Mind Those Hidden Costs in Dental Office Construction

There are definitely benefits to renting or buying the building that will accommodate your dental practice. The most obvious of those benefits is probably the convenience of having the operatories and necessary facilities already in place.

However, there’s also an undeniable appeal to literally building one’s own practice from the ground up. It’s hard to beat the pride of hanging your shingle on your very own building, but there are practical perks too. The most obvious of those benefits is the ability to design your building to your standards, preferences, sizes and dimensions, work space, and more!

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So, let’s say you love the idea of constructing a practice to fit your vision and decide to break some ground. What next? Well, an understanding of the risks, hidden costs, and possible obstructions specific to the construction of a dental practice is hugely important.

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This likely won’t come as a huge shock, but building a dental office (or any medical office) is an entirely different animal than erecting a home or brick-and-mortar retail business. Medical facilities, oral health and otherwise, have to serve a unique and specialized purpose and have to be built with that understanding in mind. (Something that we’re well aware of here at Primus.)

For instance, the power supply and access to that power; accommodation of the lighting necessary for a practice; maybe wiring for screens or monitors in the operatories; an infrastructure that supports the equipment, and dozens of other little variables all have to be considered and plotted out before work can begin.

Further considerations include:

Permits. Efficiently navigating the potential minefield of permit requirements is huge. Every municipality has its own labyrinthine maze of permit issuing, requirements, standards that have to be met, code compliance (like allowances for the disabled), etc. The permits themselves generally aren’t all that expensive (and can even be free), but if a local planning commision or municipal functionary drags their feet, becomes annoyed with a builder, has had a bad month, or whatever, the accumulated cost of delays can literally kill a construction project. This is particularly true when it’s a medical structure being built.

Be Aware of Your Limitations. Dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons are generally very smart, well educated, and tend to be practical thinkers as well. Becoming an oral health professional is no mean feat and requires some dedication and moxie, so DMDs/DDSs are usually appropriately proud of their achievements. Like any other sharp, skilled, and educated professionals, however, sometimes that knowledge, education, and intelligence can be assumed to spillover into other specialties – like design or construction. That can become a detriment to the process. Basically, once you’ve hired a trusted professional to build your practice, trust their professionalism.

Be Involved. There’s definitely a difference between helpful, clarifying involvement and interference. If you have a vision for your future practice, share that vision with your contractor. And absolutely don’t be afraid to share drawings, plans, preferences, etc. I’ve often encountered an assumption that the more detailed the construction instructions and the more plans and drawings submitted, the more expensive the process. It’s actually just the opposite. The clearer and more specific you are with your contractor, the fewer overruns you’ll experience from details missed, corrections needed, rebuilding that must be done, etc. You should always know precisely what you’re looking for before you start pricing anything.

Be Business Savvy. Even if you’re friends with the contractor, always be entirely professional about the process. Reputable businesses and businesspeople have no problem with contracts, reference checks, or prospective clients’ questions. In fact, they prefer those steps are undertaken. Get everything in writing, check up on firms you’re considering, and weigh all of those variables before you choose your construction and design partner.

Think Ahead. Maybe you have a small practice at the moment and envision an accordingly modest structure. Choosing thrift is always shrewd but consider that every operatory in the average oral health practice brings in somewhere between $100,000-150,000 annually. Do you think you’ll grow? Do you have a patient base that makes growth likely? Is your practice’s success trending upward? If growth seems likely, it’s a lot easier to include extra operatories and extra space in general before your practice is built, as opposed to afterward.

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The Good News

The process can seem daunting, particularly when possible impediments are considered. Thankfully, though, you’re not without allies. The key to expediting, streamlining, and guaranteeing the project is contracting with a well-trusted construction and design firm *ahem* that specializes in dental facilities.

Finding an outfit that’s familiar with dental office construction is huge. Specialized firms like that are comfortable with the specifics of constructing an oral health-designated building. They’ve got experience with the codes, permits, paperwork and potential red tape that can otherwise hinder building, and chances are good that if they specialize and are still in business, they’re good at what they do.

Of course, this is just an overview, and there’s a lot more out there that you should research before any hiring takes place. But with some focus, research, hiring savvy, and the necessary desire, building your own practice could be the best business decision you’ve ever made. Good luck!

~ Jason


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