Th 152565

Little things mean a lot

June 1, 2004
It's not a spa dental practice, but one Manhattan office is giving patients plenty of TLC

It's not a spa dental practice, but one Manhattan office is giving patients plenty of TLC

By Kevin Henry, editor

First and foremost, Dr. Paul Tanners does not have a spa dental office. Just ask him. Yes, there are amenities offered at his dental office in Manhattan that you might not find other places, but that doesn't qualify his practice as spa dentistry, according to Dr. Tanners.

"To me, when you say 'spa dentistry,' that means paraffin wax treatments and pore cleaning," Dr. Tanners said. "Doing laminates on someone's teeth hardly fits into the spa theme."

While there's no sign of paraffin treatments or mudbaths in Dr. Tanners' practice, there are plenty of other options that can make patients forget about what treatment they're undergoing. Patients can watch TV or movies or listen to music off a satellite feed while they're in the chair. At the same time, they are given a foot and/or leg massage while aromatherapy drifts through the operatory. Hot towels await the patient after he or she is finished with the procedure.

Dr. Tanners didn't start offering these amenities to be part of a trend. He offered them as a way to make his patients more comfortable.

"I offer these services for the same reason I.offer painless injections and topical anesthetic — to make the patient more comfortable," Dr. Tanners said. "I'm a prosthodontist who does a lot of cosmetic and restorative work. The other day, I gave a patient an injection using The Comfort Control™ Syringe (Dentsply Professional). He asked me what I was doing. I told him I.was giving him an injection, and he couldn't believe it. That's the type of thing that will make people want to come back to the dentist."

As Dr. Tanners (right) works on the patient, a relaxation therapist gives the patient a foot massage. He has employed a full-time massage therapist for three years at his practice in New York City.
Click here to enlarge image

Of course, the massages make patients want to come back as well. Dr. Tanners credits his wife for the idea of giving massages during and after treatment.

"We've had a full-time massage therapist on staff for three years, and people love it," Dr. Tanners said. "My wife loved having a massage and suggested that we should do that in our office. Now, everyone who comes into the office has a massage."

Dr. Tanners also offers the service of an in-house plastic surgeon who can do Botox, collagen, and other minor plastic surgery and beautification methods to patients who crave a more youthful facial look.

"We found that, after we repaired damaged teeth, our patients wanted to improve the appearance of their mouths and facial features as well," Dr. Tanners said. "People love the idea and a lot of people take advantage of the opportunity."

The idea to offer plastic surgery and dentistry in the same office came to Dr. Tanners nearly 30 years ago when he started a cosmetic dental office/dermatology clinic.

"I met with some executives from Bloomingdale's to discuss it (incorporating plastic surgery and dentistry). After that meeting, it really seemed like it would be overwhelming to me. I wasn't ready for it. But the timing was right a few years ago to start it in my office, and it's been a wonderful thing to offer."

But Dr. Tanners offers more to his patients than just physical well-being. He also does plenty of other things to help his patients mentally and emotionally after visiting his office. If a patient is elderly or has had a long procedure, a complimentary car ride is in order. A bigger case can be rewarded with a car ride and champagne. Flowers or plants are sent to patients who refer others to the practice. But perhaps the biggest thing he does for his patients, in the opinion of Dr. Tanners, is to check on them following the procedure.

"Really, the thing that patients seem to love as much as anything is that I, not a staff member, call them at night after they've visited my office to check on them," Dr. Tanners said. "Calling people in the evening often holds off an emergency call they might place. They can ask me if something doesn't feel right, rather than trying to place an emergency call to me. We can often get them in the next morning. It takes 10 minutes for me to call a patient, and it's well worth the time. We never talk about billing or anything else outside of their procedure, which makes the call a great use of my time and theirs."

While the car rides and champagne may seem very "New York" to many people outside of the Big Apple, Dr. Tanners believes his patient philosophy would work anywhere in the U.S.

"My fees are Manhattan, but there are a lot of things we do in this office that don't cost the patient a penny. Those are the things they notice the most," he said.

"I'm not out there trying to get new patients all the time. If I had 80 new patients a month, I'd be out of business because I couldn't keep up with the demand," he continued. "I don't have a waiting list. People get in immediately when they come to my office, and they love that. I do the things I do in my office to maintain my business, not expand it."

While his client list may not be expanding, his office certainly is. He moved into a new office in Manhattan in November, making sure to have plenty of room for all of the amenities he wants to offer his patients.

"Good dentistry is the most important thing," he said. "People who come into a spa practice may look more at the extras than at the dental work being done there. I want my patients to walk away and say, 'Boy, that's beautiful dentistry.' That's why my office is here. Everything else in my office just supports the dentistry."