Comfort isn’t a word that usually comes to mind when thinking about a visit to the dentist.
A study published by the National Institutes of Health found that dental anxiety affects an estimated 36% of people in the United States, with 12% of those suffering from extreme dental fear. For many, dental anxiety means delayed or missed appointments. And about 3% of people experiencing severe anxiety may stop going to the dentist altogether.
“Going to the dentist completely stresses me out. My stomach is in knots, my jaw clenched and I’m so scared of the work that needs to be done,” said (sometimes) dental patient Jennifer Gross.
But what if your dental office featured a spa atmosphere?
At Sculpt Dental Spa in downtown Charleston, Client Experience Coordinator Nick Aime’s role is to ensure every patient’s experience is one of ultimate comfort.
“I’ll never forget the first patient I met with dental anxiety. She had to be dragged through the front door by her boyfriend,” said Aime. “We want to do everything we can to cater to our patients and ensure they have an enjoyable experience.”
Aime presents patients with a menu of comfort items for their appointment, including a scented neck pillow, champagne, lip balm and moisturizing paraffin hand treatment. Patients can enjoy a chair massage to calm them before their appointment and watch a Netflix movie under a cozy blanket during treatment.
Opened in 2022 by Dr. Suzie Dubrinski, Sculpt Dental Spa specializes in cosmetic dentistry and smile makeovers with cutting-edge, modern dentistry. Patients can even get Botox while in the office.
“I wanted to create a space where clients would feel pampered like a VIP, somewhere they would look forward to coming and enjoy spending time,” said Dr. Dubrinski.
“Dentistry can be an intimate procedure,” said Sculpt Dental Spa Treatment Coordinator and New Patient Liaison Olivia Brazier, DA. “Dr. Suzie has cultivated a calming environment that is built on team members who are passionate about what we are doing – patients understand that we are here for them.”
“I’ve always had crippling dental anxiety. I was physically shaking at my first appointment with Dr. Suzie. I think I even cried at one point,” said Sculpt Dental Spa patient Tita Curtin. “I’m so grateful to Sculpt for helping me start to move through my fear.”
“We are delighted when our clients recognize that we are different. We get excited when we can shift a patient’s opinion about their smile from something they are embarrassed about to something they love and are so excited to show off,” said Dr. Dubrinski.
In the Upstate, walk into downtown Greenville’s Waterstone Dentistry and you’ll notice the office looks more like a home than a dental practice. The natural sound of flowing water greets you from a large waterfall feature in the waiting room, where comfortable, overstuffed chairs gather around a gently flickering fireplace. It’s the kind of place you might settle in on a lazy afternoon to read a good book – not where you expect to wait to get a filling replaced.
Dr. Beatriz Dennis knew she wanted to offer patient-centered service in a comfortable and relaxed environment after working in a fast-paced practice with high anxiety and high stress.
“I knew if I felt that much stress and anxiety working there, I could imagine how a patient would feel,” she shared.
In 2008, she opened Waterstone Dentistry to “create a patient-centered, positive dental experience for each patient from the moment they arrive at the office until the moment they leave.”
It’s a warm, artfully designed environment featuring state-of-the-art dental equipment where Dr. Dennis and her staff take their time with each patient. Natural light pours into treatment rooms through oversized windows. Patients can relax under the comfort of a warm blanket and watch TV or listen to music with noise-canceling headphones.
Seeing patients transform from covering their mouth when they speak to smiling with confidence is what Dr. Dennis loves most.
“Patients appreciate the amount of time we spend with them and appreciate the friendship that we’ve formed with them because everything is more patient-centered,” said Dennis.
The dental spa approach is about more than massages and soft music. It’s about trust.
“One of the most rewarding things is when you work with someone who has such severe dental anxiety that they can’t open their mouth. They are just so upset at the way they’ve let their teeth get because they have such a fear. And then you help them, and they are so appreciative,” shared Dr. Dennis.
Brazier agreed: “I’ve met people who felt almost hopeless. When you finally create that bond of trust, it’s life-changing for the patient. For anyone who’s had to hold back your smile, to wipe that away and smile again, it’s life-changing.”
Aime added that he wants patients to know that “You are in a safe space. We are here to help make your smile what you want it to be.”
By Amy Connor