A growing number of dentists are turning their practices into “dental spas” that offer such perks as fresh-baked cookies, overstuffed couches, and services like body waxing, facials, massage, and pedicures.
“Going to the dentist shouldn’t be this bad thing,” says Kimberly Baer, DDS, who opened the Bethesda Dental Spa in North Bethesda, Md, 2 years ago, installing hardwood floors and waterfalls and decorating in muted lavenders and greens. Baer’s patients receive hand waxes before their appointments. For additional fees, they can get follow-up pain treatment from an acupuncturist and eyebrow waxes from a staff aesthetician. “I view it as a marketing expense,” says Baer. “It’s what makes other people go back to their office and talk about their dental appointment.”
About 5% of ADA members have declared their offices as “spas.” And their new services may open the door to more elective cosmetic dentistry—an additional revenue source for an industry that historically has been restricted by what patients’ insurance will cover. For dentists, the changes can mean that patients see office visits as more routine.
According to Baer, the strategy has paid off. She says her “dental spa” receives about 45 new patients a month, with many of them willing to go beyond traditional dentistry and spend $400 to $16,000 out of pocket for various procedures such as whitening teeth or attaching porcelain veneers.