The dental office is composed of several different areas, each of which has its own function. The following offers a brief description of each area of the office. Keep in mind that dental offices may vary in their makeup.


The design of the reception area of a dental office is very important as this area gives a patient his or her first impression of the office.

Therefore, it is important that the room be setup and decorated with this concept in mind. The reception area is where the patient waits for the appointment with the dentist. The decor of the area should be relaxed and comfortable. Soft lighting and music will help the patient relax while waiting. Also, current and various kinds of periodicals help to make the waiting time less stressful.

The reception area of dental office should contain some comfortable chairs for patients who are waiting. There should be some attractive pictures on the walls. Current magazines that appeal to a variety of interests should be available for the patients’ reading. If the dentist works with quite a few children, there should be an area in dental office with a few quiet toys and books to keep them entertained while they wait.

Noisy toys would be out of place in a dental office setting. Some dentists have an aquarium of tropical fish in the waiting area. Watching the fish has a calming effect on children or other patients who have a fear of visiting the dentist. Keep the reception area at a comfortable temperature. A carelessly kept reception room suggests to clients that the dentist will be careless, too.


The business area is the “nerve center” of any dental office. It can actually be broken down into several “subareas.”

The Reception Area – The reception area is where patients are greeted upon arrival. This is also the area where patient appointments are made and confirmed either in person or via telephone by the receptionist.

The Billing and Collection Area – It is in this area that payment by the patients made and all the money are collected. The billing or all related forms, like of insurance claim, etc., are completed in this area. Sometimes their duties are completed at the reception or payment desk. Payments are also collected or bills sent (sometimes other financial arrangements are made) from this section of the dental office. Basically, this department is for all billing submitted and payments received, thus making it one of the most important departments for the maintenance of the office.

Office Expense – This department handles all payments and expenses of the dental office. It is here that the maintenance of payroll, bill payment, and all other office expenses are kept. The term “office overhead” is used to describe all of the expenses required to run the office. The business manager can determine the profit of the office by subtracting the total office expenses from the total revenue received.


The operatory, sometimes called the treatment room, is the heart of the dental office. The operatory is where all dental procedures are completed. Operatories will differ from office to office depending on the needs and preferences of the dentist.

For example, the dental office operatory of a general dentist will contain the equipment, tools, and materials necessary to complete a variety of procedures. The operatory of a specialist will be quite different. It will contain only those tools needed to handle the dentist’s specialized area of dentistry. You will learn about the different tools needed for dental specialties later.


The dental laboratory is where all auxiliary dental procedures are performed in dental office. For example, it is in this department where dental models are made or fabricated. Dental laboratories are different in all offices. Some dentists perform quite a bit of their own lab work or they may even employ a lab technician and, therefore, require a larger lab area.

Other dentists maintain a smaller laboratory, as their in-house lab work is limited. In some dental offices, the laboratory work is sent to outside laboratories. However, wherever the lab work is accomplished, the dental laboratory is an important part of the dental practice.


The sterilization area in a dental office is that place where all of the dental instruments are cleaned and sterilized. The stringent regulations for dental office with regard to the operation of this area, are important for anyone responsible for the cleaning and sterilization of instruments.

The sterilization area is divided into three smaller areas—the contaminated area, the sterilized area, and the storage area. Any dental instrument, used during a patient procedure, is first placed in the contaminated area. Here, they are cleaned and disinfected. Once this process is complete, the instruments are ready for the sterilizing area in dental office.

There are several types of equipment which can be found in the sterilization area, such as an autoclave, cold sterilization solution, a chemiclave, or any combination of these. Once the instruments go through the sterilization process, they are put into the storage area in their sterilized containers and are so kept until they are used again.


Dental X-rays are developed in a darkroom in dental office. A darkroom is a small room which is “light-tight” and specifically designed for X-ray development A dentist may have an automatic developing machine or may complete this procedure manually.

In either case, the X-ray is a vital diagnostic tool for the dentist and proper developing techniques must be utilized at all times. The solution of the X-ray processing chambers is changed frequently to maintain the good quality of the X-ray images. The darkroom must be designed and maintained efficiently for the use of the dentist in a dental office.