Despite the fact that dentistry is considered one of the 10 most trusted and ethical professions in the United States, there are a fair number of Americans whose fear of the dentist keeps them from taking care of their teeth. From a mild case of the nerves to genuine dental phobia, many adults and children alike dread going to the dentist. In fact, data shows that approximately 80% of Americans have some anxiety regarding dental treatment, while anywhere from 5% to 20% experience severe dental anxiety.
Given the importance of oral health, some dentists are going the extra mile to calm patients and provide a totally different kind of experience — one that may actually make patients look forward to scheduling their bi-yearly appointments. After all, the AAPD recommends that kids and teens see a pediatric dentist every six months for regular checkups.
By 2018, there were approximately 61 working dentists per every 100,000 people throughout the nation. And employment of dentists is expected to grow 19% between 2016 and 2026. But not all dentists approach their practices the same way. Traditionally, patients might expect to sit in a sterile looking room, lie back in a chair, and wait for the torture to begin. There are some dentists, however, who are making efforts to improve the overall atmosphere.
Although dentists still rely on much of the same equipment — which is often made through the process of reaction injection molding, wherein two liquid components are mixed and injected into a mold to cure — their approaches to the patient experience may differ quite a bit. Some offices will offer patients noise canceling headphones, cozy blankets, massage chairs, aromatherapy, Netflix-equipped TVs, snacks, espresso, scented towels, lip balm, and more.
Warmstone Family Dentistry, located in Ontario, is one such facility that aims to provide a spa-like experience to patients, especially those with dental phobia. In the waiting room, there’s a fireplace, a waterfall, essential oil diffusers, and the “Comfort Menu,” which allows patients to select relaxing extras for their procedure, including eye masks, pillows, and more. They can even order a latte while they wait.
Dentologie, a millennial-esque dental office in Chicago, has plenty of plants, online booking options, and is even equipped with a dental-friendly juice bar. Dentologie’s founders say they actually modeled their business off of Starbucks — and the idea has resulted in a thriving practice of 25,000 patients. Dentologie takes the extra step to take care of patients with dental phobia, but the founders also care about staying relevant to young people; they opt to send email and text reminders, rather than obtrusive phone calls, and have even embraced influencer marketing for their practice. Every patient receives a Brushbox — a box that includes toothpaste, a lip balm or lipstick, and other personalized gifts to appeal to the individual’s needs and personality — after their appointment is done.
The result? Going to the dentist becomes something to look forward to, rather than something to dread.
“Dental spas,” a concept for which the American Dental Association has no clear definition, have been around for a while, but they’re really starting to pick up steam. Patients are often enticed to book and keep their appointments due to the extra pampering and perks. Since these amenities are not yet standard, they can be leveraged for amazing (and free) marketing in the form of reviews and social media posts from satisfied patients. Some dentists are even designing their offices with Instagram in mind, hoping that their modern and sleek (or kitschy and cool) facilities will be posted and that tech-savvy patients will clamor to make their appointments.
Sometimes, a glamorous looking lobby isn’t the goal. A friendly face may make all the difference. There are even practices that are playing with the idea of using therapy dogs to alleviate dental phobia. But no matter which tactics are used, more dentists are willing to think outside the box in order to get patients in the door. So if you’re one of the many Americans who has been putting off your regular cleanings due to your dental dread, you might just need to find a new dentist — one that provides a bit more than a thorough plaque removal.