4. Play With a Puppy Before Your Treatment
Hershey kisses and watching a movie help patients relax
Greater attention to architecture and interior design isn't the only way the dental experience is changing.
Chances are that a Jack Russell terrier named Disco will greet you at the DC or Alexandria office of DC Smiles. "He's the most popular member of our team," says Lawrence Singer, a hospital dentist who also does implants, cosmetic dentistry, and general reconstructive surgery. Like Singer, Disco flip-flops between the two offices.
Anxious patients can pet Disco during treatments—the dog has pet-therapy certification, which means he's been tested to ensure he remains even-tempered in a medical setting. Studies have shown that spending 15 minutes a day with a pet can reduce stress.
Pet therapy is unusual, but many dentists offer distractions such as flat-screen TVs in treatment rooms, DVD libraries, and iPods to reduce anxiety.
At DC's Washington Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, there are neck pillows, hot towels, cucumber-scented eye pads, blankets, and dental chairs outfitted with gentle massagers for the lumbar and back.
Pediatric dentist Dana Greenwald in Friendship Heights has been offering spa-like perks for her young patients for 19 years. Dental visits end with nail polish with funky designs (boys go for this, too), stickers, toys, faux tattoos, and sometimes even Hershey kisses to counter the "yucky" taste of bonded fillings and anti-cavity fluoride varnish treatments.
John Kling II, a general dentist in Alexandria, does deep-breathing exercises with some patients. His office has a relaxation room with a recliner, a flat-screen TV, and soothing tunes. Kling says the most effective distractions are noise-reducing earphones and a pair of black Vuzix iWear goggles that block outside light and create a giant virtual screen for watching movies, TV shows, or music videos: "This single device has decreased anxiety levels more than all others. A patient can get lost in a movie and not worry about what I'm doing."
Next: No More Mumbling