Patients who are wary of the dentist may be able to relax at last. More and more dental practices around the US now offer the type of treatment you’d see in a spa.
Could a dental spa, with things like massage chairs, paraffin wax, warm blankets and movies, make you look forward to the dentist?
Oscar Suarez, 29, admits he used to “always get nervous” before he saw a dentist. “You think, it’s going to be long, it’s going to be painful, I’m going to have to wait,” he told Greenwich Time.
Learn more: Ways to Avoid a Painful Visit to the Dentist
Those days are gone now that Suarez is a patient of a dental spa called Tri-City Dental Care, one of several Washington state dental practices that offer “spa-like” treatments.
Before the dentist gets to work, patients like Suarez can dip their hands into warm wax that softens their skin. The calming scent of lavender fills the room. Headphones play music or a TV plays as they sit in a dental chair that massages them.
The Dental Spa Concept: Turn Dread to Excitement
“When I opened the practice, I wanted to bring a good experience to every person coming in,” said Dr. Antonio Lopez-Ibarra, who owns the dental spa. “We wanted to do something where people felt comfortable in the chair.”
We wanted to do something where people felt comfortable in the chair…
The dental spa perks at Tri-City Dental Care include aromatherapy, calm music, and loads of movies to watch.
“It’s nice that when you come to a place like this, you’re not looking toward that chair, you’re looking forward to what you’re going to experience. It throws off the edge,” Suarez added.
Not Your Usual Forms to Fill Out
Among the first practices to experiment with a spa-like experience is Double Take Dental in Orem, Utah. Along with the types of things above, Double Take Dental supplies bottled water, a warm towel, a stress ball and a cool eye mask.
According to the Daily Herald, patients who come in for an exam, to have their teeth cleaned, or to have other work done fill out an “amenities card” to tailor their visit.
“Every time someone new comes in, they look at the card, and say, ‘I’ve never seen this before.’ For many, we almost have to encourage them to pick amenities,” said Double Take Dental office manager Jordan Davis.
Patients are More Willing to Make the Trip
The idea for the spa-like style emerged when the practice decided it had to set itself apart from competitors. Proof of success? How about patients who travel far beyond their hometown solely for this type of service?
Larry Blocker, for example, flies to Orem from Southern California to treat an ongoing oral condition twice a year.
“I flew in last night, and I fly back out tomorrow. I came just to have this done,” he told the Daily Herald. “Flying here and flying back tells you how much I like it.”
Patty Cox drives nearly 120 miles to Double Take, a trip the 66-year-old says she’ll make “until I die.”
More Talking, Less Rushing
Double Take’s patient-first style makes the staff more relaxed as well. This is due in part to the decreased significance of time limits in appointments.
Dr. Cameron Blake has worked in a number of practices and says they all felt rushed. That kept him from getting to know his patients and answering their questions.
How to Choose a Dentist – With something as important as choosing a dentist, it’s vital you make a well-informed choice.
“Here I can take the time to explain things to my patients without the rush to get to the next patient. I can take time to focus on their needs and concerns. I want them to have knowledge about all options available, so they can make an educated decision, and feel good about their decision and its result,” Dr. Black said.
With more and more practices popping up, you can only expect patient experience to become an even bigger priority for dentists looking to cement loyalty and brand awareness.
Know someone who would love to try a dental spa? Go ahead — share!
Read next: 4 Most Overlooked Oral Health Problems
The Scary Root Canal That Turned Out Fabulous
One scary childhood experience at the dentist office left me refusing sugary treats, brushing after every bite of food or drink of anything other than water and flossing twice a day for my entire life. Those healthy dental habits kept my mouth in great shape right up until the day that I turned 40, and a dental filling promptly fell right out while I was enjoying my sugar-free birthday cake.
I didn’t believe it when everyone told me that dentistry had come a long way from the dark ages of my childhood, and I made the horrible mistake of leaving my tooth unprotected for months. Eventually, the tooth fell apart, and I knew that I would need a root canal. I couldn’t have been any more afraid if I’d found a thief in my kitchen in the night.
As it turned out, there was no need for all of that worry, fear and anxiety. I feel more than a little silly that I let a perceived childhood trauma keep me from caring for myself better, but at least I know better now.
My Root Canal Journey
• White-Knuckled Grip: I knew that both my extreme anxiety and fear were very real when the dental assistants had to keep trying to pry my fingers off of the dental chair. The dentist came in and asked me why my eyes were so huge and my face was pale as a ghost, and then I heard him tell his assistants that I was scared to death.
Those ladies sprang into action with some very creative ideas that made me forget to be afraid. They had me hold one leg up while they counted, then the other leg and then each arm. I relaxed. One then picked up the book that I had brought and read it to me throughout the entire procedure.
The dentist asked me repeatedly how I was doing, and I was surprised to find that I was actually doing fine. I couldn’t be more surprised to report that I actually didn’t feel any discomfort during my root canal. The worst part for me was the x-rays, and they quickly moved me to a machine that could take the x-rays without them having to gag me.
• Recovery Tales: Those same people who were telling me not to be afraid to get the root canal were also telling me that the recovery would be long and painful. They said I would miss at least a week of work, and I wouldn’t even be able to take my children to school. Fortunately, they were extremely wrong about that. I was a little uncomfortable my first night, but the dentist had prescribed a pain killer for me that did the job. The next day I was up and back to work, and the day after that I was eating normally.
• The Bill Arrives: I didn’t have dental insurance through my job, so I was a little apprehensive about how much that great care I received from the dentist was going to set me back. You can imagine my immense relief when the bill said only $20 was left owing. It turned out that the little dental policy I had bought on my own had paid everything except that little co-pay.
Take Care of Yourself
What I’ve learned from this experience is that we all need to take better care of ourselves. Don’t let unreasonable fears keep you away from your doctor or dentist, and you should make sure to have some good insurance in place before something can go wrong.
It all started with a call to a Transylvania outreach program for reformed vampires…
A little over two years ago, my then nine year old son, Theo, had to get two teeth pulled, his “canines”, or fangs as they say in the underworld. These were baby teeth that needed to be removed because his adult teeth coming in were looking impacted.
Our dentist wanted to “clear the decks” by pulling these teeth so the permanent teeth had more room to come in properly. This simple extraction would hopefully avoid a more complicated set of procedures later.
My son, having first-hand knowledge of my wife’s many dental phobias, was very skeptical of anything the dentist had to say. I’m a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, and I didn’t want Theo’s negative vibes to potentially derail his recovery. So, how could I get a nine year old to be interested in having two teeth pulled?
Tell him his sacrifice will save the life of a vampire.
What? You heard me. SAVE THE LIFE OF A VAMPIRE. Enter Hector, an undead blood sucker looking to take his life in a new direction. (In truth, it was my buddy Tim from upstate New York, but he did a great vampire impersonation and that was all I needed.)
Which brings us back to where we started, a call to a Transylvania outreach program for reformed vampires. We made the call and we were immediately connected to Hector, a vampire from Brussels (turned in the early 1800s) who had relocated to Transylvania. Tired of being chased by angry crowds with pitchforks, Hector had recently gone through the de-fanging process and was trying to blend in with the human world.
Theo had an instant bond his new undead buddy. Turns out, Hector was not a big fan of dentists either. Having your blood sucking fangs yanked is a frightening proposition, and — unlike my son’s baby teeth — vampire teeth don’t come back.
Hector’s recent shift from denizen of the night to dishwasher at an all-night diner had gone very smoothly. He was now hoping to move up the corporate ladder and become a waiter. Unfortunately, he was too shy to work the tables with huge gaps in his smile. Hector thought it was a dead (no pun intended) give-away to be missing his canines in this part of the world. He was sure the locals would figure out his real back story and start chasing him around with pitchforks yet again.
“I don’t vant to bite your necks anymore…”
Enter my son’s teeth. Over the next two weeks, Hector and Theo swapped stories, a friendship bloomed, and promises of shiny new teeth were made.
My name is Hector, and I vill be your vaiter this evening.
On a crisp Monday morning, Theo and I went to the dentist carrying three things: The hopes and dreams of a reformed vampire, a sterilized specimen jar from the biology lab, and a well-padded shipping envelope. The extractions were done in an easy half hour and within another twenty minutes the teeth were packed in the jar, sealed in the envelope, and en route to Transylvania via our local post office.
We heard back from Hector a week later. The transplant had been a success and, new smile intact, he was starting his first shift as a waiter that very evening. He couldn’t send us a selfie for obvious “vampires don’t show up on film” reasons, but he assured Theo that the teeth looked awesome and sent a little sketch he did of himself.
It’s two years later and my son’s adult canines have worked their way into proper positions in his ever-so-sweet smile. We will always be thankful to Hector for helping Theo find the strength to “sacrifice” his own smile to save another’s.
We’re hoping to one day make the journey to Transylvania to see Hector, but for now, the three-by-five self-portrait of our undead friend will have to do.
The Dental Dad is written by Shawn Patrick, General Manager of DentalInsurance.com. Shawn lives in Los Angeles with his lovely wife, 2 sons, Mac the dog, and three fish who shall remain nameless.
Some dentists are great at putting kids at ease.
Unfortunately, not every kid with dental phobia can be put at ease by a dentist who dresses up as the tooth fairy. And not every father has the comic skill and parental panache to turn Hermie’s horrifying dentistry in the 1964 animated TV special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” into a lesson on the importance of proper dental hygiene.
(Who can ever forget the “misfit” elf brandishing those gruesome pliers after extracting the Abominable Snow Monster’s teeth?)
Dental phobia or fear is, of course, no laughing matter. But there is a great deal that parents, caregivers and dentists can do – and are doing – to help kids get through the experience of a trip to the dentist with a smile.
Let’s take a look at some of the most effective interventions for dealing with dental fear in children.
What’s the most effective treatment of dental phobia in children?
As in so many things in life, when it comes to kids and fear of the dentist, good communication is key.
Parents, caregivers and dentists all have a role to play in setting the stage for not only a good first visit to the dentist’s office, but a lifelong commitment to regular, professional dental care without fear and anxiety. How we frame those initial experiences with words can be very important.
Before the first trip to the dentist
To help ensure things go well during the first visit, your dentist may provide you with some “dos” and “don’ts” in advance. Things like, when talking to kids about the dentist and what goes on during a visit to the dentist’s office, avoid using words like “hurt,” “pain,” “shot,” and other words that have a negative or fearful connotation.
Rule of thumb: only say things that are positive.
Also, experts recommend parents answer children’s questions about the dentist, but, they suggest, don’t go into a lot of unnecessary detail. Be brief. If you don’t know the answer, or if the answer is a little on the complex side, suggest that you and your child save the question for, who else? The dentist. After all, they’re the ones who have years of training and a lot of practice talking to kids about what they do in non-threatening, kid-friendly ways.
…answer children’s questions about the dentist, but don’t go into a lot of unnecessary detail.
Above all, never tell kids about the time you had a terrible (or even unpleasant) time at the dentist. Instead, be sure they understand how important it is to take good care of their teeth. Let them know the dentist and dental office staff members are nice, friendly folks who enjoy helping people, both big and small, be as healthy and happy as they can be.
At the dentist’s office
Even if you’ve done your best to prepare your child for their new experience, it’s not uncommon, and it’s completely natural, for kids to be afraid sometimes. Some kids detest spiders. Others won’t go near a clown. Whether a child cries or throws a temper tantrum, any dentist who regularly works with children will have an array of techniques at her fingertips to put kids more at ease.
Again, in many cases it comes down to good communication. Many dentists who work with kids are quite adept at regulating their tone of voice, so that they are able to go from warm and comforting to gently commanding as the circumstances dictate.
Some dentists use a technique called “show, tell, and do.” It’s a way to explain, step by step, what tools the dentist is using, how they’re used, and what the dentist is going to do next. Pediatric dentists are also trained to use language that’s appropriate for the kids they work with, and there’s a good chance yours will use kid-friendly props – such as a giant tooth or doll – to show your kids what they’re about to do.
Distraction is another communication skill that dentists use to put kids at ease.
Distraction is another communication skill that dentists use to put kids at ease. Telling stories or having a conversation can help dentists focus kids’ attention somewhere other than on the procedure itself. And when needed, most dentists know that when it comes to kids’ behaviors, simple body language can go a long way toward accentuating the positive and discouraging, if not eliminating, the negative.
What can you do if nothing seems to help?
In some instances, it may take more than clever communication to help your child get through their time in the chair. In such cases, a dentist may recommend that a child use safe and effective medications such as nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) during their visit or take an oral sedative beforehand.
Finally, if you or your dentist feel your child’s fear of going to the dentist is extreme or out of control, therapy may be the answer. Therapeutic techniques, including psychotherapy (exploring the source of the fear), cognitive behavioral therapy (practicing practical strategies for dealing with it), and hypnotherapy, may help a child overcome their fears so they can receive and maintain the professional dental care they deserve.
Everyone is afraid of something. Learning how to face our fears is part of growing up.
Everyone is afraid of something. Learning how to face our fears is part of growing up. And you may be surprised. One day, a young adult who was frightened by a routine dental exam, teeth cleaning, or other dental procedure as a child just may decide that they, like Rudolph’s nerdy buddy Hermie, want to be a dentist.
Have you helped a child get past their fear of the dentist? What worked for you? Post your tips or a comment in the Reply section below!
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If the mere mention of the word “dentist” makes you tense, you’re not alone. As many as 20% of Americans have said they avoid going to the dentist altogether due to anxiety or fear. Fortunately, there are many different ways to deal with dental anxiety or dental phobia (which results in even deeper panic than dental anxiety). With a little effort, those fears can be overcome – and your health doesn’t have to suffer.
Experts agree that acknowledging the cause of one’s dental anxiety or dental phobia is the best first step toward overcoming it.
Causes of dental anxiety or dental phobia
Commonly-reported reasons why people have dental anxiety or dental phobia include the following:
Previous bad experiences. An insensitive dentist or a scary memory from a childhood dental visit or embarrassment over dental issues can build up steam over time to create debilitating dental anxiety.
Powerlessness. Lying down in a chair and allowing someone to probe around your mouth without being able to see what’s going requires an enormous amount of trust. There’s no denying we have very little control over what happens once the dentist starts an examination of our mouths.
Dental Phobia’s Curse: Dental anxiety overshadows the reality that neglecting oral health can lead to grave consequences.
Scary anecdotes. Everybody’s heard a nightmare story or two about dental visits gone horribly wrong. They tend to spring to mind just as you’re reclining in the dental chair, don’t they?
Fear of pain. This seems to be universal. Unexpected pain is commonly known as a “bummer.”
Often our dental anxiety or phobia overshadows the reality that neglecting dental health can lead to grave consequences. Increasingly, medical science points to a connection between oral health and overall body health. If we’re to maintain a healthy body, dental anxiety and dental phobia cannot be allowed to stand in the way.
Tips for dealing with dental anxiety or dental phobia
Here are five tips for making headway against dental anxiety or dental phobia:
1. Communicate. Talk to your dentist about your concerns. Remember that a dentist is a trained professional. You aren’t the first patient to come in with dental phobia. Working with your dentist on your anxieties can take the pressure off trying to manage them alone. Just the act of expressing verbally what’s been locked in your head can lighten the load too.
2. Relax. Practicing some form of deep breathing or meditative exercise like yoga is a great way to put your body ahead of your mind. If your body is relaxed, it’s very difficult for your mind to be anxious.
3. Distract yourself. Often, the sounds of a dentist’s office are enough to get one’s mind racing. Drills, sounds from other examination rooms, and general office conversation can trigger anxious thoughts. Many dentists now offer their patients mp3 players loaded with a wide selection of music or audio entertainment to shut out the auditory stimulus that fuels dental phobia.
4. Plan. Try to schedule your dental appointments at times when you won’t be otherwise under pressure. Squeezing an exam between meetings or during a short lunch will only serve to put the pressure on.
5. Sedation. Finally, you can always discuss sedation options with your dentist. Various sedatives offer a range of choices, from light relaxation to completely putting you under for the duration of your visit.
Dental anxiety and dental phobia is very common. No one needs to go through it alone. Acknowledge the fear, talk it out, and above all, put your dental health above your anxieties. The resulting smile is worth it.
Have you overcome dental phobia? How did you tame your anxiety? We’d love to hear your story!
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Fear of the Dentist