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More dentists mix tooth work with deluxe day spa treatments

The sweet smell of baking bread floats through the air of an American Fork office early Wednesday morning. Anna Jackson reclines in a heated massage chair, a warm fleece blanket draped over her as her hands rest in wax-treatment bags.

No, the mother of six didn't hire a baby sitter so she could go to the day spa. She's at the dentist's office getting her teeth cleaned.

"I thought, 'Finally, there's something good out of all the dentistry,' " Jackson said after her visit, her third since moving to Utah from Illinois in December. Jackson said she is getting ready to have some major work done on her teeth.

Total Care Dental is one of a handful of dentist offices in Utah County that incorporate spa-like pampering into the dental treatment experience. Though the concept is slower to catch on in this area than in other parts of the country, spa dentistry is growing in popularity, said Dr. Michelle Jorgensen.

"It's the 'in' thing in dentistry," she said.

Critics say dentists should focus on taking care of teeth and not on "all this fancy stuff," Jorgensen said. But she, and others, see a number of advantages to spa dentistry.

For one thing, Jorgensen said, patients who have experienced spa dentistry are more relaxed and less anxious about returning to the dentist.

Because of this, some patients come in before their dental problems reach a crisis, such as a painful toothache, an abscess or a tooth that is broken so severely that the patient can't wait any longer to get it fixed, Jorgensen said.

Dr. John Lohner, who has two offices in Utah County with spa dentistry, said that with his clients more relaxed, his job is also more enjoyable.

"Believe it or not, we are sensitive to our patients. ... We don't like the label of being an awful place. We care about people," he said.

Through spa dentistry, Lohner said he can give his patients more one-on-one attention. But it does carry with it some costs.

Lohner used to have up to six patients in his office at one time, treating them in what he calls an assembly-line fashion. He can't do that now, which has led to increased fees. It costs him more to offer the little extras and, in some ways, costs him some potential business.

"Some patients don't want to pay extra for that comfort," Lohner said.

But the patients who have come to his office throughout the past two years that he has offered amenities like massage chairs and warm towels have loved the spa experience, he said. He is thinking of adding more pampering services, such as pedicures.

Jorgensen and her partner, Dr. Daniel B. Coles, who is also her father, have been doing spa dentistry for about three years, slowly adding more amenities to make their patients' visits more comfortable.

Now, while a patient gets a filling or a drilling, he or she can rest with a lavender neck pillow and gel mask and perhaps watch a newly released movie on a personal flat-screen television mounted overhead.

After the dentist is finished, each patient is given a stick of lip balm and a mint, a washcloth and a basket with dental care products.

In the bathroom are cosmetic, perfume and hair-product samples for "freshening up," said Margot Green, treatment coordinator at Total Care Dental.

Before they leave, patients are offered a sample of freshly baked bread or cookies, hot chocolate, juice or cold water. Green said the staff member who bakes the bread has a food handlers permit.

The fresh flowers and small water fountain in the front lobby also add to the effect the staff has tried to create, Green said.

"You smell bread and cookies. It's all aromatherapy -- it makes you feel comfortable, at home," she said.

The pampering of patients hasn't drawn in a larger crowd at either Jorgensen's or Lohner's office.

But Jorgensen said that by making a patient's day better -- like the mother who asks them to take their time because it's her one chance to relax that day -- makes every penny worth it, she said.

Total Care Dental
12 S 1100 E
American Fork, UT 84003-2815
(801) 756-3737

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