COVID-19 And How It May Affect the Design of Dental Treatment Rooms

Posted by HJT Design

Close up of a dental treatment room chair.

Dental practices across the country are diligently and methodically adapting to the CDC’s guidelines and recommendations to stay in compliance and minimize the risks of being infected and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Peer discussions are taking place to exchange and share ideas and determine what the post-coronavirus dental office may look like, and how dentists should best attempt to navigate the effects of COVID-19 on their practice, staff, and patients without sacrificing the practice’s efficiency or safety and the patient’s experience.

Treatment Rooms with Parents in Mind

Patients are now being asked to wait in their cars instead of the waiting room, so why not focus the space and budget allocated to the waiting room, to your treatment room instead? This will give you an opportunity to create a safe, family friendly space inside of your treatment rooms for parents to see their child, without exposing other patients or staff to contaminants.

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Touch Free Accessories

Infection and contamination control has become top on the list of concerns so it would make logical sense to introduce and or replace existing accessories within the treatment room that normally requires to be manually activated by hand turning, pushing, or pulling to a less touchy feely touchless amenities/ accessories; which may include occupancy light sensor, sensor activated faucets, soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers and single-use items that are touched and used only by the individual user including pre-rinse cups.

Supplies and Storage

Perhaps because of potential infection transfer concerns side, treatment rooms with side counters (if any) are no longer cluttered with apparatuses and miscellaneous items.

Supplies stored inside cabinets in the treatment rooms or brought into the rooms on the prep trays/carts is an ongoing debate between efficiency and convenience and ultimately defined by the style in which the dentist practices. As debates continue relating to the potential effects of aerosols in treatment rooms and surrounding areas, where supplies should be placed and protected from being contaminated is still being examined and studied.

Easy to Disinfect Materials

We all have heard the expression “Cleanliness is Holiness” and if given the choice to either have clean treatment rooms or nice treatment rooms; why settle for one and not have both nice and clean? With that said the two areas that require scrutiny and attention is 1. Finish material choices and 2. Maintenance regiments.

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Finishes

Treatment rooms are where the magic happens and the environment that has the highest risks of contaminations and infections, which unlike the reception area, requires finishes that would minimize the ability for pathogens to harbor and thrive. It also needs to be durable, easy to maintain/ sterile, beautiful, and lastly affordable. Below is some food for thought.

Flooring

Dentists work sitting down and rolling to better position themselves to better treat the patients; therefore, rolling over hard surface flooring with joints such as ceramic/ porcelain tile floors is both annoying and potentially hazardous while working with sharp instruments in the oral cavities. Though Luxury Vinyl planks are in common use in dental treatment rooms to meet many if not all of the performance, aesthetic, and clean abilities; it does, by design, however have many joints…an invitation for pathogens to set up residence and multiply. Instead of using tiles/ planks use roll goods with heat welded seams for a monolithic floor plus flashed cove base to reduce debris buildup along the corners of floor and wall junctions.

Ceiling

Unlike the floor, the ceiling enjoys much more flexibility for material selections and performance. Aesthetics are subjective, while performance and accessibility play a more primary role. The need to have convenient access to the inter-spatial space above the ceiling cabling and utilities tends to dictate that the ceiling assemblies be a suspended ceiling system with removable ceiling tiles of fibers, gypsum, wood, or metal tiles/ panels; which provide diversities in aesthetic requirements as well as some level of noise tampering; also if desired, washable ceiling tiles can be specified and installed.

Drywall ceiling is a safe go-to ceiling finish but lacks the flexibilities of the suspended ceiling system. Monolithic sketch membrane systems are another ceiling finish option that combines the monolithic clean looks, easy accessibility, and clean-ability of the aforementioned ceiling systems.

Walls

The largest surface areas of the treatment rooms, however, often receive minimal attention, in terms of finishes and regular cleaning. Wall finishes within treatment room environments are usually handled with the standard standby paint it and forget about it; mainly to manage construction costs.

For ease of sterilization, changes to wall finishes may include high-performance paints or coatings, vinyl wall covering or glass wall systems making it quick and easy to clean and keep clean but also visually make the space appear to be larger than it is. There are endless choices of finish materials to consider, what is important for a treatment room is disinfecting and sterilizing; therefore, highly textured and overly detailed materials are not encouraged nor appropriate for use within the treatment rooms.

The pandemic has certainly turned the table over for a few and forces others to take serious inventories of their existing treatment rooms design and finishes and perhaps even put the brakes on some with offices in the design phase or even under construction.

Depending on your situation, upgrading the current finishes does not require much money nor too disruptive and perhaps can be achieved within a week or two. Structural and physical changes, such as installing doors into openings where there are none, would take more planning. It is important to achieve the greatest payback for your investment and to approach the task with the whole system solutions mindset to truly achieve a safer and cleaner environment for your team and your patients.

Why Choose HJT

Your dental office is a direct representation of you, the dentist, and your visions. It’s important that it reflects you and the quality of care you provide to your patients. We welcome the opportunity to bring your visions to light through insightful designs that meet your clinical requirements and aesthetic criteria while optimizing efficiency and functionality for your practice’s everyday needs.

With our years of collective knowledge and experience we have a deep understanding of the functionality and unique needs within the dental industry. We invite you to contact HJT (866) 213-1268 to start the dialogue regarding a plan for your current or new office and how we can implement your unique visions. We look forward to talking with you soon.

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