About 36 percent of people in the United States have dentophobia, the fear of dental treatment. It isn’t exactly irrational, considering that many visits involve at least some measure of pain, blood, needles, and the sound of whirring tools inside our mouths. Little can be done about the realities of dental procedures, but what if dental clinics were designed to alleviate those anxieties in other ways? Architecture firm YYA / Yusuke Yoshino Architects hoped to create a more tranquil environment with “Dentistry in the Forest,” a private home with an attached dental clinic located in the city of Tanabe, Japan.

Calming wooden exterior of the YYA-designed

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The fact that the clinic is a live/work environment goes a long way towards giving it a homey vibe, which is instantly more relaxing than a sterile institutional facility. The dentist, a director in Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture, will use this new location as a second home base. Set in an area full of medical facilities and just down the street from a nature-rich area with parks and museums, the location straddles the line between the professionalism of a more conventional setting and the comfort of a home.

View into the

Natural wood interiors of YYA's

Calming minimalist lobby space in YYA's Dentistry in the Forest clinic.

“We thought it would be best to create a simple and relaxing environment stripped of stress and fear, an easy place for patients to visit,” the architects explain. “It is also the client’s desire to contribute to the community as a dentist by being able to create this project. As an architectural project, the essence of this design emerged by combining the management philosophy of the dental clinic with the architectural solution.”

View out at tranquil rock gardens from a Dentistry in the Forest clinic treatment room.

Calming rock gardens and lush greenery surround the Dentistry in the Forest clinic on all sides.

First and foremost is curb appeal. The plot is designed with plenty of trees in both the front and back, with large windows looking out at them from the lobby and treatment areas. From the moment they walk up, patients can see that this is no ordinary dental clinic. Inside, they’ll find beautiful spaces lined entirely with wood for a warm and cozy feeling. The exterior walls are made of unpainted cedar wood cladding, and the interior is finished with structural plywood. Once seated in the chair, each patient will be able to gaze at branches gently waving in the breeze as their treatment commences.

View outside from a wooden treatment room in YYA's Dentistry in the Forest clinic.

According to the firm, “the private rooms were first arranged assuming the patients would not be threatened by a fearful feeling, but instead with a relaxed environment as they look at the forest in front of them. The rest of the spaces are allocated as necessary to support the dentistry functions. The second floor has a residential function, and its shape has a set back from the private rooms on the ground floor. The solution was not to prioritize a wide space, but we had a desire to create a space for treatment within it.”

Upper floor of the Dentistry in the Forest clinic features a full-fledged living space, or a potential addition to the clinic itself.

Second floor terrace of Japan's soothing Dentistry in the Forest clinic.

“To solve the problem in a deductive way, design started from the treatment space and then passed to deciding on other elements, thereby eliminating any arbitrary operations and making the space for the patients the first priority. The idea was to create a dental clinic that would be easy for patients to come to, and that they would return to again and again.”

Wooden exterior of the YYA-designed

The dentist’s private living quarters on the second floor are designed so that in the future, they could be used to expand the clinical facilities. He might not always want to live there, and wants to leave open the possibility of creating a special treatment area for children. The architects designed the floors with space for the necessary pipes and utilities so that it would be possible without a significant remodel.