For well-heeled patients sick of the sterile setting of a dentist’s office, sounds of a soft, airy flute and the gentle scent of candles have replaced the grind of a drill and the acrid stench of ground-up teeth. What? Enjoy the dentist’s office? Such is the hope of a growing number of dentists who are turning their practices into “dental spas” that offer such perks as fresh-baked cookies and overstuffed couches, and such services as body waxing, facials, massage and pedicures. About 5 percent of the American Dental Association’s members have declared their offices “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. “Instead of constantly thinking What are you going to do to me next?’ they’re getting a foot massage and getting their nails done,” said Dr. Eddie Siman, a dentist who relocated his practice from Beverly Hills to Sherman Oaks six years ago and bought into the spa movement wholeheartedly. “Why not get the work done and get pampered? Or you could go to an old, smelly dental office and have a miserable experience.” Patients don’t sit in examination rooms; they relax in studios. “We’re creating art in there,” Siman purrs in his smooth, polished voice against a background of scented candles and soothing, piped-in music. As they recline with lights dimmed, patients can cue up favorite songs on iPods or watch movies. If they’d like, Siman gives them a sleeping pill to let them slumber through their procedures. He says his prices are “competitive, not more than anyone else,” with a cleaning ringing up a $90 bill. In practice for 18 years, Siman says business has gone up as much as 25 percent since he waded into the spa world. Keying into the trend on the East Coast, Deann Romanick sips green tea and takes in the scent of lavender and the sounds of new-age music. She gets a free paraffin hand wax treatment, blankets, a warm neck pad and video eyeglasses in which she can watch “Seinfeld” episodes while the dentist works on her teeth. The pampering eased her through a root canal and a tooth replacement, and now, with her fear of dental work gone, she has moved on to more elective procedures. Romanick, 34, a graduate student from Germantown, Md., spent $399 for teeth whitening and next plans to straighten her teeth with removable plastic braces, which can cost up to $3,500. “I was totally afraid of the dentist,” she said. “Now I go to the dentist every six months and I just can’t wait.” For dentists, the changes can mean that patients see office visits as more routine. “Going to the dentist shouldn’t be this bad thing,” said Dr. Kimberly Baer, who did Romanick’s dental work. “It should be like going to get your hair done.” Baer opened the Bethesda Dental Spa in North Bethesda, Md., two years ago, installing hardwood floors and waterfalls and decorating in muted lavenders and greens. All 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. This summer, the office plans to add free 15-minute facials and massages. “I view it as a marketing expense,” Baer said. “It’s what makes other people go back to their office and talk about their dental appointment.” The strategy has paid off. Baer says the 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. Sales at the office doubled in the past year, to $1.5 million, she said. The spa services go hand in hand with the growth of cosmetic dentistry. Dentists surveyed last year by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry reported that the aesthetic procedures in their offices rose by 12.5 percent, on average, in the past five years. Tooth whitening, they said, was the No. 1 requested service. Patients might pay $300 to $600 for it, an expense typically not covered by insurance. The desire for perfect teeth is not limited to the dental office. Consumers have flocked to over-the-counter teeth-whitening products. Together, sales for Crest Whitestrips and Crest Night Effects, two whitening products from Procter & Gamble, tripled from 2001 to 2005, to $300 million. “Now more than ever people are looking to improve their smiles,” said Dr. Irwin Smigel, a Manhattan dentist and founder and president of the American Society of Dental Aesthetics. Technology has improved, and reality makeover television shows have helped to make more consumers aware of it. And many people including baby boomers have the cash to spend. “The baby boomer generation has put looking good and feeling good as a priority,” said Kimberly Harms, a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association and a dentist in Farmington, Minn. “It goes along with people getting Botox, exercising and dyeing their hair.” Dentists say that when a patient is relaxed, anesthesia works better and procedures move more quickly. And if they enjoy the experience, they’ll come back regularly, leading to better overall health, said Lynn Watanabe, a dentist who opened Dental Spa Inc. in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Watanabe and her husband, John Chien, started their dental spa in 2002, after watching fearful children run from the office. Since then, they have seen their business and the spa phenomenon grow, even licensing the Dental Spa name to other dentists in San Francisco, New York City and Ann Arbor, Mich., along with the slogan, “Your teeth, body and mind will feel great.” The couple also started the International Dental Spa Association it now has 10 members and are coming up with guidelines for what services constitute a dental spa. Already, Watanabe said, they have received interest from dentists in Dubai, South Korea, Russia and Brazil who want to start dental spas. The trend goes beyond dentistry. Medical spas have become a fast-growing segment of the spa industry. Doctors, including podiatrists, gynecologists and general practitioners, are opening medical spas in malls and hospitals nationwide, offering extras like laser hair removal, Botox injections and facials, said Hannelore R. Leavy, director of the International Medical Spa Association in Union City, N.J. She estimates that there are about 1,500 medical spas worldwide, more than triple the number three years ago. “This is all cash for the doctor,” she said. “There is no insurance, no paperwork. This is a very lucrative business for them.” Citing surveys that say people judge one another by their smiles, dentists now offer a wide range of services. Smigel says he has patients who pay up to $40,000 for “nonsurgical face-lifts” that use bonding, veneers, crowns, implants, bridges and even dentures to build out the lower half of the face. “I can build out lips, raise the cheekbones,” he said. Timothy B. Dotson, a dentist in Chicago, offers computerized “smile imaging” at his practice, Perfect Smile Spa. He takes photographs of the patients and then, using a computer, alters the photos to show them what they would look like if they had cosmetic work. His office also gives patients free 10-minute massages in the waiting room and paraffin hand waxes, among other services. Quickbleach Dental Spa and Boutique, a street-level spa on the East Side of Manhattan, literally offers a menu of services to walk-in customers, including veneers, tooth caps the thickness of a baby’s fingernail at $750 a tooth, and one-hour whitening procedures for $399. Quickbleach is more akin to a trendy store or salon than a dental office, with its modern decor and Latin- and Arabic-influenced music. “It’s serious dentistry with a spa atmosphere,” said Jimmy Conlin, 59, a songwriter in New York who saw a flier about Quickbleach and decided to have his teeth whitened there. Conlin’s wife, Carolyn, joined him and received a computerized smile analysis, porcelain veneers, gum recontouring (which evens out the gum tissue), and skin grafting (which patches gums with tissue from other parts of the mouth). The couple spent $7,000. “It’s really a vanity issue, no question about it,” Conlin said. “Our teeth look fabulous. It was all that was promised.” Dr. Jose Souto, a dentist who is Quickbleach’s owner, says that since he overhauled his practice, he has doubled his annual revenue, to $3 million, and can accommodate twice as many patients as before. “When people walk in, they’re amazed,” Souto said. “They say, `This doesn’t look like a dentist’s office.” Little by little, people will think of the dentist’s office as a positive place where they can be more beautiful and not a place where they’re going to be punished and lose a couple of teeth.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinals160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!