Winter 2002


Ergonomic Considerations in Placing Technology
in the Dental Office

By Lorne Lavine, DMD
Founder/President, Dental Technology Consultants

About the author

Lorne Lavine, DMD, has practiced periodontics and implant dentistry since 1992. He is an A+ Certified Computer Repair Technician and is Network+ certified. He is president of Dental Technology Consultants, which assists dentists in all phases of technology integration in the dental practice. He has written for Dentistry Today and is a frequent contributor to the Dental Angle. He can be reached by email at, toll free at 866-204-3398, or through his Web site:

The high-tech dental office has undergone a number of changes recently. While it used to be considered "cutting-edge" merely to have a computer in the practice, this is no longer the case. The development of intraoral cameras, digital radiographs, patient educations systems and cosmetic imaging has expanded the scope of services the typical dentist can provide. However, there is a problem that most dentists continue to face - having a limited amount of space for new equipment in the dental operatory.

This article will briefly explore some of the options available to dentists when trying to position new technology in the operatory. Three areas to consider are: placement of the computer system, placement of monitors and placement of input devices such as keyboards and mice.

Computer Systems

In most cases, the computer should be placed where it will not be seen by patients. Most offices use either a side-delivery or rear-delivery cabinet for storing dental supplies and handpieces. This is often the ideal location for the computer system. Another option is to use a special mounting bracket to position the computer flush on one of the walls. I've often found that a computer mounted just below the arm of the X-ray head is unobtrusive, and will not detract greatly from the aesthetics of the operatory.

An important point to remember is that the computer will need to be accessed frequently, and in some cases, will need to be situated close to other devices. For example, offices that use certain types of digital X-ray systems must position those systems no more than six feet from a computer due to the length of the connecting cable.


The placement of computer monitors is probably the most important aspect of technology integration in the operatory. Placement will depend on a number of factors such as: whether there will be a monitor designated for patient viewing, cost considerations, type of existing lighting (pole vs. ceiling mounted), and viewing considerations. While flat panel monitors were once very expensive, some are now available for less than $400 and are an excellent choice. Besides being much lighter, they take up very little space and can easily be mounted from a ceiling, light pole, or floor-based command console.

In an ideal world, there would be two monitors in the operatory: one placed in front of the patient that can be used to show digital X-rays, intra-and extra-oral images, or educational DVD's, and the other placed behind the patient's head where it can easily be viewed by the doctor and assistant. This monitor would be used to access the practice management software and any other data the doctor doesn't want the patient to see. While a monitor can be placed near the ceiling for patients who wish to watch a video, it will have little value in that position as a diagnostic aid.


The positioning of computer keyboards and mice is very important since it will affect the way the doctor and assistant work. A keyboard placed behind the doctor's back will be uncomfortable to use, will require constant swiveling of the chair, and also will prevent the assistant from having access to it. Ideally, the keyboard should be placed behind the patient's head on a rear unit, so that both doctor and assistant can access it easily. A wireless keyboard is also an excellent option.

When it comes to mice, there are more options for placement since more than one can be hooked to the computer at the same time. I also recommend using a light pen because it provides the doctor with the flexibility to point out areas of interest on the patient screen while enabling the assistant to use a traditional mouse or trackball to enter data for charting, scheduling, etc.

While technology has greatly aided the modern dentist in providing care and helping the patient to understand the diagnosis, care must be taken to properly plan for the ideal positioning of these devices to maximize their effectiveness and convenience.



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