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Open Wide and Relax -- Really!

From movies to massages -- pampering at the dentist's office is becoming more popular.
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WebMD Feature

"This was the best root canal ever." The words rolled off Susan Barnes' tongue with the same ease that a cringe usually would have at the mention of the dental procedure.

Yet the 35-year-old isn't a lover of pain, nor is she a stranger to it. With two prior root canals and a crown under her belt, she knows what hours of sitting through tooth drillings normally feels like.

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What has changed?

Susan has a new dentist, one that has an office that looks more like someone's home. When patients come to visit, they're asked if they want anything from the juice bar, a warm blanket for comfort, or a moist towel to wash their face.

And, upon pleasantly being ushered into a dental chair -- which also doubles as a back massager -- they are given the option either to watch a movie through high-tech glasses, or to look out of arched, bay windows that frame gardens filled with chirping birds.

For her two-and-a-half-hour procedure, Susan chose to view the film "Miss Congeniality." The entertainment kept her busy enough to forget why she came.

"I had no pain during and I had no pain after [the treatment]," she says, admitting that she looked forward to her follow-up visit. As a stay-at-home mom and a part-time worker at Target, she rarely gets a chance to catch up on movies.

More Reasons to Say "Aaahhh..."

Clinics with boutique or spa-like amenities appear to be trickling into mainstream dental consciousness. In the last two years, companies that design oral health facilities have seen a spike in clients requesting special features such as massage and reflexology rooms, bars for cappuccino, juice, or mineral water, entertainment units, fireplaces, arboretums, and waterfalls.

"It's a niche market that's definitely becoming more common," says Daniel Block, a designer for Sullivan-Schein Dental, noting a 15% increase in boutique business in the western part of the U.S. alone. A competitor, Total Health Environment Design, reports a roughly 40% swell nationwide.

Dentists apparently want to cater to patients' needs, either by easing tension, or offering distraction or convenience. For pediatric practices, Block has designed rooms with video games and Internet access. For dentists' offices with corporate clients, business centers have been installed.

Mark Tholen, DDS, attributes the interest in the spa model to a growing desire to build customer confidence. "If people walk into an office that is of high design and very aesthetically pleasing, they are going to have a higher level of trust than if they walk into a little Jack-in-the-box-type of place," he says.

The dental trade has become more competitive in recent years, especially with the general improvements in public oral health. With fewer people being treated for tooth or gum disease and greater consumer demand to look and feel good, dentists have turned to cosmetic services, high-tech equipment, and enhanced customer service to keep business flowing.

It's not unusual, for instance, for a dentist to sit down with a patient in a beautifully decorated consultation room with a 19-inch TV monitor displaying a digital image of what the patient would look like if she decided to surgically alter some part of her mouth.

It is also not unheard of to have a dentist share space with another professional, such as a massage therapist or a plastic surgeon, and have patients use the services of each during one visit.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Answer:
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You are currently

Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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