Relax and enjoy your next dental visit

LOS ANGELES The atmosphere is calm and soothing and there's a paraffin dip for your hands, cozy blankets and an aromatherapy pillow.

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From overhead TVs to foot massage, it's all designed to pamper and relax. But this isn't a spa, it's the dentist's office.

Dr. James Moreau is one of a growing number of dentists who are turning their offices into dental spas to help patients like Lauren Anderson feel more comfortable.

"I'd say it's more like a spa visit than it's like a dental visit," says dental patient Lauren Anderson.

"To many people, even with the idea of fear, the concept of being more comfortable is huge," explains Dr. Moreau.

Fear of the dentist keeps millions away every year. About nine to 15 percent of all Americans avoid dental treatment they need because they're afraid to go.

One study found women are 2.5 times more likely to fear the dentist than men.

"Oh, it's so much nicer to have a patient say, 'This is the best part of my week,' versus, 'You know doc, nothing personal, but I really hate being here,'" explains Dr. Moreau.

LSU Dentistry Professor Dr. Toby Cheramie says the spa concept can't hurt.

"Whatever can get the patient into an office to relax, let the dentist do an examination. Whatever makes them more comfortable," says Dr. Cheramie.

Lauren Anderson says whether it's for whitening or a new filling, she'll never think of a dental appointment quite the same way again.

"It just is very… ah… thank God, this is great," says Anderson.

The price of any extra services you get, like massage or a hand treatment, will vary depending on your dentist's office.

The American Dental Association hasn't taken a position on dental spas, but says other services, like massage, should be done by a licensed professional. Web Extra

BACKGROUND: One of the main reasons most people avoid visiting the dentist is dental anxiety. Dental anxiety drives some people to create more dental problems by not visiting the dentist on a regular basis. According to, between nine percent and 15 percent of the American population -- about 30 million to 40 million people -- avoid essential dental care because of fear or anxiety.

WHY FEAR THE DENTIST? According to Michael Krochak, D.M.D., founder and director of the Dental Phobia Treatment Center in New York City, negative portrayals of dentists in movies, TV, and newspapers contribute to the widespread fear of the dentist's office. Previous negative experiences at the dentist can cause dental phobias. Another reason some may fear the dentist is because of embarrassment about hygiene and fear of being judged or lectured.

REFLEXOLOGY IN DENTISTRY: Reflexology is an ancient technique that connects pressure points on the hands and feet to organ systems in the body. In dentistry, massage therapists apply reflexology techniques to assist in relaxation and anesthesia. During a dental visit, tension occurs mainly in the shoulders, head and neck. Reflexology helps to relieve tension in the upper body and allows the facial muscles to relax. As a patient relaxes, the flow of blood slows as the breathing pattern decreases, which helps the doctor administer anesthesia more effectively. "If we're working on a patient that is relaxed, it makes our job a lot easier," Debra King, D.D.S., president of the Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, was quoted as saying.

PAMPERING AT THE DENTIST: The next time you want a relaxing day at the spa, consider stopping by the dentist. According to the American Dental Association, about five percent of dental offices are considered "dental spas." At the Mitchell Dental Spa in Chicago, patients are treated to complimentary champagne in the waiting room, along with a facial massage. At the Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, patients are loosened up in a vibrating "Zen Chair" before their appointment, free of charge. The amenities at the More Smiles Dental Spa in Louisiana include personal music, refreshments, massage pads, overhead TV's, warm blankets and a reading desk to personalize the experience. More Smiles even offers manicures and pedicures and a Louisiana cuisine lunch to make their patients as comfortable as possible. At most dental spas, the price of these extra perks depends on your insurance policy.


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