Oral Health Group

Spa Dentistry

March 1, 2007
by Oral Health

I am curious if other dentists are confused about dental ads that contain creative titles such as ‘holistic’ dentist, ‘naturopathic’ dentist and dental ‘spa’. You just had your letterhead changed to “family and cosmetic dentistry” and now you’re considering changing it again, to “dental wellness and spa.” What is driving this trend? Is it the companies who provide the templates to facilitate their existence, the population, or the dental profession? Are these practices actually as lucrative as they sound, are they appealing to the public, or am I better off sticking with conventional dentistry? Sometimes I feel that the business of marketing dentistry is going a bit over the top.

Dental trends seem to start in the southwestern US, and the dental spa trend there is gaining momentum. Companies (spa consulting is a lucrative business) that were originally just involved in medical spas are commonly having dental divisions too. Cheryl Whitman of Cheryl Whitman Consulting, claims that there are at least 200 substantial dental spas in the US. One of the issues discussed at the recent Medical/ Dental Spa Expo was “regulatory challenges that could create a barrier to your dental spa.” The office to watch is in Las Vegas, which is about to be opened. It has taken years to build and no expense was spared to make this THE cutting edge dental spa. The doors alone cost more than $50,000!


Even studying similar curriculums and writing standardized exams, we all bring our own personalities and outside interests to our practices. Until recently, you pretty well knew what to expect when you went from office to office. But, now we are developing non-specialist, “specialty” practices and offering all kinds of services that don’t deal with the mouth, teeth and often, not even the face. In the past, spas were a place associated with rest and relaxation and by definition offering some kind of water cure, (Santum-peace, Per-through, Aqua-water). I think it is great that dental offices are changing that anxiety-filled image by using spa comforts and showing an interest in treating the ‘whole’ health of patients, but at some point, it could be degrading to the profession to offer every esthetic procedure under the sun. On the other hand, it does make perfect sense (cents) to pay off the laser by having an esthetician use it during off hours.

This begs the question of how much are the provincial dental colleges going to permit dental practitioners to give treatments to their dental patients that seem to be “outside the scope of the practice of dentistry”? U.S. legislative updates can be followed at www. medicalspaassociation.org/index.asp?submenu=legislation. I think some Canadian guidelines are in order. A dentist could argue that because they are doing cosmetic dentistry, that they should enhance the dentistry with skin photo rejuvenation, facials, hair removal or wrinkle injectables. If plumping up the lips makes the new veneers look better, why shouldn’t the dentist be the one to do it, instead of a cosmetic physician? There is some validity to this thinking, so, does general malpractice insurance cover it or do you need a holding company and a separate insurance rider? Also, if you are performing something in your office that is not covered under your dental malpractice insurance, should the patient be made aware of those facts?

This March journal is partly dedicated to include several areas of complementary dentistry which means they are not necessarily accepted as mainstream dentistry by conventional standards. We’ve included articles by dentists whose practices have a slightly different twist than most, but, in all cases the dentists have done extensive study in their fields and feel qualified and justified to include these modalities in their dental practices. I hope they give us some insight into what is happening behind the new titles and I leave it to you to form your own opinions. Please appreciate that the information in these articles are the opinions’ of the authors and not necessarily the views of Oral Health Journal nor members of the editorial board.

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