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Creating a new dental suite

Oct. 12, 2013
If you have the money and can afford to use it on a new dental office, you are one step closer to starting the process. In the event you want to finance the build-out, getting that loan takes on a top priority. Cliff Houser, MEA, starts up a discussion about what you need to know when creating a new dental suite from the very beginning.

If you have the money and can afford to use it on a new dental office, you are one step closer to starting the process. In the event you want to finance the build-out, getting that loan takes on a top priority.

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Once your practice finances are secured, the job of finding a location follows close behind. You will need to seek out an experienced real estate broker who understands the dental suite trade. Right up high on the priority list is dealing with the idea of “Location, Location, Location” … yep, you got it. We need the perfect space for the new dental office.

We are then faced with a set of very important questions: How much should the site/space cost per month? What are CAMS or NNN charges, and who pays them? Do I pay the procuring broker, or how does that work?

An exciting part of practice building is the continued opportunity to answer “higher expectation” questions. Questions such as: How long does it take for a new office build-out?Should I select my dental chairs and equipment now or later? Whipping out my crystal ball and addressing the question straight on, my reply is the same. We partner with 12 different specialty professionals for each new office build-out. Each one of them is a perfectionist who has worked together, as a team, for more than 20 years and looks at the office, as a whole, as his or her project. You get many eyes searching for imperfections and ways to solve design/use issues. The space that is selected must accommodate the needs of the dentist and the dental equipment that is selected.

Each project requires an expeditor assigned to deal with these unique perfectionists. The project is under his or her exclusive control. As the prospective tenant, you have one person to go to for answers, and that is the expeditor. The expeditor takes on the roles of coach, team captain, quarterback, etc. I think you get the picture!

The tenant works directly with the expeditor, and that is where it stops. The dental suite design and build-out time depends upon how well we stick to our plan. Talk to the expeditor, not the worker bees. The workers are following a well-thought-out plan. If you want to make changes to that plan, it will cost you in time and money. Change orders are not cheap! Time and money are not the only issue. It also affects the worker bees who put the plan together with tender love and care in the first place. You are messing with his or her creative talents.

The new office process is not unique. What is unique are the different personality types that a space needs to accommodate. When we meet with the prospective tenant and select a space that is ideal for a new dental practice, we bring in all 12 perfectionists to see the space and allow them to give their nod of approval. Not until that sanctioning meeting occurs is the lease negotiated, constructed, and signed. After that signing, the process of floor plan layout, equipment selection, design, architectural renderings, decorating, floor and wall media fall into the well-thought-out office design.

Many variables come into play during the design process. Will the dentist want an exclusive restroom? Does his or her life partner take an active role in the want list? Will the consulting office act as the dentist’s personal office? Can the break room double as our kid’s room when they visit the office? How much space is enough for now, and how long will it be enough? Is it better to get a little more space now and offset the risk of it being available when I need to expand?

On the production side of the practice, we experience another set of “what if” questions: How many crowns does it take to pay for a CEREC machine? When calculating the risk of sending patients to another dentist at their office, that question will be answered loud and clear. The risk increases with the presence and charisma of the dentist receiving those patients. Marketing is a very important part of any desirable growth plan for a dental practice.

We have covered a number of topics in this first article. We have been purposeful in uncovering many problem areas. I encourage you to come back again each month as we address more issues. Please contact the editor, Dr. Diwakar Kinra, by email at [email protected] if you have questions that you would like to have answered in future articles.

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Cliff Houser, MEA, received his undergraduate degree from La Sierra University in Riverside and his master’s degree from Cal State Los Angeles in education administration. He is currently the president of the Kunau & Cline Commercial Real Estate Firm, which specializes in practice location, design, and construction of dental and medical suites. Visit their website at or call (626) 354-5648 for more information.