. Similarly, if an issue with fit arises or if a patient damages an item, the in-house lab can complete repairs and changes quickly, minimizing the inconvenience to patients. Having complete control of the process also allows dental groups to deliver the highest quality dental devices.

Don’t skimp on square footage

While labs can be designed to use either static, built-in components or modular and mobile units, getting the right amount of space set aside is critical to creating a space that can be used efficiently by your office staff. Recommendations on how large the space should be range from 60 sq. ft. for a two operatory clinic up to 120 sq. ft. for a larger practice. These estimates for lab space are based on the idea that this is a dedicated lab space and the practice also has a separate sterilization space for equipment.

When planning your lab space, be sure to also consider what your growth plans and expectations are. As new equipment and technology becomes available, you may wish you had allotted more space to capitalize on new opportunities.

Showcase Your Technology Investment

When deciding on the location of your lab space, consider making it a visible element of your practice rather than sequestering it as a private working area. Visible labs, as well as sterilization areas, allow your patients to see the investment that you are making in providing an exceptional care experience. Installing large interior windows or glass panel walls creates a closed working area to maintain cleanliness, and provides patients with an opportunity to see the technology you are using to keep them safe as well as to provide them with high quality dental devices.

When selecting the cabinetry and workbenches for your space, be sure to leave plenty of room for your staff to be able to maneuver as well. Locating the lab space centrally in the practice also helps to maintain efficiency. While it may be tempting to tuck it away in a corner, the further the lab is from the treatment areas, the more inefficiencies are introduced when you are caring for patients.

Planning for the highest degree of clean

Lab spaces demand the highest degree of cleanliness. To prevent cross-contamination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that only cleaned and disinfected items should enter the lab. This means that prostheses, impressions, and other oral appliances need to be cleaned in another area of the office before being taken to the lab for modifications or use.

Keeping sterilization spaces separate from labs also makes sense for maintaining the usefulness of the sterilized items. Many lab procedures create dust and fine particulates that should be kept away from sterilized instruments. Vacuum devices or other air handling equipment should also be planned for the lab space to help maintain the clean space and air quality for staff members. The issue of the dust that is created during the fabrication of devices also leads to the recommendation that lab space be a fully separate area with a door to better segregate and maintain overall practice cleanliness.

In-office dental labs can help practices generate additional revenue, improve efficiency and increase patient satisfaction. The decisions for scale, location, layout and design are critical to building a space that will meet today’s demands and be ready for new services in the future. The team at Real Services has the experience to help you plan your complete dental office, including deciding on the optimal choices for your in-house dental lab. Contact Us today to see how we can help. 

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