An environmentally conscious office

From dental school in 1997 until today, I have spent a lot of time in dental clinic settings.   Traditionally, one thing that most if not all clinics have in common is excessive waste.  When I was designing my “dream office” (see my previous blog entry) I was committed to creating a more environmentally friendly dental clinic. 

To become more user friendly, many dental products and materials have become disposable.  While this does save time, and at least initially money to use something once and then throw it away, it has a negative effect on the environment.   Additionally there is hazardous waste and toxic products associated with film X-rays, sterilization, etc.

When designing my “dream office” (if you read my previous blog entry) I always had in mind that it would be as environmentally friendly as I could make it. From the design, construction products used, and equipment, to the dental materials and instruments. Some ways we achieved this was by:  installing washer and dryer to eliminate the need of hiring laundry services, used low VOC paints, all appliances and electronics are energy efficient, fluorescent light bulbs throughout the office, LED lights in the operatory rooms, digital x-rays, steam sterilization (does not use chemicals, only water), installation of an amalgam separator, elimination of cold sterilization, no nitrous, we chose  instruments that can be sterilized over disposable ones, use of reusable sterilization pouches instead of disposable, all our cleaning and disinfecting products are environmentally friendly, we communicate electronically as much as possible, etc. I can keep going on but I think I covered the main things.

After settling in the office I decided to contact EnviroStars, to certify our business. We filled out their thorough application and then we had a visit by one of their representatives.  When filling out the application I set my mind I wanted to achieve the highest rate of 5 stars. We worked hard for a couple of weeks making sure everything in our office was done accordingly to their standards. After a couple of weeks the county representative came back and awarded us the highest ranking, FIVE STARS!!! Our very hard work had paid off. We also received a $500 credit towards purchase of green products, totally unexpected!

Now it is our job in Avila Dental to continue and improve what we have achieved and promote a more environmentally conscious practice of dentistry.

My dream office

After one and a half months of opening the office I decided to sit down and work on my blog. There are hundreds of dental topics that come to my mind: whitening, clenching, oral cancer, gum disease, baby teeth, and so on. So I decided to write a little bit about the story of this office and the process, or I must say “ordeal”, of opening a dental office from scratch.

I don’t know if all dentists dream of having their own practice, but I always did – never thinking that it is actually having a business and not just a “dental office”. After working for a few years for other dentists at their practice I decided that it was time for me to open my own. So… how do you open a dental office? Where do I go?  Where do I even start? How much does that even cost?

I contacted a broker for dental offices and he showed me a couple. So here I go to see the first buying option of my own dental office! It was an old, small, and overly crowded office – not appealing at all!  Then we head to see the second office. Nice space, lots of light, more room, somewhat outdated, and with this very strong dog, yes DOG, smell.  How come a dental office smells like dog? Then in the lab/staff area there are tons of egg cartons, and eggs! And then I see a dog kennel and toys. I like dogs, don’t take me wrong, but I think they should not be in a dental office. Anyways, these two visits were not very encouraging. That was when I decided to just open one from scratch! This way it would be the way I wanted it to look like, with the equipment that I wanted… my own thing.

Now the situation got a little bit more complicated, where do I start? Do I apply for a loan first? But, how much do I need? So I decided to create my “dream office”. I contacted a design company to help me figure out how much space I needed, and come up with a floor plan. I also got in touch with a dental supply company and started to come up with a list of all the equipment I wanted to have in my “dream office”. It’s like shopping for anything else; grab a catalog and start picking things. It wasn’t that easy though because there were lots of things I didn’t even know I needed, or that they even existed! Once I had the list I had to get different quotes, so I had to meet with each rep and go over everything, over and over.

At the same time I was looking for a space to rent. I did a lot of online search, good thing that most commercial real estate companies have the photos of their properties on-line, that was a big help. However, I had to go and visit some. That part wasn’t easy either, maybe I’m too picky? I just could not find the “right” space. After sometime looking and dealing with landlords, nothing fun I must say, I finally picked the location!  At this point I have to sign to lease if I want to keep the space, right? But how do I sign the lease if I don’t even have a loan or even know how much this project will cost? The construction estimate won’t be ready until there is a floor plan with ALL, yes all, the details about the design – carpet model, faucets, materials, lights, ceiling design, toilet brand, wall colors, etc. At this point I decided to apply for a loan for the maximum amount they could give me and that I could afford, and then see what happens. Together with the loan application I had to submit a business plan! I had no idea on how to write a business plan. So I did what I do with all things I don’t know how to do: I Googled it!  I read some ideas, got some demographic information, came up with a marketing strategy, and wrote up my first business plan. It felt like writing my dissertation thesis, so much information!

Finally got the loan! I have to mention that I had to apply to different banks to see who would give me the better deal. With my loan approved, the floor plan ready, and the equipment list, I was ready to get the “dream build-out” estimate. Very scary because I did not have a remote idea how much it would be. In the meantime I had to get estimates for low voltage, what is that? For some people might be obvious but I had no idea what that was. Well, those are the guys that install alarms, computers, phones, etc. So another estimate! Remember that for any part of the project I had to get estimates from different companies, so by this time I had met so many people. I picked a coffee shop that operated as my “office”. I was there two or  three times a week meeting someone new.

Once I had all my estimates in hand (build-out, website design, equipment, dental materials, low voltage, computers, furniture, blinds, appliances, etc) guess what happened? Way over budget! So the “dream office” plans had to change a little bit. Materials were changed, cabinets removed and equipment changed to come in under budget!

Construction started, I was there every week to see the progress and to take photos (you can see them at http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/AvilaDental?sk=photos). Believe or not everything went smooth and with no major mishaps. After six full weeks of construction, a couple of more weeks moving furniture in, installing computers, getting everything organized in cabinets, hanging paintings that I had been buying in trips for when I had my own office, cleaning up, decorating, etc, my DREAM OFFICE was a reality! Finally! I could not believe it. After so much hard work, late nights planning it, meetings at the coffee shop (that unfortunately is closing down- I hope I had nothing to do with it) my project was finally completed and I had the office I had always dreamt about. Now, I’ll be honest and tell you that it’s actually more than what I had in mind when I was creating my “dream office”.

I would tell you that I LOVE this place. It was planned and designed with lots of love and dedication. I can’t wait for the new journey that is ahead, at Avila Dental!

 

 

 

What are the causes of oral cancer?

Mainly tobacco use (cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipe, cigars) is the most common cause of oral cancer. Heavy drinking, especially when combined with tobacco use, can also cause oral cancer. Prolonged exposure to direct sun light can cause cancerous lesions on the lips. Always protect your lips when exposing to the sun!

What are the warning signs of oral cancer?

Many different symptoms can occur: a sore in the mouth, lip, or throat that does not heal in 14 days, a lump in the lip, mouth, or throat, an unusual bleeding lesion, a jaw growth, a red or white patch, pain or difficulty swallowing.

What causes sensitive teeth?

Usually sensitivity is caused by exposure of the porous part of the tooth, the dentin. Dentin exposure can be caused by fractures, enamel wear, or gum recession.

How do I prepare my child for his/her first dental visit?

Talk to child about what to expect during the first visit. During the first visit the main purpose is to familiarize the child with the dental setting, do a general oral check, and possibly a cleaning. Talk to your child about what to expect, and build excitement and understanding about the visit. Never mention negative words as pain, needle, etc. as these will create a negative experience for the child.

When should my child have his/her first dental visit?

A child should have his/her first dental visit at one year of age. During this time the dentist can examine the development of the child’s mouth. Also it is a good time to start good oral health habits.

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This is where I’ll be posting comments, sharing the latest information and writing articles. I hope you enjoy them and I welcome any topic suggestions.