Top Tips for Dental Surgery Lighting

Our Dental Practice guidance and fact-sheet to get the most out of your lighting design and set-up, offering possibilities and solutions.

Top Tips for Dental Surgery Lighting

The Importance of Lighting for a Dental Practice

In this article we will cover the basic science of light in the context of how it is utilized in a dental practice. There are several different light sources used throughout the practice and all have certain purposes and characteristics.

Within the surgery, lighting has two functions: Task lighting and Ambient lighting. Ideally for the rest of the practice the luminance should still be a consideration depending on the environment. Understanding the possibilities and solutions are crucial to achieving the best outcome from lighting and the improvements this can bring.

Contact our designers for advice or to audit your current lighting set-up. We create environments that help our customers to be at their best, creating better outcomes for them and their patients. You can check out our Lighting Equipment page for options.

What is the Best Balance of Dental Surgery Lighting?

The right dental lighting should strike a balance between providing enough high intensity illumination to enhance work precision, especially when it comes to procedures such as colour matching for restorations and cosmetic work, as well as reducing eye strain and improving energy levels as light can affect how tired you feel at the end of the day.

With regards to the contrasting light sources of a dental surgery, most dentists have to adjust their vision to cope with the light conditions produced by the operating lamp and the ceiling lighting.

Eyesight tends to deteriorate with age, meaning that our eyes require more light to see at the same degree. Eye strain, fatigue, headaches and environmental stress are all common afflictions, as well as neck and back strain. All of these can be prevented with the optimum lighting set-up to minimise the risk of strain while ensuring the most favourable view of the patient’s mouth.

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Patient Experience

Lighting is a fantastic tool for creating a comfortable environment. Ideally, it should be utilised in the best way for patients to feel calm and confident and reduce nervousness. There are many ways this can be achieved and our team can give useful suggestions to optimise your surgery lighting for this purpose.

Cabinet down lighting can produce a modern, aesthetic ambience and certain wall lights can create a luxurious feel, sometimes these small details can make a big difference. Some surgeries have the luxury of large bay windows or a stunning view. In these cases, the dental chair can be installed to face the window, creating a greater patient experience and more natural light for colour matching.

Top Tips for Dental Surgery Lighting

One Harley Street, Dr Jonathan Hall

Mixing the Ambient Lighting with Task Lighting

As a rule of thumb, there is a ratio of 1:5 between the ambient and task / operation lighting in terms of contrasting strength. The recommended intensity of an operating light around the patient’s mouth is around 20,000 Lux, so the surrounding environment lighting should be around 4,000 Lux. The overhead lighting we supply helps to create a gradient between these values, minimise shadowing and glare while reducing heat emissions for accuracy and comfort.

For a larger room, we advise the outer spaces should be no lower than 2,000 Lux.

With regards to colour temperature, a white light source is used within the 3500 – 6500 Kelvin range and a colour rendering index of around 90%. See below for more information on this subject.

Window Lighting

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. Although, natural light can promote patient comfort, increased productivity and improved shade matching.

Northern orientation of the window is the most preferable for relying on natural light as morning sunlight can be too bright from an Easterly direction. A Southern orientation is good especially during the winter months and Western orientation cannot be relied upon.

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 quality of lighting in your surgery can be assessed by following these points. If you feel that any of these are not currently providing the best solution, then please get in touch with one of our team.

  • Lighting should be clean and uniform, free from shadows
  • Colours and shades should be easily matched, and not different in natural light
  • There should not be an issue with tired eyes or headaches during or at the end of the day

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Another consideration which is often over-looked is that sunlight can discolour cabinetry. So, it advisable to fit blinds to window areas to prevent this during times of the day where there can be very strong direct sunlight.

Ceiling Lights

Our most popular lighting for ceilings are the Magic Suspended Ceiling Light and the Yale Surface LED Light Fitting. The reasons for their popularity are that they have a well-balanced emission of light and a complete absence of visual strain.

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.

Top Tips for Dental Surgery Lighting

Our ambient lighting options can make a huge difference to the general look and feel of the surgery. Take a look at these case studies to see how we could potentially make that change for you.

Top Tips for Dental Surgery Lighting

Watling Street Dental Care

Top Tips for Dental Surgery Lighting

Kent Smile Studio Chatham

Top Tips for Dental Surgery Lighting

Quigley Dental Practice

Operating Lights

This is the light that illuminates the working area for the dentist and is a major part of their daily lives. The main difference between these will depend on the surgery layout and the dental chair. Some treatment centres have the operating or surgical light attached to the delivery unit, such as the Ancar S1 which sports the Polaris LED operating light with variable intensity; 8,000 to 35,000 Lux. The other options are to either have a wall or ceiling mounted light fitting.

They should have removeable and autoclavable handles for greater infection control, a colour temperature of between 4000 - 6000 K, variable Lux intensity and even an integrated HD camera as modelled by the Zenium ZYO or the Iris Operating Light, which has multiple settings and a HD video system. For our full list see our Operating Light Equipment Page.

Top Tips for Dental Surgery Lighting

Royal Surrey Hospital - Suspended ceiling and Alya Theia ceiling mounted operating light.

What is Colour Temperature and Colour Rendering?

These are the scales that are used to measure the colour of light sources.

Colour temperature is expressed in Kelvin and uses the symbol “K”. Temperatures over 5000K are bluish, cool colours and lower temperatures (2700 – 3000K) are called yellowish warm colours. In context, a match flame has a value of 1,700K, horizon daylight has a value of 5000K and a clear blue sky can be between 15,000 and 27,000K.

For lighting interiors, the temperature of illumination can have a different effect. For example, cooler (higher temperatures) are used to enhance concentration and warmer (lower temperatures) is often used for relaxation.

The Colour Rendering Index (CRI) is a scale from 0 – 100 percent specifying how accurate a light source is at rendering the colour of an object from the perspective of the human eye, and how variations in shades are displayed.

Light sources with a CRI of 90 or higher are the best and should be used for tasks requiring the most accurate differentiation of colour. Sunlight has a CRI of 100%. CRI and colour temperature are independent of each other.

Lighting for the Rest of the Dental Practice

Another important area for optimum lighting is the LDU or decontamination room. There are no particular rules dictating illuminance of this space, but it is best to be pragmatic as there are very tight regulations to infection control and having the most ideal view of the working area would be highly recommended.

Daylight can be relied upon, although strong fluorescent or LED lighting would also have to be installed. Cabinet / work surface colours and reflectivity can make a big difference.

Top Tips for Dental Surgery Lighting

White Oak Dental Practice

Receptions and waiting areas will need to be warm and inviting, as well as relaxing. So, as mentioned above lower colour temperatures should be considered. General lighting is around 200 – 700 Lux and for a unique lighting effect recessed lights and down-lighting can be utilised for a modern and luxurious appearance.

It is recommended to use a lighting design that provides a smooth light distribution rather than directed light and if possible a gradient of increasing light strength from the waiting room to the surgery, to accustom the patient’s eyes from 400 to 4000 Lux.

All in all, there is a lot to consider when deciding on which lighting to use in your practice, or even when contemplating whether your current lighting is doing the ideal job. You can speak to our design team on 01322 293333, email us at or fill in this Contact Form if you would like to discuss options with us or if you have any concerns with your current set-up.

What Do I Need to Consider When Lighting My Dental Practice?

This is a breakdown of considerations and factors covering dental lighting:

The Facts of Light

  • Daylight intensity varies from approx. 2,000 to 100,000 Lux
  • Daylight colour temperature varies from 2,000 to 27,000 Kelvin
  • Mostly though, daylight in the UK is between 4000K – 7000K
  • Less than 3000 K is warm white and 3400 – 4500 K is cool white
  • Lower temperatures in Kelvin are used for relaxation
  • Higher temperature in Kelvin are used for concentration

The Effects of Light

  • Full adaption to increased light requires about six minutes
  • Light affects how tired you feel at the end of the day
  • A high contrast in light increases fatigue and eye strain
  • Visual activity increases with light intensity until it reaches around 20,000 Lux
  • The greater the difference, the more intense the process of eye accommodation
  • Sight declines with age; older persons need more light

Light Consideration for Dentists

  • Dentists and assistants look up and away from the oral cavity at least twice every minute
  • Teeth are best viewed in daylight of 4,500 Kelvin
  • Operating lights should typically give off around 20,000 Lux
  • The Colour Rendering of Operating lights should be over 90 percent
  • A ratio of 1:5 between the ambient and task lighting is recommended
  • To achieve 5,200 Lux, lights have to be ventilated.
  • To maintain the surgery at optimum light levels, windows may need to be screened with film or blinds.
  • Standard room lights are about 200-700 Lux.
  • Waiting rooms should be at 300-400 Lux.
  • Fluorescent tubes should be replaced every year as illumination decreases with age

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