Diver-turned-orthoDontist Dr. Joe Schuchert has built a Pennsylvania practice perfect for kids, parents and all other landlubbers in need of oral care.

By Kristie Ceruti

Photography by Joel Knepper

WHEN HE WAS a student at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Joe Schuchert was a varsity diver—an ardent swimmer overall, in fact, with his mind on competitive triathlons. It was those aquatic pursuits through which he ended up straying from his lane, however, into the profession at which he now excels.

“During my long walks to diving practice, I’d notice Pitt’s dental school, and I became more curious about dentistry as the semesters went by,” Dr. Schuchert says. When knee surgeries his sophomore year forestalled his nascent diving career, he went ahead and applied.

Five years later, in 2002, he was accepted into Pitt’s orthodontic residency program, and in 2005 he left Pittsburgh for State College, Pennsylvania—hometown of his wife, Megan—and began nine years of associateships, building industry experience and medical knowledge. “I learned a lot about business and office design from the orthodontists and pediatric dentists I worked for during those years,” he says. “That inspired me to incorporate the advice I’d been given into my own practice.”

Today, not yet 40 and already a Diplomate in the American Board of Orthodontics, he’s the proprietor of Schuchert Orthodontics in State College. (A second practice in Lock Haven, some 40 miles northeast, is nearly complete as well.)

Early days in his first practice space were a challenge. “We opened in summer 2014 in an older 800-square-foot office, where my ‘desk’ was the top of a filing cabinet,” Dr. Schuchert says. “Megan was in charge of accounts payable, and this experience was a good test of our relationship. Ultimately it brought us closer together.”

Within 10 months, successful enough to have hired additional staff, the Schucherts began to build a new facility in unfinished office space nearby—less than a mile from their home, in fact, where the couple live with their three children under age 10. Constructing the new 2,600-square-foot space took just nine months.

One primary consideration throughout: patient privacy. “Reviewing poor oral hygiene with a child in an open-bay orthodontic environment with a classmate sitting next to them just doesn’t work well anymore,” Dr. Schuchert says. Cabinetry dividers did the trick— breaking up the space without closing it off, and providing extra storage besides.

Throughout, the tools at the dental team’s disposal are equally versatile: “My intent was to allow for flexibility, in case another dentist or specialist would ever need to share the space. If you look at our equipment, almost any type of dentistry can be done in the space.”

To this day, Dr. Schuchert is driven by the lessons he learned all those years ago as a triathlon-minded diver increasingly curious about exactly went on in that dental school up the hill. “My personal inspiration was to try to build a business where ethics and service to others was the primary focus, and make it similar to a timeless family-run business,” he says. “The goal would be to try to run operations for as long as possible without ever sacrificing those core values.”

Lights Up


“The waiting room has very large crown molding, and Benco Dental’s design team recommended hiding ‘cove’ lighting in the recessed area above it,” Dr. Schuchert says. “It’s an awesome detail but challenging to incorporate because of the confines of maximum lighting and electrical rules. It’s a key detail, and [interior designer] Amanda Griffiths worked well with our contractor to ensure that it was incorporated.”

Diving Deep


Maritime colors throughout the space offer a subtle nod in the direction of Dr. Schuchert’s subaquatic collegiate past. “The vivid palette,” he says, “is the office’s greatest attribute.”

Teal the Love


Brilliant blues and a tile mosaic pattern brighten up a section of the reception area where young charges can pull up a stool, play with a tablet—and even charge their devices if necessary.

Long Division


Dr. Schuchert pointedly (but gently) partitioned the practice into distinct zones. “I’m proud of the balanced use of the space,” he says. “My staff like the overall flow of the office.”

Rough and Ready


“The front desk is beautiful, and the contractor was very good with how it was finished. We chose the finishes of the curved lower portion with the idea of avoiding children kicking or nicking it up. It still looks new today and shows no signs of wear.”

Basket Balls


The practice’s dominant color scheme is echoed throughout, even in the most subtle decorative touches.

Hues’ Clues


To balance the bright areas of the interior (such as the decorative shelving below), “we went with a darker metallic look for the Midmark equipment in the operatories,” the doctor says.

Mixed and Matchless


“We ran the risk of the concept looking a little too open,” Dr. Schuchert says, “but our design team incorporated a combination of nice lines and curved walls into the layout to allow for proper ‘bulk’ of the build-out space while retaining a nicely streamlined look as you walk further into the office. Our patients and families often comment on how they like this concept.”

Design Tip


“Hire both an interior designer and layout designer. They’ll bridge the communication with the building contractor. The layout designer will make your layout vision a reality; the interior designer will accomplish the same as it pertains to colors and finishes. Combined, they provide the contractor with key information on materials and fixtures to stay within your budget. Most importantly, they’ll save you time and make the project much less stressful.” —Dr. Joe Schuchert

The Team

Photographer: Joel Knepper, J&A Photography, State College, Pennsylvania / JandAphoto.com
Interior Designer: Amanda Griffith, CenterPoint Design, Benco Dental
Contractor: Chad Homan, Veronesi Building & Remodeling
MEP: Dan Mattern
Architect: Dan Mattern
Dental Designer: Dave Chindemi, Benco Dental
Equipment Specialist: Ernie Verna
Friendly Benco Rep: Dave Jacobs