Dental cabinetry is constantly exposed to water.  So building it to perform well in the potential for water leaks and spills is important.  The two most common materials used for dental cabinet construction are particle board and plywood. These two types of wood react very differently when exposed to water, this post is to help you understand the pros and cons of particle board vs. plywood construction.

What is the difference between Particle Board and Plywood?

Particle board is made up of wood chips, sawdust and resin which is compressed under high pressure and heat to create a tight bond between the wood pieces and glue. Particle board has a low density, making it easy for water to seep in and cause it to swell.

Plywood is also an engineered wood product.  Layers of wood veneer are pressed and bonded together to create plywood.  The grain in each layer is alternated in a manufacturing process called cross-gaining.  This technique reduces shrinkage and expansion, makes the plywood stronger, and gives it consistent strength throughout the sheet. Plywood is very water resistant.

Plywood is made from layers of wood bonded together
Particle board is made from wood chips and sawdust bonded together

The Experiment

We did a simple experiment to see just what happened when each type of wood was exposed to water for an extended period of time.  We submerged a 6” square piece of each laminated 5/8” particle board and plywood for 14 hours.  

Two wood samples were fully submerged in water for 14 hours.

The Results

In just 14 hours the particle board had absorbed enough water to make it swell ¼”.  The plywood had swelled marginally, about 1/16” inch. The particle board had swelled horizontally and vertically, leaving the plastic laminate surface dimpled and rough, and the edges bulging. The plastic laminate surface on the plywood sample showed no visible signs of water damage, and quickly dried out and shrank back to almost its original dimension.  The particle board took forever to dry out, and never did shrink back to its original size.

The particle board swelled about 1/4″
The plywood swelled about 1/16″
Dimpled and rough surface of the laminate on the particle board sample
No visible damage to the plastic laminate on the plywood sample

This simple test revealed the quality of dental cabinets.  There is no visible difference between the two types of wood on the outside, but what’s inside is what really matters.  Here at Bow Wood we use plywood for all of our sink cabinets and in our Signature series, all cabinet bottoms are made from plywood.

Searching for the Best Dental Cabinetry Around?

At Bow Wood, we’re happy to work with our clients to find the perfect solution no matter what kind of office cabinets they’re looking for. If you’re in the market for a new dental cabinet system for your practice, our team is here to help. Contact us today!