Oral Health Group

The New “Zen” Dentistry — Spa Meets the Dental Office

March 1, 2007
by Gloria Fine

When was the last time a trip to the dentist was considered a pleasurable experience? It is unlikely that patients would associate such a visit with the relaxing sounds of waves lapping the shore, surrounded by cool breezes at their favourite sun destination. But what if on their next trip to the dental chair the sounds of drills and the smell of fluoride could be replaced with the environment of a world-class spa? The dental appointment now takes on the aspect of a luxurious break in a hectic day, and the next appointment is something to look forward to. This is the promise of the new “Zen” dental office.

Imagine stepping into a dental office and being greeted with the idea not of pain, but an hour or two of relaxation. This is a place where the patient is not just distracted from the discomforts of a dental procedure, but where the complementary spa services become a major part of the experience. Grinding drills are drowned out by cool jazz; the smells of latex and cement are replaced by vanilla and raspberry. Tension and apprehension melt away with a deep tissue massage.


The world of dentistry has come a long way, procedurally and technically, with advancements such as digital x-rays and lasers. As we enter the 21st century many dentists have sharpened their focus on the goal of a comfortable, inviting patient environment. Some have extended this evolution to what is being called Zen or Spa dentistry.

Spa Dentistry can be explored at many levels, from the bare inclusion of a few patient comforts, to the full spa experience, where the spa services are part of the dentist’s business plan.

The full-service spa dental office will have a waiting room that is more like a lounge — with comfortable surroundings, bottled water, and spa amenities. Like a traditional spa, the office may offer massages, aromatherapy, and paraffin waxes — but all designed and timed to complement the planned dental procedures.

For example a back massage could be booked to precede a procedure for an anxious patient, while reflexology (foot) massage might take place during the procedure. The operatories would be equipped with state-of-the-art chairs, and offer a wide variety of patient-selected audio and video-on-demand. Some offices may even offer hair-dressing and aesthetician services. The possibilities are many and the boundaries are yet to be explored.

Why do it? First, overcoming patients’ inherent apprehension may fill waiting rooms and fund expansion. (To that end some offices are offering basic spa services on a complementary basis.) Second, fee-based spa services may enhance revenues and become a separate and significant source of income. Finally, the spa enhancements to the dental office make it a more enjoyable workplace for all, including the dentist.

Is it for you? Maybe, maybe not. Many will see spa dentistry as too new age, too California, simply . . . non-traditional. Yet while the spa dental office is clearly not for everyone, the patient comforts at its root have become a key element of modern dentistry.


Some special considerations in the design of a Spa Dental Office:

* Consult with a Feng Shui specialist on space planning and arrangement of furniture and accessories.

* Choose complementary accents in waiting room and operatories, such as plants, waterfalls, fireplaces, and natural materials such as stones, rocks, and wood.

* Add special features to waiting areas, such as a library (books, audio, video), and computers with web access and games.

* Use consistent colour and wider corridors to give the appearance of a larger space and facilitate patient mobility.

* Design HVAC to minimize medicinal odours.

* Provide soothing background music and sensual images on flat panel screens.

* Encourage patients to bring their own music that can be played through speakers or headphones in the operatory.

Gloria Fine is an interior designer specializing in the design of dental and medical facilities for more than 30 years. She is accredited by ARIDO and IDC. She is based in Toronto and undertakes projects across caCanada.

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