Patients & Pupils

June 11, 2001
Southern California office is remodeled to accommodate private practice and international teaching facility.

by Susan Love

After more than a dozen years of practicing together, Drs. Cherilyn Sheets and Jacinthe Paquette decided to enlarge their Newport Beach, Calif., office, to accommodate a growing patient base and laboratory staff. Yet, they were also responding to a higher calling. The doctors wanted to establish a teaching and research facility that would offer dentists individualized education in a comfortable and low-stress environment.

The result of their efforts is a private practice and a nonprofit teaching facility that companionably coexist under the same roof. Sheets & Paquette Dental Practice provides state-of-the-art esthetic and restorative dental care to patients, while the Newport Coast Oral Facial Institute offers hands-on mentoring education to dentists, dental laboratory technicians, and staff. The office won the award for Outstanding Specialty Practice in the Matsco Companies Dental Office Design Competition 2000.

For several reasons, the doctors chose to stay in their original location, a multi-story medical building. The location is convenient for patients and offers the practice a large referral base. The building is situated in an affluent area of Orange County across the street from Fashion Island, one of the country�s most upscale outdoor shopping malls. The practice is also in the middle of the Newport Center, the county�s business and financial hub.

�In addition, the community of Newport Beach is an ideal destination for dentists who want to combine study with play,� Dr. Sheets explains.

The project�s challenges were twofold. The first was to design a space that merged a for-profit private practice with a nonprofit teaching facility � each with its own identity. The second was how to construct that space while the doctors continued to practice full time.

Fortunately, adjacent office suites had recently become vacant, so the office was able to minimize its growing pains. The first step was to create a large storage area for all records before renovation began. The staff relocated the files during off-hours so that patient care remained undisturbed.

Workers then gutted the adjacent office suites � leaving no walls, no ceiling, and no utilities. This space eventually became the teaching and research facility, as well as the laboratory for the private practice.

The sterilization room was next. After relocating the sterilization operations into the old dental laboratory, workers tore down walls and combined the old sterilization room with the kitchen and some of the new suite, tripling the size of the area. They installed easy-to-clean, Italian solid-vinyl flooring, customized dental cabinets, and state-of-the-art sterilization equipment. The sterilization equipment included two sink areas, soaking bins, a built-in oversized ultrasonic cleaner, an automatic handpiece cleaner, a stainless steel dishwasher, an automatic instrument bagging and sealing unit, a hot towel dispenser, a steam sterilizer, a chemical sterilizer, and a microwave sterilizer.

Other features include a desk and computer for direct ordering of dental supplies and an automatic darkroom for processing traditional radiographs.

When the sterilization area was completed, the office turned its attention to the old laboratory, which would serve as the new business administration office for both the private practice and the teaching facility. After removing the old equipment, workers gutted the room. They then installed new telephones and file cabinets, as well as a central message center for the intercom system and four large computer workstations for the administrative staff. The practice added customized millwork around counters and workstations to give the room a polished and elegant appearance.

As completion of the new space drew near, the practice remodeled its existing suite. The makeover was planned to coincide with a week-long dental meeting that both doctors attended. During that week, the office was closed to patients, so there was no downtime.

Both the reception area and the business office got a facelift with a new color palette of soft neutrals. Taupe linen wallpaper and plush beige and gray carpet with a subtle herringbone pattern now welcome patients to a space that looks more like a formal living room than a dental office. The couch and chairs are covered in an elegant off-white fabric, and cloisonn�amps complete the picture.

The practice also removed a partition in the business office to enlarge that space, giving it a feeling of openness. A sleek granite counter now overlooks the reception area, allowing patients and staff to talk without barriers. Office equipment and files are hidden beneath the counter for an even more spacious look.

A beveled glass door leads from the reception area to the interior of the office. Once inside the door, patients pass a large antique armoire that houses a collection of lead crystal figurines and porcelain art that the doctors have collected during their travels.

The transition to the clinical areas of the practice is made through a hallway that ends with an elegant curved wall. On one side, softly-lit niches display artwork and orchids. On the other, a large glass observation window overlooks the porcelain area of the laboratory.

The practice also redecorated its existing operatories. Although the neutral color scheme continues throughout every room, there�s no mistaking one for the other. Each operatory is decorated with original watercolors and prints, as well as Oriental figurines and porcelain vases that the doctors have collected from around the world.

�We wanted every operatory to have its own special features, much like the rooms in a home,� said Dr. Sheets. �That seems to make patients feel more comfortable and relaxed.�

In keeping with that theme, the practice also designed its operatories to minimize the anxiety patients often feel in a medical environment. All dental instruments and equipment are hidden or built into the cabinets.

What advice do Drs. Sheets and Paquette have for other dentists who are considering building or expanding an office? �Plan as much as you can before you begin construction,� said Dr. Sheets. �A lot of our decisions happened on paper before the first worker entered the office.�

Another suggestion is to involve staff. �The energy created when staff members participate in designing a new office is contagious,� said Paquette. �We incorporated many of their ideas, and they were right on target.�

Dr. Paquette also advised colleagues to �think outside of your comfort zone.� That means looking at the latest trends, reviewing new technology, and daring to be different.

Finally, stay focused. �Don�t let the obstacles throw you off course,� said Dr. Sheets. �You can solve almost any problem with a calm and logical approach.�

For more information about the next annual Dental Office Design Competition, visit Matsco�s Web site at or call (800) 326-0376. For information on the Sheets & Paquette Dental Practice or the Newport Coast Oral Facial Institute, call (800) 686-1155 or (949) 760-6288.

A learning environment

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the office designed by Drs. Cherilyn Sheets and Jacinthe Paquette was the blending of the nonprofit teaching facility with the private practice. Most of the adjacent 3,500 square feet that they acquired was needed to create the Newport Coast Oral Facial Institute. Drs. Sheets and Paquette wanted the facility to provide attendees with individualized hands-on experience, so space design was critical.

The Newport Coast Oral Facial Institute, while sharing many aspects of the Sheets & Paquette Dental Practice, is a separate entity and has its own entrance through double doors directly across from the elevators. A rotunda foyer welcomes students to the facility with its round walls, limestone floor, copper-accent glass panels, rich taupe wallcovering, and warm indirect lighting. A rounded granite shelf displays fresh flower arrangements and business cards. Clear beveled glass doors lead into the conference room on one side and into the teaching center on the other.

The construction included the addition of three teaching operatories, which coordinate with the five pre-existing operatories. But they are larger in size to accommodate course participants and videotaping sessions.

All of the teaching operatories are equipped with individual computers, hidden refrigerators, custom drawers, and new A-dec dental units. The office also mounted Global surgical microscopes on the ceiling of each operatory. Each operatory boasts a 35 mm camera and video capabilities through the microscopes, providing course attendees with a view of live demonstrations on the corner-mounted video monitors.

The new conference room serves both the private practice and the teaching facility. It provides staff with a corporate-like setting for meetings, as well as a relaxing space in which to eat lunch. A dishwasher, refrigerator, and microwave oven are disguised in the cabinets, and a granite countertop completes the area. The room is also used by the teaching institute for lectures and group discussions. An automatic triple projection screen is built into the ceiling moldings on one end of the room, and a unique, movable audio-visual cabinet that serves as both a projector stand and storage facility is on the other end. Indirect tract lighting is equipped with dimmer switches.

The showpiece of the new learning center, however, is the microsurgical teaching laboratory. The lab is divided into three areas: the casting/wet plaster area, the porcelain room, and the open microsurgical workstation area. Customized, steel cabinets in the teaching lab are topped with granite for a durable work surface, and the Italian solid-vinyl flooring is both attractive and easy to clean. These areas are used by the private practice�s laboratory technologists during nonteaching hours.

The spacious casting and wet plaster area of the lab allows several technicians or students to work simultaneously. The cabinets were designed to maximize storage and efficiency. In the plaster area, a square work island houses a refrigerator and storage shelves beneath its granite countertop.

The porcelain room is designed for two master ceramists. Each workstation is equipped with a microscope, computer, sink, steam cleaner, case storage, mobile cabinets, and light boxes. The main porcelain workstation also serves as a live demonstration area. The microscope is equipped with a video camera and an oblique lighting source that can rotate from one side of the workstation to the other.

In the open microsurgical workstation area, two long bench islands provide work areas for 10 course participants. Each participant�s bench area is equipped with a video monitor, a clinical microscope, a unique light source, multiple electrical and air-driven handpieces, dry and wet evacuation systems, and water attachments for other equipment. Each workstation is also equipped with a mannequin head for simulated patient care. Chairs are ergonomically designed for operator back and arm support.

This area also includes two instructor demonstration areas. Microscopes at each demonstration area are connected to a video education system, so that instructors can transmit images to participants� individual workstation monitors, to the room�s two ceiling-mounted monitors, to the three teaching operatories, or to the 10-foot x 4-foot ceiling-mounted conference room screen. This flexible system not only allows for on-site or off-site teaching, but also for the recording of teaching demonstrations and patient data collection.

Although establishing a teaching facility is a dream come true for Drs. Sheets and Paquette, it wasn�t easy. �The technological requirements were staggering,� said Dr. Sheets. The rewards, however, made the process worth the effort. The office is now on the cutting edge of patient care and offers clinicians from around the world a unique learning experience.

Susan Love is CEO of Carlen Media Group, a publishing and strategic marketing firm based in Sausalito, Calif. For more information, call (415) 331-2215 or e-mail to [email protected].