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Spa-like distractions at dentist

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TonyCap

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Spa-like distractions at dentist
Various devices used to create comfort by the numbers

By Autumn Phelps
Gannett News Service
Originally posted on September 18, 2007

When folks claim they would rather have a root canal than undergo something stressful, such as an algebra test or a visit with the in-laws, chances are they're exaggerating or trying to be funny.

Take it from anyone who's spent a lot of time in the chair, dental procedures are no fun and sometimes can be intimidating.

"Dental phobia is prevalent in our society," says Dr. Mohammed Mujeeb, general dentist with offices in Suntree, Melbourne and Bayside Lakes. "I would say 60 to 70 percent of my patients are a little bit apprehensive. Once they are treated the right way, most will relax by the second visit."

A small percentage of Americans tremble at the sound of the drill and must be sedated, or in extreme cases, hospitalized to receive basic dental treatment.

Then there are those who actually enjoy their visit with the dentist as if it were a trip to the beauty shop. More and more, dentists strive to build unique relationships with their patients by easing worries in comfortable environments.

Gail Boyles of Melbourne said she was so scared during her first visit to Dr. Ronald Richardson's office that her fingerprints are probably permanently imprinted in the chair.

It wasn't anything against the Melbourne dentist or his staff. Boyles' fear of dental procedures started 15 years ago when she had a bad experience under another dentist's care.

"I had a root canal that wasn't done properly, and I ended up losing the tooth," Boyles says.

Despite what caused her to dread going to the dentist, Boyles says she enjoys going to Dr. Richardson's office today.


What changed?

For one thing, Richardson's family and cosmetic dentistry practice, Creating Beautiful Smiles, almost feels more like a spa than a dentist's office. He runs aromatherapy machines to replace the scent of freshly drilled teeth with lavender.

While in the chair, patients can cover their eyes with a cool mask, turn on an electronic back massager and choose from a variety of neck pillows to rest on.

They also can watch TV or listen to an iPod filled with 2,000 songs, all while softening their hands in a soothing paraffin hand wax treatment and waiting for their jewelry to be cleaned.

"Our job is to figure out how to make somebody so comfortable they put past experiences out of their minds," Richardson says.

Richardson's method also seemed to work for Sharon Webb of Merritt Island, a patient of more than 16 years.

"I used to be terrified of the dentist," Webb says. "This entire environment helped me get over it."

Lots of dentists use distractions to help make their patients comfortable. At two of Mujeeb's offices, patients can listen to music on headphones, and many of his younger patients enjoy playing games on XBoxes.

Dr. Dennis Carmody's office in Rockledge, is visually intriguing, with large windows providing a view of his natural landscape of Florida's native plants that attract colorful butterflies.

But more important than creating a pleasant environment, Carmody says, is getting to know his patients.

He conducts pre-clinical interviews for every new patient and addresses concerns about the dentist and dental history. He also asks questions about their family, interests and hobbies.

"It builds a lot of trust before I put a probe in their mouth," Carmody says.

And if that doesn't do it, the aroma of freshly baked Otis Spunkmeyer cookies might. Carmody's staff bakes them every day, and sometimes patients stop by to grab a few, even without an appointment.

'Being personal'

Most dentists will agree, topics discussed in the initial visit should be revisited in future appointments. When a dentist or hygienist remembers even the smallest quirk about a patient, it makes the patient feel valued, Carmody says.

And by getting to know their patients, dentists see positive results.

"I've got so many great patients who come in here and it's a good time," Richardson says. "They share stories, it's like they're part of the family."

Making small talk is great and all, but what still puzzles many is why dentists ask you questions while your mouth is stuffed with cotton and utensils?

"That's just being personal," Richardson says.
 
a lot of practice are taking this apprach not only for the phobia angle but to provide a exclusive service or set them selves out from the crowd to pull private patients through the door!
 

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