Soft music, warm towels, the aroma of lavender or freshly baked bread, perhaps
even a hand massage—until recently these items might not be associated with a
dental visit. Yet a growing number of dentists say these pampering amenities
persuade patients to make and keep appointments and help them stay relaxed
during dental procedures.
Shirley Brown, D.M.D., Ph.D. and her colleagues teach dentists across the
country to create a “comfort zone” for their patients by focusing on guest
hospitality and comfort amenities.
Dr. Brown says the consumer media have coined the term “dental spa,” but many
practices offer services and amenities specifically designed to relax patients
without considering themselves a “spa.” The loose definition of “dental spas”
makes it difficult if not impossible to know how many dental spas exist in the
“In the 1980s, dentists started offering headphones with a selection of music to
help distract patients from dental procedures, and gradually they started
incorporating other things, such as video goggles, aromatherapy and softening
the color schemes and lighting within their offices,” Dr. Brown explains. “Some
dental practices now go so far as to offer foot massage (reflexology),
pre-treatment meditation and breath work, acupuncture and paraffin wax hand
treatments. Anything that elevates dentistry’s appeal to the public is a good
thing, in my opinion.”
Since dental practices are independent businesses, it is up to the dentist to
determine what types of patient services are offered. Ancillary services, such
as the administration of botox, acupuncture or reflexology, should be performed
by licensed individuals in accordance with local and state regulations,
according to the ADA.
Dr. Brown says the cost of many amenities, such as aromatherapy, music and video
goggles, is not generally passed on to the patient. However, services such as a
foot massage, scheduled at the same time as the dental appointment, are billed
separately by the individual providing the service.