Dental Operatory Design for Sedation Dentistry

Dental sedation requires additional equipment and space in the operatory. But exactly how much space should your dental design include for sedation?

By Paige Anderson

Sedation dentistry can be an amazing addition to your clinical toolbelt. It can empower patients to take back control of their oral health after years of avoiding treatment because of fear or anxiety.

It also means additional certifications, credentials, and meeting legal guidelines and regulations, including how you design your dental operatory.

These guidelines can be somewhat vague depending on what state you're in regarding exactly how much space you need in a dental operatory to provide sedation safely. We'll review some of the most transparent guidelines for dental office design that incorporate sedation dentistry into the design.

Uncertain Requirements for Dental Office Design

State boards of dentistry outline many specific guidelines for dental clinic interior design. Frustratingly, regarding dental office design for sedation dentistry, the specifics fall by the wayside.

There are no uniform requirements for designing a dental operatory for sedation dentistry.

But that doesn’t mean you can stuff a sedation patient into any operatory and call it a day, either.

The lack of uniform legal definitions and guidelines can be a blessing and a curse. It makes your dental clinic design more adaptable and gives you wiggle room for how to create dental operatories that work in your space.

It also leaves a lot of room for error. Some states have more clarity in their guidelines than others, so let’s look to them for examples of designing dental operatories for sedation.

Florida Guidelines

Florida’s guidelines are among the clearest of any state.

For any practice that offers moderate sedation, including IV and oral conscious sedation, or deep sedation like general anesthesia, the requirements are:

  • The dental operatory must be big enough to accommodate the patient on a table or operating chair with enough space for three individuals to move freely around the patient.
  • The room needs to have some way to perform CPR, whether on a stable operating chair, CPR board, or with enough space to reposition the patient quickly to the floor.
  • You’ll also need enough space for all the requisite equipment for the type of sedation you offer, as well as emergency equipment, including (but not limited to):
    • Positive pressure oxygen system.
    • Suction and backup suction.
    • Any devices you need to maintain the patient’s airway during deep sedation or an emergency.

Most state boards describe a room with “adequate” or “sufficient” size for operators and emergency personnel to move freely around the patient.

In general, 120 square feet, or a room with about 10 feet by 12 feet of free space between cabinets and counters, should be adequate for most dental office design.

Of course, how your dental operatory is arranged, what types of dental sedation you offer, and what equipment you use all factor into how much space you’ll need.

Need for Space Varies from One Dental Office to the Next

Some dental sedation operatories need to be bigger than others because of the variations in how much space your equipment needs.

For example, does your dental office interior design plan include nitrous oxide and oxygen plumbed through the building itself, or do you have portable units that will be wheeled in and out of the operatories as needed? These systems can be more affordable than integrated hookups in the building, but they take up a ton of space in the operatory.

How much space you need will also depend on what levels and types of sedation you offer.

Two practices that offer moderate conscious sedation may have very different needs depending on whether it’s administered orally or by IV. However, IV dental sedation takes up more space, and you’ll need somewhere to put the IV stand without the tubing becoming tangled as you work on the patient.

Surgical suites in specialty offices that offer general anesthesia are typically larger than the average dental operatory, and equipment is no small part of the reason behind it.

Deep sedation, including general anesthesia, frequently requires enough space for an additional operator and equipment to maintain the patient’s airway. You may need an anesthesia machine and monitoring equipment, which can be permanent fixtures or portable units and can take up a lot of space.

If you’re building a new office, you may want to set aside extra space for operatories where you’ll provide sedation. Remember that recovery rooms have the same space requirements. They need to accommodate at least three operators, positive pressure oxygen delivery, suctions, BLS equipment, etc.

How Can You Be Sure Your Dental Operatory Meets Standards?

The best practice when considering dental office interior design for sedation is to check your state board’s specific guidelines.

Your dental operatory should be sufficient for sedation as long as:

  • There is enough space to accommodate all your sedation equipment.
  • Emergency personnel can get to the patient and perform their jobs without interference.
  • Your team can provide BLS in the room, whether on the operating table, patient chair, or the floor.
  • You can quickly alter the patient’s position.
  • The patient can be monitored by clinical staff continuously (no closed doors unless someone is in the room with them).

Aside from sedation considerations, your office also needs to meet guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. In many cases, those standards also fulfill the space requirements for dental sedation operatories.

Because exact requirements vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to consult a dental office interior design specialist or legal advisor to help you navigate potential pitfalls. That way, your practice will keep running smoothly so you can continue delivering the highest quality care with the comfort of dental sedation for your patients.

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AUTHOR: Paige Anderson is a dental hygienist with eight years of clinical experience and an English degree. She blends her two areas of expertise to create resources for dental providers so they can change lives by giving their patients the highest possible standard of care.

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