Medical & Dental Office Design: How To Welcome Your Patients

Planning a medical or dental office design project? Remodeling your current office, building a new clinic from the ground up, or investing in tenant improvements? The team at BnK Construction has decades of experience to share with you.

Keep reading to discover our proven medical and dental office design strategies. Learn how to help your patients feel welcome in your office.

Avoid no-shows and cancellations

Life happens, kids get sick, big meetings pop up at the last minute, and cars get flat tires. There’s no way to eliminate no-shows and last-minute cancellations. But making your patients feel comfortable and welcome can reduce what we call “emotional” no-shows.

This is when a patient cancels because they’re stressed or worried about their upcoming appointment. Research shows these emotional no-shows are much more common than most dentists realize, in part because patients often make up an excuse and hide the true reason behind their absence.

By focusing on your patients’ emotional state and improving their initial experience, you’ll see a measurable improvement in your bottom line. Your staff will be seeing more patients and those patients will be happier and more satisfied with their experience at your practice.


Don’t overthink things

Medical and dental office design doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, success can be found by following a few simple principles. Great dental office design should focus on helping you and your team do their best work and helping your patients feel confident in the care they’re receiving.


Getting started

  • Be empathetic. Put yourself in your patients’ shoes. What do you think they’re feeling before an appointment? What would make you feel more welcomed and less stressed?
  • Remember everyone is different. As you’re thinking about, planning, and executing your design, be open to different options to meet the needs of different patients. One size doesn’t fit all.
  • Be bold and innovative. Your waiting area and the way you make patients feel when they walk in the door is an incredible opportunity to set yourself apart from competing practices and clinics. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. Show your personality and how much you care about your patients.

Design with the senses

What makes us feel comfortable? This question is one every dentist and doctor should ask themselves. While this question may feel a little existential, we’ve found the answer is actually rooted in science.

For many people, comfort stems from familiar and pleasing memories. These memories can be triggered by appealing to and tantalizing the senses. Let’s look at how medical and dental office design can be rooted in the senses.


Comfort first! When it comes to dental office interior design, avoid hard vinyl and plastic seats if at all possible. If furniture is too modern or unusual it can be uncomfortable and off-putting. Speaking of touch, lots of dentists are going for a spa-like atmosphere by providing warm towels and paraffin hand waxes to help patients freshen up and relax.


Rely on calming colors like blues and greens. Avoid intense and angry colors like reds and blacks. When creating your dental office layout, arrange furniture and plan your layout thoughtfully. Patients will be more relaxed when they’re encouraged to look out the window or at carefully chosen artwork. Patients who can see back into treatment areas may feel stressed out before their appointment.

Taste & Smell

Smell is the sense most closely related to memory. Focus on scents to help patients recall happy memories and they’ll feel relaxed.

You don’t want any hospital smell! Use aromatherapy to create a relaxing atmosphere and cover up any medicinal odors. Some practitioners even go so far as to bake fresh cookies for their patients, appealing to their senses of smell and taste.


Just like smells, there are certain sounds with the ability to conjure up negative memories of visits to the doctor or dentist. Waiting room “muzak” is definitely something to avoid. Natural sounds (either form a high-quality white noise machine) or from a relaxing water feature in your office can be both pleasing and reduce any noises coming from your treatment areas.


Put your patients first

Remember to think about who your patients are and focus on their needs:


  • Colorful and fun
  • Don’t forget to keep parents comfy, too

Teens and young adults

  • Need to be stimulated and engaged
  • Arcade machine anyone?!

Adults and older folks

  • Some older people may have difficulty standing up when seated
  • Make it easy to get out of chairs

A few of our favorite medical and dental office designs

Caring Smiles

Big windows, natural light, and comfy seats help patients relax before their appointments.

See more


Family Vision

If you wear glasses, you know how important it is to feel confident in your look. This modern medical office design lets people know the doctors and staff at Family Vision are stylish and ready to help them pick out a great new look.

See more


Valley Dental

We’re incredibly proud of the welcome area we designed and constructed for Valley Dental. It looks more like a spa than a dentist and patients can’t stop talking about it.

See more


What do patients and their families want to see in a waiting room?

We talked to 15 Portland residents aged 25-40 to see what catches their attention and what they like most about their doctors’, dentists’, and vets’ waiting rooms:

  • “My dentist sets out fresh cookies and La Croix sparkling water.”
  • “I like when the chairs are set out like they are in my living room — not arranged in a row like an assembly line.”
  • “The worst is when the televisions are on an infomercial or CNN.”
  • “At the doctor I go to, she sets out only new magazines. No Newsweek from last decade!”
  • “I hate feeling like I’m quarantined when I walk in and see the front desk person behind a plexiglass barrier. Not friendly!”
  • “When I’m waiting for my husband to finish up his appointment, I really appreciate how his doctor sets out fresh flowers and uses natural (not fluorescent) lighting.”

Thanks Jen, Shauna, Weston & everyone else we talked to!

Let’s talk about your project

The designers, architects, and construction experts at BnK are ready to help you bring your vision to life. We want to hear what you’re imagining.

Contact us today to get started.