Supplies and sterilization are like peanut butter and jelly. It’s time for dental practice design to start treating them that way.

By Melissa Sprau, NCIDQ

FOR YEARS cabinetry manufacturers and interior designers have lavished attention on stericenters, and rightly so. The supply closet, by contrast, was typically just a place to stash consumables wherever it all fits. Yet supplies and sterilized instruments go hand in hand like a restaurant’s cooking and dishwashing: If either slows down, the entire operation backs up.

Some of the old thinking concerning stericenters harks back to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, when the media framed dental practices as one of the scariest and most likely places for disease transmission. Of course, dentistry quickly and successfully updated its protocols back then—just as it did with Covid-19. But patient trepidation remained, and that’s when stericenters were reimagined as infection-control Taj Mahals designed to dazzle and reassure. It’s also why they became even further disconnected from supply storage.

At Benco Dental, we’ve evolved our design thinking as part of our ongoing practice ergonomic and efficiency studies. The fruit of this effort is a concept we call the Office Nucleus, which brings supplies and sterilization together in advanced ways. The goal is not only to harmonize them during initial space planning but also ensure their processing and distribution stays at peak efficiency for years. The concept, and its application, is a distillation of more than 50 years of in-house design experience and knowledge by our cross-country team.

This isn’t solely about efficiency, though. Office Nucleus also applies hospital-grade best practices to dental workflows that increase safety, reduce stress, cut waste and simplify team training in an era when staffing is more challenging than ever. While it’s true that practices aren’t required to follow hospital guidelines, Office Nucleus will enable your team to retrieve clean instruments and supplies without entering sterilization. Here’s the best part: Hospital best practices don’t require any additional investment with the Office Nucleus concept; they’re baked right into the plan.

Then there are supplies, the other side of the coin. You’ve probably seen the ultra-pricey storage systems that require keypad or fingerprint access, and which treat cotton rolls with the same security as uranium pellets in a nuclear power plant. For small practices, that’s overkill (although limited secure storage of expensive consumables and controlled substances is worth consideration). The Office Nucleus concept uses more-affordable storage solutions to place supplies in better proximity and sync with sterilization. More importantly, it has been built to create a storage solution that stays organized with little effort.

Office Nucleus has been built to create a storage solution that stays organized with little effort.

Ideally, Office Nucleus is part of the plan for an entire built environment or extensive renovation. The modest additional investment in Office Nucleus can often be immediately offset by also employing Benco Dental’s proprietary “Just Right” operatory design. It’s about 18 percent smaller than a traditional room, meaning you can build six ops in the space of five for roughly the same cost.

While every practice’s Office Nucleus will be unique, each is designed with a specific long-term goal in mind: sustainable, flexible harmony and safety. If that sounds as appealing as a fresh PB&J,
talk to your Friendly Benco Rep or email

MELISSA SPRAU, NCIDQ is Benco Dental’s VP of Brand, Communications & Design. A graduate of Moore College of Art & Design, she has more than 13 years’ experience in facilities planning for a large health care system and several architectural firms.