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
Patients who are afraid of the dentist might soon be able to escape to an alternate universe. That’s because dentists can help them leave their fears behind thanks to virtual reality.
According to Science Daily, a recent experiment found that dentists who immersed patients in virtual reality helped lower patients’ stress and pain.
Researchers from Plymouth, Exeter and Birmingham University enlisted 80 participants who needed a filling or a tooth extraction. The researchers split participants into three groups. Two groups wore VR headsets during their procedures. The third acted as the control group and did not wear headsets. The researchers administered pain medication and/or sedation to any patient who required it.
Which Universe to Choose?
Of the two groups that wore headsets, VR transported one to a calm beach environment. Meanwhile, VR allowed the other group to explore a less calming city environment.
Patients completed a survey immediately after treatment and a second survey a week later.
Those who visited a virtual beach reported less stress and pain than the other groups. A week later, this group also had a far more positive recollection of the treatment. In addition, they were more likely to return to the dentist.
Patients who visited the virtual reality city reported the same amount of stress and pain as the control group. This indicates that this virtual reality environment had no effect on their experience.
Virtual Reality in Health Care is On the Rise
Lead author Dr. Karin Tanja-Dijkstra said: “The use of virtual reality in health care settings is on the rise.” However, she continued, “…we need more rigorous evidence of whether it actually improves patient experiences. Our research demonstrates that under the right conditions, this technology can be used to help both patients and practitioners.”
The experience of the virtual city group shows that simply distracting patients with any sort of VR might not make dental work more relaxing. It seems that in order for the VR environment to help, the environment must be calm and soothing, like a beach.
The success of the virtual beach is not a surprise. Previous research has shown that the average person is most relaxed in this type of environment.
A 2015 study found that even spending time in an aquarium can improve mood and also reduce heart rate and blood pressure.
Virtual Reality Beaches are Relaxing
The real surprise from the recent study was the stark difference between the two groups’ experiences. Dr. Melissa Auvray, a dentist involved in the study, said feedback the researchers received from the patients who visited a virtual beach was “fantastic.” Adding to the findings’ significance is the current popularity of sedation dentistry.
“The benefit of the VR is that with sedation patients need to have someone with them to help them home afterwards,” Dr. Auvray noted. In addition, Auvray said, “the dentist and dental nurse need further training. However, …any dentist with a dental degree could learn to use the VR kit, and it could benefit patients.”
The research team plans to determine whether a virtual beach could achieve the same results for patients undergoing more serious procedures. Such studies will likely involve improved versions of the beach environment that the researchers designed to make medical treatment as relaxing as humanly possible.
Read next: Dental Anxiety? Sedation Dentistry Could Help
For some people, dental appointments are routine. For others, dental anxiety makes the process a serious ordeal. Fortunately, modern dentistry is an advanced science that typically results in positive outcomes. Here are some of the myths and misconceptions people face when planning dental visits. We’ll also share a few tricks that make your worries easier to overcome.
What Are Dental Anxieties and Phobias?
Dispel dental fears based on myths with a fact-based, scientific point of view.
Experts group fears of going to the dentist into two general categories. They use the term “dental anxiety” when speaking about a normal level of fear. When fear affects functionality, dentists use the term “dental phobia.”
Dental anxiety is a normal level of concern about dental visits. Experts associate it with simple issues. Some of these are fear of pain, bad prior experiences, mistrust of injections, or worries about the side effects of anesthetic procedures.
Dental phobias occur when such fears increase to levels that make it extremely difficult for people to function. Unfortunately, phobias may prevent individuals from taking care of their teeth until it’s absolutely necessary.
Are Dental Anxieties Unrealistic?
Many of these worries reflect valid concerns. For instance, injections are typically associated with some level of discomfort. Similarly, anesthetics commonly come with side effects, such as dizziness or lasting numbness. However, when fears become so intense they affect other areas of your life, it’s important to get them under control.
Fight Fear with Understanding
One way to combat dental fears is to empower yourself with knowledge. Patients have the right to know as much as possible about why they’re undergoing different procedures and what each entails.
Learning more about their options can usually help people come to terms with the necessities of oral care. Educating yourself is also an important part of building a more trusting relationship with your dentist. Doing so can truly help to ease your fears.
Dealing with Specific Myths
It’s easy to work yourself up about anything you’re worried about. The following dental misconceptions, however, commonly seem far worse than they really are:
All Dental Procedures Hurt
It would be dishonest to say that no dental treatments cause pain. What you have to remember, however, is that the vast majority don’t and that the pain associated with letting your problems worsen is generally far more severe.
For instance, nobody likes having cavities excavated, but if you just ignore them, you’ll require extensive dental work and possibly way more painful root canals. Getting treated as early as possible may not always be comfortable, but it definitely feels better than the alternatives.
I Feel Like I’m Not in Control During Dental Visits
Some individuals feel embarrassed or helpless when they let hygienists and dental professionals into their personal space. While this is somewhat natural, it’s important to remember that you’re always in control.
Even though you likely lack the dental knowledge that your doctor or nurse possesses, you can really increase your comfort with what they’re doing by learning about it in advance.
Most dental offices are absolutely happy to share literature detailing what goes on during different procedures so that you can keep yourself informed even though you won’t be able to watch what’s happening to your teeth in real time.
I Lack Sufficient Dental Insurance
When properly managed, dental care doesn’t have to be expensive. There are a huge array of dental insurance plans that make it much easier for people to care for themselves and their families without straining their finances, and once again, staying on the ball helps reduce care costs.
The price tags associated with in-depth procedures and long-overdue corrective work are much higher than what you’ll pay for simple preventive care, so confronting your need for dental work head-on can save you massive amounts of stress down the line.
Making Trips to the Dentist Easier
Remember, dental care doesn’t have to be a pain. Even if you suffer from severe dental anxiety, you’ll find that managing your misconceptions and becoming more informed makes it much easier to make responsible decisions about your teeth.
To learn more about dental insurance and the common issues people have with planning dental visits, check out our other blogs. Or if we missed a common misconception that affects someone you know, share it in the comments below.
Read next: Best Individual Dental Insurance Plans
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