A patient receiving an eye mask and hand treatment at a dental spa in Florida.
A patient receiving an eye mask and hand treatment at a dental spa in Florida. - 

About 50 million Americans say they’re scared of the dentist. Wikipedia has an entry for “dental fear.” There’s even a professional scale for measuring that anxiety. However, music and a foot massage may go a long way toward luring fearful patients into the dental chair. At least, that's the bet being made at so-called dental spas, which are cropping up all over the world.

"There are patients that are really scared and afraid of any kind of dental work," according to Laleh Fazli at the DC Dental Spa. "So in order to make it a little easier for them we have the massager in the chair. Our waiting room is equipped with a coffee and tea bar. We offer complimentary facials and cooling eye masks." 

It's hard to say exactly what makes a dentist office a dental spa, because no one has defined that yet. Some practices simply light candles and crank up the relaxing music. Most dental spas offer sedation or other pain and anxiety medication. A few dental practices go so far as to offer patients an actual puppy to hold.

"In the past people would go in for just a cleaning or a cavity," says Fazli. "But you want to come up with anything that makes that visit pleasant."

Practices that offer tooth whitening or Botox used to be thought of as cosmetic dentists. But data from Google Trends suggests the term “dental spa” is quickly replacing “cosmetic dentistry” in the minds of consumers. Five years ago there were 50 percent more searches for “cosmetic dentist” than “dental spa.” Now that’s nearly flipped.

Dentist Mena Ghobryal says creating a comfortable environment is simply good dentistry, whatever people choose to call it. 

“We believe that if the patient is comfortable, the whole environment… positive energy will be in the room. Eventually the results will be better for the patient,” says Gobriel.

But there’s still hope for the corner dentist. As technology improves and gets less expensive, more dentists will replace things like those annoying drills with lasers. Then maybe one day we’ll all be watching movies with those video eyeglasses -- and reclining on massaging dental chairs.

How about you? Have you picked a dental practice for its spa services? Do you suffer from dental anxiety and think a dental spa might help you out? Share your experiences in the comments.