Dental Surgery Design and Fit-out

Our project managers have put together this article on how to achieve a harmonious balance in your dental surgery refurbishment or fit-out.

Dental Surgery Design and Fit-out

The surgery is the most requested design and refurbishment space we receive, and as the heart of the dental practice the environment needs to reduce anxiety for patients undergoing treatment, as well as providing pleasant and operationally effective working conditions, complying with regulations and be easy to clean.

The design of the surgery should incorporate some very important aspects to achieve a harmonious balance of personal preference, aesthetics and functionality.

All of these requirements can be challenging to blend but will ultimately affect how the dental surgery performs for staff and their patients.

The main factors to determine when first laying out the structure of the surgery are as follows:

  • Room layout including window and door positions
  • How many dental chairs and type of delivery unit
  • Patient and staff flows
  • Type of dentistry being performed
  • Preference for way of working ergonomically
  • Decontamination
  • Additional features

What to Expect From a Dental Surgery Design and Fit-Out

The modern surgery is a completely different environment than the past and must be beautiful, clinical, well-lit and above all hygienic; to meet CQC & HTM 01-05 compliance for infection control.

This is a check-list of the processes employed:

  • On-site visit
  • Consultation
  • Space planning
  • Building regulation considerations
  • Staff workflow
  • Health & safety
  • Equipment options
  • Final design
  • Construction
  • Decorating
  • Installation of equipment and services
  • Radiation protection
  • Hand-over session
  • Service schedules for equipment

As a dental refurbishment company, we have a highly trained and experienced team of specialist builders, electricians and plumbers which is critical for the optimum performance of a dental practice design. We offer a no-obligation site consultation service and this can include knowledge and advice on how to renovate and revolutionise your existing surgery.

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Dental Chairs

Dental chairs and teatment centres come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. This is a list of the types available covering many dental specialisms and preferences:

  • Mobile Cart
  • Mounted Delivery Unit
  • Whip Arm
  • Hanging Hose
  • Adjustable Cannula Support Arm
  • Ambidextrous Arm
  • Double Ambidextrous Arm
  • ariatric

The number of dental chairs and their type is important for the overall layout as some surgeries are larger rooms intended for multiple dental professionals, with the areas separated by partitions such as this fit-out for Smiles For You.

The Mobile Cart and Mounted Delivery Unit will affect the layout of floor cabinetry as they will often need a place to reside when not in use.

Dental Surgery Design and Fit-out

For more information on delivery systems read our article - Guide to Dental Delivery Systems.

A special needs surgery will require a Bariatric chair and some dentists opt for a high patient weight chair. These have the benefit of a folding leg rest for easy access to elderly or disabled patients and facilitates treatments where a frontal view of the face is required.

With the case of Newham NHS Primary Care Trust we found that the larger surgery didn’t offer the space required to work ergonomically with more than one position, so a 3 in 1 concept was developed as a solution. This included a stand-alone chair on a mobile base that could be safely moved out of the working position and the introduction of a mobile wheelchair recliner.

And The Marlowes Health and Wellbeing Centre in Hemel Hempstead required a hoist and quick release outlets for a mobile cart on both sides of the surgery.

Dental Surgery Design and Fit-out

The other chair types in the list make up the different styles of reatment Centre with the Ambidextrous Arm being the most distinctive to cater for both left and right-handed users. They can also include a delivery unit for movement to the assistant’s side for cleaning and preparation.

Discover all of the options available on our Dental Chair Packages page, you can even filter by manufacturer.

Moving Chair Services

Different dental chairs have different positions for the incoming services which means that when a chair is replaced, it is normally replaced with a chair that has a similar services position.

However, this can be quite limiting if you want to have a different style of delivery system or if the budget is different.

Relocating the services within the surgery floor often involves cutting in to concrete floors or drilling through floor joists, adapting the plumbing and electrics then making good with a patch to the flooring. This is done professionally with heat welded seams and our in-house team can provide this service if needed.

The size of the floor patch varies but is often about 1 foot square. An alternative is to make a feature out of this by making a larger circular area of new vinyl around the dental chair in a contrasting colour.

Dental Surgery Design and Fit-out

If the existing flooring is old then it is best to replace the whole surgery floor with a modern vinyl that is cove and capped around the walls and cabinetry for full compliance to CQC recommendations.

Considerations for Dental Surgery Design

This leads us on to the layout of the surgery and the cabinetry that will manage the workflow and storage capacity of the room.

The most commonly used model would be the L-Shaped worktop formation with the head of the chair pointing towards the internal corner of the units. This can be easily adapted to suit most buildings and where size is restrictive.

Typically, a surgery will be designed for a right-handed dentist and if a left-handed user were to share this surgery then they would normally adjust to work right-handed. In these cases, consideration should be given to the position of the chair to allow for flexibility.

Cabinetry storage is provided by a single or double run of cupboards and as mentioned before, space can be allocated for a Mobile or Mounted Delivery Unit. See our guide to Dental Cabinetry including design, layout, compliance, materials and colours.

Another efficient cabinetry layout would be the U-Shape. With space permitting this can be effective for an Ambidextrous layout, providing space on both sides of the chair with the positioning of sinks either side: one for hand wash and one clinical sink. The chair position and orientation also allows for easy patient accessibility.

Dental Surgery Design and Fit-out

When a surgery is in the design stage, workflow is the most important consideration, as a poor design will create problems and instigate work-arounds which will be unfavourable.

So, experienced designers will be able to make the space work for the dental practitioner, their staff and their patients, improving workflows and enabling dental practices to operate at the highest performance levels.

As was the case with Providence Dental where we delivered a beautiful, functional and compliant surgery.

Dental Surgery Design and Fit-out

"We decided to use Eclipse Dental for a full surgery refurbishment, following extensive research. We chose them because their opening lines didn't change! So where others first insisted they could do x and y for z....very soon became apparent that would not be what was delivered or what we would pay ultimately. Rather, Chester from Eclipse, was open about hidden costs etc....we trusted him. We took leave and they did the job....literally. I have no hesitation in recommending Eclipse - it has been a priviledge to work with such sincere and upright folk." Delcia Richter, Practice Manager, Providence Dental, Folkestone

Surgery Lighting

The lighting within the dental surgery has two main functions: Task Lighting with the Operating Lamp and Ambient Lighting with ceiling and wall lights. We would usually aim for a ratio of 1:5 between the ambient and task / operation lighting in terms of contrasting strength, with a gradient between the values measured in Lux to minimise shadowing and glare.

Natural Light

Most dentists would agree that natural light from a window promotes patient comfort, increases staff productivity and is more effective than artificial lighting for colour matching. Although, specialist dental lighting fixtures are built to mimic daylight as closely as possible, so window lighting is generally a formality and certainly not essential.

The surgery lighting would need to be designed regardless of external lighting from windows, as during the winter and bad weather, this can be non-existent and to maintain the surgery at optimum light levels, windows may need to be screened with film or blinds.

Lighting the Patient Experience

Another consideration when designing the layout of surgery lighting is to create a comfortable environment for patients.

Sometimes small details can make a big difference, like cabinet down lighting to produce a modern, aesthetic ambience and certain wall lights for a luxurious feel.

Options for improving customer experience can be “Image Feature Lighting” which is designed to ease anxious patients or for surgeries that cater to predominantly younger clientele. Or, how about really giving the 'Wow Factor' by installing a Multimedia TV Screen embedded into the light fitting with Blu-ray and mobile casting capabilities.

How Important is a Good Lighting Design?

Check out our article on Top Tips for Dental Surgery Lighting for our comprehensive guidance and fact-sheet, offering possibilities and solutions. And Contact our team to discuss the options available to get the most out of your lighting design and set-up.

Dental Surgery Design and Fit-out
Quiqley Dental Practice before and after fit-out

Electrics, Plumbing and Services

Our in-house team of designers and engineers know exactly what is needed to supply the dental surgery with power, gases and water. There are several ways this can be done, depending on the layout of the room and construction of the building.

The dental chair will need services, especially if the delivery unit is attached. These can be laid under the flooring or a channel will have to be carved into the concrete floor if this is needed.

Mobile carts and wall / ceiling mounted delivery units can be utilised if under floor services are not possible, or even a ceiling pendant with medical air, suction, oxygen and power outlets like the one we fitted for the Royal Surrey Hospital.


This is a very important aspect of the surgery and is often over-looked when not designed by expert dental fit-out specialists. The type of surface should be designed to protect staff and patients by being durable, hygienic and easy to maintain.

Laying of the floor material must be professionally conducted to ensure infection control is maintained, which would need to include a cap and cove system instead of skirting boards on the walls and cabinet plinths to facilitate easy cleaning.

This is an area we often need to discuss with the owner of the dental practice as the planning and construction can determine how a surgery design will develop and pan-out.

As with the 1 Harley Street surgery of Dr Jonathan Hall we decided to remove the raised floor, which eliminated a step in to the surgery and services were moved below the original floor. Skirting boards were removed and replaced with seamless cap and cove flooring which was extended up the wall slightly, creating a more aesthetic look and being much easier to clean.

Dental Surgery Design and Fit-out

Aesthetic Designs

Having a stunning bay window like 1 Harley Street or an amazing view can definitely gain points for aesthetics and patient experience, but this can also be achieved by utilising lighting such as cabinet down lighting, wall lights and image feature lighting as mentioned above. Another aspect of delivering a comfortable and modern look is Colour.

Objectives for selecting colour schemes can vary. You may want to keep with the branding of the dental practice or decide to create a specific reaction, like a restful, calm and relaxed environment or a stunning, bright, uplifting tone.

There is, without doubt, a psychological impact from colour, which can also improve workplace efficiency and relieve fatigue so choosing the right hues and tones can have a very positive effect.

Contact our designers if you would like to discuss options on improving the overall look and feel of your surgery, as there is a lot that can be done with a simple square room with no particular features, not everyone has the fortune of working in a unique room with ornate ceilings and decorations like Sonria Dental Clinic.

Dental Surgery Design and Fit-out

Decontamination Area

The method of separating the ‘decontamination activities’ from ‘patient consultation’ within the surgery is called Temporal Separation. Sometimes there are no other rooms available within the practice to house a dedicated decontamination room.

Where instruments are reprocessed in the same room as the patient treatment area, the reprocessing area should be as far from the dental chair as practicality allows. This area would have to include a dedicated sink or two, regular disinfection of surfaces and adequate ventilation / air extraction. The process should be carried out by ensuring that a dirty- to-clean workflow is maintained. Discover more in our article - Decontamination Room Design.

We have often achieved this by separating the area with partitioning or a glass screen, as demonstrated by Norfolk Square Dental Practice.

Dental Surgery Design and Fit-out

Room Conversion

As a dental practice brand develops and more staff are hired there is generally the need to convert a room into a surgery. This can be an extension to the existing building, a relocation of a room like the kitchen or renovation of an area like the basement. We have experience in all types of room conversion and extensions.

Dr R. S. Raajanathan of DH Keen Dental was especially happy with the way our designers reconfigured the old surgery to increase its size. To achieve this we moved the partition wall which also created a more spacious reception and corridor.

New flooring was fitted to the surgery, reception and corridor, and the walls were adapted to specialist lead lining for the use of x-rays.

"I did a lot of research looking for a dental fit out company before I came across Eclipse Dental. They designed the surgery exactly the way I wanted it to look which suits my requirements perfectly. The final result was phenomenal, just phenomenal!"
Dr R. S. Raajanathan

Project Co-ordination

In some cases a building contractor will be employed for larger construction works, which would mean that we would have to co-ordinate our work with them. We have successfully achieved this on many occasions as well as working with architects and specialist designers when the client has requested this.

When Kent Smile Studio in Chatham renovated the whole building with an extension and an additional first floor we were asked to fit-out and equip their 3 surgeries, the decontamination room and plant machine room.

Dental Surgery Design and Fit-out

Project Management

The most valuable skill in the design and construction process is the ability to listen. Meeting on site allows our project management team to listen to any requirements and provide valuable advice on the suitability of your practice vision.

As experienced dental fit-out specialists we see the mistakes made from previous refurbishments when we are stripping back the old surgery, and we are experts at trouble-shooting and designing the ideal layout.

We also offer a Turn-Key solution - while you are on holiday, within 2 weeks and guaranteed solutions.

Contact us on 01322 293333, email at or use this Contact Form to speak to us about your surgery ideas.

At every stage and through every aspect of the design, build and technology - we are focussed on the long term success of the dental practice.

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