If you thought laughing gas was the only fun part about visiting the dentist, you haven’t been to Dr. Paul Tanners’ Midtown office.
All that drilling is easier to take when you’re getting a complimentary foot rub, which is offered to all his patients.
‘It’s a really good massage,’ says Stephen Sumnar, a 61-year-old college lecturer who travels two hours by train to see Tanners.
‘There have been times when I’ve come close to falling asleep. No matter what Dr. Tanners is doing in my mouth, I concentrate on my feet.’
The guest arrives for her 10:30 a.m. treatment. She is greeted by a smiling attendant and led to a small room. A scented candle glows in the corner; art lines the walls. The guest snuggles into an enormous leather chair, wrapped in a plush purple blanket and selects some Coltrane and Debussy from the music menu. As she slips the Bose headphones on, Shelley Fox starts to massage her feet.
Let the root canal begin. As the field of dentistry gets more competitive, an array of innovations are emerging to make people feel more comfortable in the chair. Several dental practices around the country now offer calming distractions from movies and music to massage and wine to ease what many people view as a stressful experience.
ACROSS THE COUNTRY, DENTISTS ARE trying to remove the dread associated with their practice by offering patients an unexpected perk: ‘spa’ treatments. Imagine a relaxing foot massage to accompany a root canal, or herbal eye masks and paraffin-wax hand treatments to enhance a cleaning. ‘It’s a combination of high touch,’ explains Dan King, chief operating officer at the Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, where patients-greeted in the waiting room with the aroma of freshly baked cookies (if not actual cookies) receive pillows and virtual-reality glasses and are treated in pastel rooms scented with aromatherapy candles. ‘It turns a dental office from a torture chamber into a pleasant, pampering experience,’ he adds. ‘Our patients love the luxuries, and they refer their friends.’