Architecture and interior design: the choices of color and lighting

There are no precise answers to the best color combinations to use at the dentist’s office, but blue and green are soothing tones that are effective in relaxing patients. But in the right places you can also resort to the exciting red and orange

The design of dental offices must meet a rather heterogeneous range of needs: they must be accommodating but at the same time functional from a clinical point of view. They must convey professionalism, but not appear flashy.

A well-planned practice can be a source of daily comfort for the dentist, the team and the patient. Poorly designed, however, the studio interior can become unnecessarily expensive and difficult to maintain.
Several key elements can transform the interior environment: color, finish, lighting, furniture, art, accessories and details. Elements most effectively used by an interior design professional that requires a thorough understanding of applicable codes and appropriate specifications for finish, interior design, and lighting.

Color
The use of color is, at best, an inaccurate science. Although extensive studies have focused on the physiological and psychological effects that color has on humans, these studies tend to draw their conclusions from extremes: highly saturated (intense) shades used in large quantities or in high-contrast pairs. They do not immerse themselves in the kind of subtle use of color found in most real-life situations, especially in environments like dental offices.

While it would be very reassuring to have a list of the top three colors or the ideal color combination for the dental environment, there is no such answer. What does exist, however, is a wealth of information that enables an interior design professional to develop individualized recommendations based on specific needs. This information provides insight into a color’s tendency to influence people in different ways, but it must be interpreted through the dual prism of experience and education. Problems affecting the use of color that include hue (e.g., complementary or analog), structure (which reflects or absorbs light), and point of view (e.g., horizontal or vertical).
Although there are exceptions to each rule (based on the above variables), there are some generalizations that can be used to analyze the suitability of a color or combination of colors in the study. Blue, blue-green and green tend to be relaxing and soothing tones. They give patients a sense of calm and well-being and actually help lower blood pressure and slow down the heart rate. However, an environment that uses only these colors may seem cold and clinical, so it is best to introduce warm shades as a supplement to shades of red and orange, which have the opposite effect: they increase blood pressure, accelerate heart rate and lead to a feeling of anxiety and restlessness. Interestingly, red has also been shown to stimulate the salivary glands, making it desirable for restaurants but not for dental clinics.

The lighting
Ideally, a practice will incorporate natural lighting in the areas where patients will spend most of their time with the clinician: the reception and treatment rooms. Natural light is complemented by ambient lighting (general), activity lighting (work area) and accent lighting (decorative). Accent lighting effects can come from wall lamps (wall luminaires), suspended luminaires, rail systems, cables or rails or decorative table lamps.
When using wall lamps, they must comply with applicable regulations. To do this, they must not protrude more than 10 cm from the wall, or they must be mounted more than 2 meters above the floor. Wall lamps come in a wide variety of styles and materials and can have fluorescent or incandescent light sources.
Pendant lamps can give a very warm and inviting look to the vestibule areas. When used over the conference table in a reference room, a dimmable lamp can create a sense of comfort.
Track, cable and moving lighting systems have a certain modern taste and can give light accents, “minipendant” decorative effects or both at the same time.
Table lamps in waiting areas can add color, texture and a homely feeling of welcome.

Giorgio Perini
Professional photographer and lighting designer, expert in clinical photography in the dental field


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