Dentistry is an important key to your overall health and well-being. But if making an appointment isn’t easy or you feel stressed about going, you may just skip the whole thing.
That makes dentists frown.
To encourage us to take better and more regular care of our oral health, dentists are now offering a wider array of services, and they’re doing it with a smile.
1. NO SECOND APPOINTMENT
Take Dr. John Gawlik of Lifesmiles Family Dentistry in Bloomington. He offers four treatment rooms and six hygienists. This gives him the flexibility to see patients for last-minute emergencies or to take care of a cavity he discovered during a checkup. Not having to return for a second visit really makes patients happy. And for large families, Gawlik’s team often can see the entire clan at once, eliminating the need to spend multiple hours at the dentist.
“If you make it easy for patients, they will come in more often, and they will be happier to come in,” says Gawlik.
2. ONGOING COMMUNICATION
Making an appointment by phone is so 20th century. Today’s dentist allows patients to schedule visits online. At Lorentzen DDS in Golden Valley, patients also can arrange for text or e-mail reminders—or phone calls if they prefer.
Dr. John Cretzmeyer of Dentistry for the Entire Family in Fridley lets patients e-mail him directly through his clinic’s website. Whether it’s an evening or a weekend, he will quickly respond.
“It’s been surprisingly positive,” says Cretzmeyer. “Patients can get an answer right from the horse’s mouth, and they don’t lose anything in translation.”
3. AT (ALMOST) ALL HOURS
Dr. Tom Morgan of Babcock & Morgan Family Dental in Prior Lake offers extended hours a couple evenings a week. Other practices open on Saturdays for those who can’t get away from work easily.
Lorentzen even makes it convenient for people who work in his building to come before work or over the lunch hour. “We do everything we can to accommodate busy schedules.”
4. CREATING COMFORT
Dr. Corey Jensen of Smile Design Dentistry in Plymouth provides noise-cancelling headphones to block out the sounds of equipment or other ambient noise. Patients can listen to music or watch television during treatments.
Dr. Holger Meiser seeks to put patients at ease—and make them feel pampered—with the relaxing environment at his Holger Dental Group in Minnetonka. From offering a coffee bar and water bottles to ample televisions amid natural stone decor, the practice looks more like a spa than a traditional dental office.
5. RELAX A LITTLE
Some patients battle dental-related anxiety, and they need an assist to get through cleanings or treatment. Patients can relax thanks to sedation dentistry and other anxiety reducers, such as pre-appointment sedatives or nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas) during appointments.
Dr. Jody O’Brien of O’Brien Dental Care in Shakopee likes NuCalm, a natural regimen that relaxes patients with a combination of vitamin supplements, microcurrent stimulation behind each ear, sunglasses, and headphones. Together, this puts patients into a meditative state. “My anxious patients are just amazed at how well it works. They take a nap and they are all relaxed during their procedure,” says O’Brien.
There are also dentists who are certified in sedation dentistry and can administer oral or IV sedatives. “It’s a nice option for people to come in and get all their work done in one sitting when they have a lot of dental phobia,” she adds. “It doesn’t put them to sleep, but they lose track of time and it takes the edge off.”
6. QUICK AND EASY (EVEN WITH CROWNS)
Many new technologies make it faster than ever to treat patients—digital x-rays instantly display pictures, intraoral cameras take detailed images of a tooth. For Morgan, those images help him communicate what’s happening inside a patient’s mouth.
O’Brien is a big fan of iTero for making bite molds. It takes digital impressions and eliminates the need for patients to have mouthfuls of goop to get an accurate rendering of teeth. The technology automatically transmits images to the lab, which drastically reduces the time needed to make crowns and other dental devices.
Speaking of crowns, dentists have traditionally done the initial work to prepare the tooth, fit it with a temporary crown, and then waited two weeks for a lab to make the permanent tooth. Morgan and others have invested in Cerec machines to take digital impressions, design porcelain crowns, and fabricate them right in their offices. “In a one-and-a-half- or two-hour appointment, they can have everything done,” says Morgan.
7. BEYOND DENTISTRY
While you’re at the dentist’s office, try some other treatments! Some dentists have started offering Botox and filler injections to smooth out facial wrinkles. At Meiser’s practice, he has partnered with Skingevity, so patients will soon be able to get facials and skin care products.
“You don’t want to have a pretty face and ugly teeth or the other way around,” says Meiser. “We’re trying to find new ways to help people look their best.”
And isn’t that what the best dentistry is all about? A fresh, shiny, beautiful smile—and made with great service, too.