You walk into the Commercial Boulevard building, and it looks like you’re about to check in to a cool boutique hotel. On one wall of the high-ceilinged room, a screen shows a tropical beach scene. A bar table with phone or laptop plug-ins faces the window; behind it against the wall, help yourself to coffee from the Keurig. Modern green-and-grey sofas are dotted around. A little room off to the side offers Xboxes hooked up to wall-mounted screens. Several staffers stand at a stylishly minimalist check-in desk. One clue to the room’s real purpose hangs from a wall near the tropical-scene screen – a white neon sign that says “Smiles made here.” But even that could be appropriate to your favorite hotel.
You won’t be staying here overnight, however. This is the new home of Benedetti Orthodontics, and Dr. Ana Benedetti wanted the place to be something a bit different.
“When people come here, the goal is that they feel comfortable,” she says. “They don’t feel like they’re in a dental office.”
Beyond the check-in and waiting area, the main dental space doesn’t look like a typical orthodontist office either. Partially open-plan, patients sit in areas with low partitions – tall enough to offer privacy for anybody sitting down, but accessible to anybody standing. Each area offers a seat where anybody accompanying a patient, usually a parent, can sit. Each space has its own television facing the dentist’s chair.
“She really tries to make the design so that the patients have the privacy they desire, but also so she can give everybody the care they need,” says Shelby Hammond, Benedetti’s front desk manager.
Benedetti and her husband, Brad – he runs the business and marketing side of the practice while she deals with mouths – spent three years and quite a few dollars on the building near the northeast corner of Commercial and Bayview Drive. The property sits across Commercial from the practice’s previous location and when they first started looking at it, they talked about redesigning the long-empty restaurant building that previously stood there. Eventually they came to the conclusion that if they really wanted the layout they envisioned, they needed to knock the old building down and build precisely what they wanted.
So that’s what they did.
They describe it as a long journey with a steep learning curve – not least about what goes into the city permitting process – but after several years, they came out of it with the modern facility they want.
“Her heart and soul has been put into this design and build,” Hammond says.
A big part of that design involves technology. It’s a paperless office with enough screens to put a midsized airport to shame. But amid all that modernity and new technology, the Benedettis also want to be a part of the community where their signs and banners are ubiquitous at local parks and ballfields. They live in Coral Ridge with their baby daughter, 7-month-old Lillian. They pride themselves on turning up for school events and fundraisers rather than just mailing checks – Brad, a saxophone player, has even jammed with the St. Mark’s School band.
Benedetti got into northeast Fort Lauderdale by buying the practice of Dr. Alvin Tight – “Bud” to everybody who knew him – who fixed several generations of teeth in northeast Fort Lauderdale before his death in 2011. Tight was known for being active in the community and at local schools; football, track and soccer players at nearby Cardinal Gibbons High School play and practice on Dr. Bud Tight Field.
This is Benedetti’s only office – there’s no other location elsewhere in South Florida – and like her predecessor, she wants to be an engaged member of the community where she lives and does business. She also wants to welcome a broad collection of patients from various economic backgrounds. There was a concern when the new facility first opened that it might be intimidating or make people think they’d be priced out. Benedetti says they thought about design but really, slick screens and comfy seats aren’t prohibitively expensive. The priciest items in the building, she says, tend to be top-end dental equipment.
“If you really look at everything, there’s nothing fancy,” she says.
In the end, the building’s design is meant largely to reflect the Benedettis’ belief in customer service. Office staff were hired from industries other than dentistry; training involves treating patients the way you might at, well, the hotel the front lobby resembles.
”One thing I said was, we can’t think of this as a dental office,” Brad Benedetti says. “What do you like in other places?”
For Ana Benedetti, it’s about comfortable patients.
“I don’t want it to smell like a dental office,” she says. “I want it to be light and clean. All that stuff brings dental-phobia.
“When people come here, the goal is that they feel comfortable. They don’t feel like they’re in a dental office.”