Live the dental suite life

March 16, 2017
Heather E. Lewis, AIA, NCARB
Heather E. Lewis, AIA, NCARB

Heather Lewis, AIA, NCARB, is a partner at Animal Arts, an architecture firm in Boulder, Colorado and frequent HospitalDesign360 conference speaker. She's a lighting geek and a (seriously) devoted advocate of minimizing pets' stress and anxiety during their veterinary visits. She has designed practices and shelters that range in size from 1,200 square feet to 110,000 square feet. During grad school (as a break from architorture) she trained miniature horses to pull carts!

Thinking of adding a separate dental area to your veterinary clinic? Youll want to incorporate these tips into your design.

The dental suite at Boulevard Veterinary in Chicago, Illinois, is housed in a separate room. | Photo courtesy of Aaron Gang, Aaron Gang Photography

Location, location, location. Dental procedures can get pretty messy. And because pets usually have more anaerobic bacteria in their mouths than people, we can assume the gunk coming out isn't clean. With this in mind, keep dental suites away from surgery or induction areas. If your practice performs a lot of dental procedures, it's best to put the dental suite in a separate alcove or room. 

This separation also makes it easier to handle the dental radiograph machine. It doesn't have to be shielded like a traditional radiography machine, but having it in its own alcove or room will keep it from having contact with extra people.


The dental suite at Hardin Valley Animal Hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee, is located in a separate alcove. | Photo courtesy of David Bridges

Exhaust your suite. Install a switch-operated exhaust fan with a timer over the dental exam table. The fan should be able to handle 250 to 300 cubic feet per minute, and you can set the timer so that it only runs for the duration of the dental procedure. If an exhaust fan isn't an option, lay out the room's airflow so that the air return vent is over the table and the air supply vent is somewhere else in the treatment space.




The dental suite at Lake Travis Animal Hospital in Austin, Texas, has plenty of space for two tables. | Photo courtesy of Thomas McConnell, Thomas McConnell Photography

Two for one. Once dentistry has its own space, you can add a table or two. If you place a radiograph machine between two tables and position it properly, it can serve both spots.


The dental suite at Pet Wellness Center in Effingham, Illinois, has two tables with a dental radiography machine in the middle. | Photo courtesy of Nathan Loker, Loker Photography

Don't pass on glass. Outfit the dental suite with glass so doctors and the team can see out to the treatment space.

Backup bonus. You can use the dental suite as a backup treatment area for dirty procedures (e.g., wound treatments) when it isn't being utilized for dental procedures.


Heather Lewis, AIA, NCARB, is a partner at Animal Arts, an architecture firm in Boulder, Colorado.