Matlack-Van Every Design confronted the COVID-19 pandemic head-on when giving Dunn Orthodontics a space that speaks to the future of orthodontic office design.

Practice name: Dunn Orthodontics

Location: Sellersburg, Ind

Square feet: 4,222

Designer: Joyce Matlack, ASID; Matlack-Van Every Design Inc

Project Time Frame: 15 months

Completed: April 2021

Christopher S. Dunn, DMD, MS, came to designer Joyce Matlack, ASID, with a straightforward request: Increase the office’s square footage while accommodating the practice’s changing digital workflow. Little did he know that within months the project would become a test lab of sorts for post-pandemic orthodontic office design. 

 Throughout the pandemic, Matlack served as a member of the AAO COVID-19 Task Force, where aerosol mitigation was a key topic of discussion. As she worked on Dunn’s office, Matlack was acutely aware of and interested in how design could address this issue in the orthodontic clinic. With Dunn on board, she used his office to explore the future of orthodontic office design, specifically, how to mitigate aerosols in the orthodontic office, and all without overwhelming the budget. 

Matlack and Dunn contacted North Carolina-based 3Flow, a company specializing in systemic analysis, testing, and implementation of optimal airflow systems for critical workspaces and mixed-use facilities. Following 3Flow’s recommendations, Matlack and Dunn divided the ortho bay chairs with high divider walls and then corrected the space’s airflow and installed two private negative air pressure rooms on each end of the clinic. 

When it came to aesthetics and flow, Matlack worked with the architect to orient the ortho bay to face north, and then incorporated large windows to take advantage of the orientation. The result: a picturesque view and a space that feels expansive. Taking her cue from the view, Matlack incorporated the outside greens and sky blues into the color palette. Plants were brought in to foster a calming vibe. For the chair dividers, she opted for textured glass to avoid interrupting the flow of natural light. 

The reception area is spacious and filled with natural light. It features separate seating with plenty of room available to rearrange the chairs when hosting large meetings. Plants were used to bring the outdoors in.

When entering the practice, patients are greeted in a space that extends on either side of the front desk, leaving enough room to easily reconfigure the seating to accommodate patients, parents, and future meetings as social distancing requirements change. With the pandemic in mind, the decision was made to use the coffee bar space for bottled water for now. When the practice is comfortable, the space is ready to offer coffee to visitors. Wipeable fabrics were chosen for much of the reception area seating. Indoor plants were added to this space as well. 

Much of the project was managed virtually, including the site visit walk-thru during construction. And while Matlack admits the need to manage the project virtually over FaceTime was a challenge, Dunn was pleased with the results, summing up the finished space with one word: “Fantastic.” 


The ortho bay has 3 divider walls with four semi-private chairs and two private rooms at each end. The configuration allows for a lot of flexibility with the function of each space.

Matlack-Van Every Design on design trends:

  • The pandemic is causing practices to rethink toothbrushing stations and coffee bars. If utilizing toothbrushing stations, Matlack recommends using divider panels with more space between sinks. For coffee bars, have the power and waterline available in case you want to bring it back in the future. 
  • Virtual consults and remote monitoring require more attention to your office’s electrical needs. Matlack says it’s more important than ever to work closely with your IT company to ensure electrical requirements are in place to meet current and future needs. 
  • Gaming areas are being omitted in many offices. The pandemic has changed how comfortable people are with touching things that others have touched. Plus, most kids will bring along their own handheld gaming system. OP