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dental spa

noun [countable]

a dental practice which incorporates spa facilities in an attempt to make people more relaxed about having dental treatment

'Thousands of dentists splash subdued colors on their walls and light candles to enhance their offices … But a true dental spa incorporates spa treatments as well, such as massage therapy or another relaxation technique …'

Indianapolis Star 26th November 2004

'The British Dental Association has no objections: "If the dental spa 'experience' is more likely to make patients feel relaxed and comfortable in the dental environment … we welcome news of these developments."'

The Guardian 7th January 2003

Do you know anyone who suffers from dentophobia ('fear of going to the dentist'), or are you indeed a touch dentophobic yourself? If so, the newly conceived concept of a dental spa might be just the solution.

patients are then led through to what is referred to as the Zen chair, a vibrating treatment chair from which they can watch TV, surf the Net, listen to music, etc. while they have their hands and feet massaged and say 'aaahhh' at the appropriate moment

Forget the white room with the intense lighting and sinister whirring of the drill! Imagine having a filling or two, or some root-canal work, accompanied by a manicure, relaxing massage or a simple chill-out session in a luxurious environment. Would that make you more likely to go for your regular check-up?

Dentists in the United States evidently think so, since the concept of the dental spa has become big business during the last two years or so. Patients visiting these establishments are typically greeted by dental concierges in designer outfits, who offer them free drinks and biscuits in a luxurious 'scented' waiting lounge. They are then led through to what is referred to as the Zen chair, a vibrating treatment chair from which they can watch TV, surf the Net, listen to music, etc. while they have their hands and feet massaged and say 'aaahhh' at the appropriate moment, the idea being that any dental procedures being performed will merge insignificantly into the background.

In the United States, the dental spa concept is mainly associated with cosmetic dentistry, where making the dental experience more pleasurable is likely to have a positive impact on business. With almost half the American population visiting the dentist less often than they should, there is however a growing desire among dentists to set aside the negative images associated with their profession, with many regular practices offering massage and stress-relieving treatments in order to entice those who would rather not be there.

The same trend is beginning to develop in the United Kingdom, where during 2004 the first dental spas began to emerge in London. Another approach being pioneered in the UK by Dr Paul Averley at Queensway Dental Practice in Billingham is Anxiety Management, a specialist service offering a wide range of calming techniques to help nervous patients, particularly children, overcome their fear of dentistry.

Background – dental spa

The concept of a dental spa is a recent development in the fast-growing trend of medical spas, where doctors work alongside alternative therapists and beauticians, the idea being that patients can be given a complete feeling of well-being, both on the inside and out.

The words dental, dentist, dentistry etc. originally derive from the late Latin word dentalis meaning 'tooth'. Although nowadays mainly used in reference to commercial health and beauty establishments, the word spa originally referred to a spring of mineral water with health-giving properties. It was later used to describe a place or resort which had such a spring, and still features in the names of certain UK towns such as Leamington Spa. The word spa in fact derives from the name of a small town in eastern Belgium which has been celebrated since medieval times for the curative properties of its mineral springs.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 24th January 2005.

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digital hermit

a person who avoids using modern technologies like e-mail or the Internet

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