One of the most important decisions a dentist makes when designing their practice is which patient chair they’ll use. Each operatory is centered around the chair, making it a critical element of both the design and functionality of the office. With a wide variety of looks, features, and options, and many manufacturers to choose from, selecting a chair can seem overwhelming!
We’re here to help, with the insight gleaned from listening to thousands of dentists and practitioners over decades.
Note: for the purposes of this article, we’re focused on chairs intended for general practice dentistry. Specialty chairs, such as orthodontic or surgical chairs, will have additional unique features that need to also be considered.
● Getting Started
● Best Dental Chair: Considerations for the dentist
● Best Dental Chair: Considerations for the patients
● Best Dental Chair: Considerations for the staff
● Options from Forest Options from Forest
What do you really need to understand before making a purchasing decision? When choosing the best dental chair for your practice, there are several audiences to think about. The first that likely comes to mind is which chair works best for the way you practice dentistry, such as whether you prefer to sit or stand, or both. Another audience is your staff, and which features will help facilitate both efficiency and ergonomics for them. Arguably the most important audience is your patients, and whether the chair keeps them comfortable and properly positioned throughout treatment.
Not unlike other large investments - like buying a new car - you’ll want to experience the chair first-hand; sit in it, “kick the tires”, test drive it. You want to feel how smoothly it operates, the comfort and stability, and how easy it is to access the patient's oral cavity from a number of angles. Given the expense involved in purchasing chairs, you will also want to check on both the warranty and the reputability of the manufacturer.
So where does this test drive happen?
Since COVID changed how we gather, many of the usual places that traditionally served as spaces to see and touch chairs have temporarily closed or been modified. However, as life resumes a more normal tempo, many options will start to become available again. In the meantime, there are other options to get the job done.
Pre-pandemic, trade shows used to be the gold standard for access to the largest variety of dental chair options. You could walk around and visit the booths of many manufacturers, and they often had their most popular and their newest, most innovative designs on the floor for you to see and test. While large-scale shows are slowly returning, smaller shows or dealer showrooms are a good way to at least see a few different chairs. And if you have a manufacturer you’re particularly interested in, they will often have a showroom set up (similar to a car dealer!) to allow visitors to see several models. If you’re working with a dealer, you can even ask them to put you in contact with other dentists who have been outfitted with specific dental chairs and arrange to visit their offices off-hours and check out their suites.
Considerations for the dentist
As the practice leader, you’ll want a dental chair that works for you.
Assess it for sturdiness and quality. Literally – with someone laying in the chair, adjust the seat to its highest elevation, and then try to gently rock the chair back and forth. This exercise is easier if the chair has equipment mounted to it, as you can grip one of the posts to attempt rocking the chair. A stable chair will resist rocking the patient in any way, while the baseplate of the chair should not move or rock at all. Also get a sense of whether the chair uses metals and sturdier plastics, vs. more temporary materials. Ask about the types of metal and plastic used and look for high quality rust and corrosion resistant materials that will stand up to fluids and disinfection practices, like aluminum. An investment like this should be built to last.
Then, start working through your preferences. Do you prefer to stand up during procedures? Sit down? Both? Do you approach from the right? Left? Both? Find a dental chair that offers you the options you want, and the customizability of the settings to align with your approach. For seated procedures you’ll want to sit in a dental stool, roll it up close to the dental chair, and ensure the configuration is comfortable; that the angles are conducive to how you operate, and the back plate is thin and accommodating enough to allow you to get as close as you need to the patient. Are you fitting comfortably? Knees, hips, wrists, and neck - all where you want? Make sure there’s nothing hanging over the back of the chair that you’ll bang your knees into, and that the base and back of the chair do not prevent you from getting up close to the patient from various treatment positions.
You also want a chair that moves the way you need it to, so raise and lower the chair. Does it move smoothly? Does it place the patient correctly? Often chairs have multiple preset options - check that feature for smoothness and consistency. Have someone sit in the chair to act as your patient and adjust the headrest so it positions the head to naturally expose the various parts of the oral cavity you need to access.
Cost is of course a major consideration. The best dental chair for you is the one that offers what you want at a price you can afford. Determine your budget and find the chair that offers the most within that budget. But also keep in mind, this is an investment you, your staff and your patients will center around for many years; it’s not a place to cut corners or make rash decisions. Be sure you’re protected with a solid warranty. You can expect the warranty for the chair you select to be around 5 years, while the upholstery for the chair typically comes with a separate, shorter, warranty due to the nature of its usage. For instance, the Forest line carries a 5-year chair warranty and a 2-year upholstery warranty.
Patient comfort and safety
For your patients, the experience they’ll have in your chair can make or break their overall perception of dental treatment. You want them to be comfortable for the duration of their procedure. Part of the patient's comfort level stems from your own comfort, as your comfort enables you to stay calm and efficient, but for now let's put ourselves entirely in the patient's shoes. Sit in the chair as if you were a patient; does the chair support your head, back, and legs comfortably? Do you feel comfortable, even slightly cradled? Does the chair move smoothly while you are in it? Is the cushion soft yet supportive, providing consistent comfort and stability? You should also consider bringing a friend or colleague in to sit in the chair for a trusted second opinion.
Comfort starts at first sight. Choose a dental chair with enough customizability to match your office design vision, in style, color and quality. Next is the feel of the chair. Is the material soft and inviting? Are there design enhancements that you and your patient will love? Unique colors, seamed and seamless options, the luxe of Ultraleather? Some of these options might seem frivolous but those investments often also come with intangible or unexpected long-term benefits. For example, you might think the buttery softness of Ultraleather means it’s less durable, but it is actually more resistant to damage. The Forest 3900 chair by DENTALEZ has a surprising range of exceptional options at an impressively affordable price, including Ultraleather standard.
Consider your specific patient population and the unique needs of the demographics you’ll serve. Does the practice serve an aging population? If so, evaluate whether the armrests move easily, and if the chair raises and lowers in a configuration such that aging patients can get in and out easily, and that the motion is smooth. Lie in it for several minutes, to see if it stays comfortable over time. Does it offer exceptional lumbar support, or neck support for aging or stiff necks? Will there be a significant portion of your demographic that is obese? Check if the chair can not only support the range of weight but moves smoothly as it adjusts.
Also consider the types of procedures you perform most often. If anesthesia is involved, for example, smoothness of motion takes on a heightened importance. Speed of movement is a variable many dentists feel strong preferences for; ensure the dental chair moves at the speed you want.
Don’t forget your staff
Your staff likely has as many opinions about what features are in the best dental chair as you do. As the other sets of hands, they need the same ease of access to the patient as you do. Your staff can have the same broad span of heights and sizes as your patients; ask yourself if the dental chair you’re researching can accommodate that variety. Do you typically want the staff to also move the chair? Look for a dental chair with the option for controls on both sides for dual access. If they also have setting preferences, seek out the option to have two incline presets.
The Perfect Dental Chairs for your Operatory
Among the choices on the marketplace, dental chairs by Forest are well known and revered for their quality, comfort, appearance and longevity, providing exceptional comfort and flexibility.
Their streamlined, ergonomic designs provide clear sight lines and better access to the oral cavity. In particular, the Forest 3900 dental chair is widely recognized as the only mid-priced chair on the market with many of the same features as much more expensive chairs. It features molded rather than vacuum-formed plastics for longevity and better fit; uses steel and aluminum instead of plastic wherever possible for reliability and durability; plush foam cushion with optional massager for increased patient comfort; and higher quality paints and upholstery that will look as sharp as they did on installation day for years to come. If you are not in the market for the standard and optional premium features offered by the 3900 chair, then the Forest 3800 chair offers much of the same build quality and high-end plastics and metals, as well as the same warranty, at a lower price point.
With durable construction, inviting styles, and a wealth of options, Forest chairs and equipment are an excellent consideration for your practice.
As you can see, there’s a lot of information to consider as you shop for the perfect dental chair for you, your staff, and your patients!! It truly is one of the most important decisions you’ll make and gathering information will help you feel more confident about your final selection. Your dealer representative will have a wealth of knowledge about many manufacturers and chair types and will typically have a showroom where you can “kick the tires” on multiple chairs and gather information. Some dentists will take recommendations from their dealer service technician, like asking a mechanic how they feel about certain car brands. Asking colleagues, reading online reviews, and visiting the manufacturers website are all great options for information gathering too.
Above all else, trust your instincts because the chair you select must fit your unique needs.
Click here to learn more about the Forest DENTALEZ line of patient chairs.