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Next generation Dental care

Pedicure before the pearlies

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A dental clinic is no longer a torture chamber. From PlayStations to jacuzzis, the new-age dentist is doing everything to make patients lose their fear of the chair.

Visiting the dentist has always been a frightening proposition. The idea of drills boring into your teeth, or a rotter being plucked clean while you lay awake, open-mouthed, and vulnerable is enough to make your teeth fall out in fright. Only the bravest pluck up enough courage to seek out a dentist to have a painful tooth extracted or filled. But dentophobes have less reason to dodge the dentist these days.

Most dental procedures come wrapped in hedonistic comfort. At White Dental Spa in Chennai, patients can calm their frazzled nerves with a complimentary Thai foot massage or a fish pedicure. If there is time to kill before the pearlies are powerbleached, why not step into a jacuzzi? Compliments of the spa, of course.

If Ogden Nash were alive today he would gnash his teeth in indignation and perhaps rewrite his word sketch, This Is Going To Hurt Just A Little Bit (which captures the horrors of a visit to the dentist ). Dentists these days are busy distracting patients with plush interiors and designer services. "Dentistry has undergone a lot of change over the years, " acknowledges Dr Anil Kohli, a dental surgeon and endodontist practising in Delhi. "Patients who come to us now are well-informed about procedures and want the dentist to be answerable to them, " he says.

However, at dental clinics that are dressed to the teeth in stylish interiors and gizmos, you're bound to forget your questions. Take for example the waiting area in Dr Suchetan Pradhan's clinic in Juhu, which resembles a hotel lobby with its plush couches and polished marble floors. It has been done up by interior designer Nisha Jamwal whose brief was to make the clinic as cheery as possible. The clinic has calming Buddhist chants playing in the background, iPads in the waiting room and expensive art on the walls that you can actually buy (part of the proceeds go to charity). Such add-ons lower the patient's pain perception, says Dr Pradhan who's been in the profession for 25 years, and tends to the upper crust of Bollywood and the corporate world.

"Dentistry is the only branch of surgery where the patient is fully awake while he's being operated upon. Therefore, it's very important to make the patient relax, " says Pradhan. In the OT, which is awash with light from a 30-feet ceiling-to-floor glass wall, all the instruments are kept hidden from the patient's view. During a procedure, adults are advised to watch comedy on the television, which is placed strategically in front of the dental chair, while children are distracted with PlayStations.

India is currently the fastest growing dental clinic market in the world, growing approximately at 10 per cent annually. Dental treatment has tremendous potential here as almost half the population has never visited a dentist, even though 70 per cent of it suffers from dental problems, according to a report by marketing consultants Frost & Sullivan. Steep consultation fees and the dread of pain keep most people away from dentists. But with greater disposable income and rising awareness about oral health and aesthetics, people are increasingly amenable to having their teeth fixed. "Good-looking healthy teeth are crucial for self-confidence and success, " says Dr Chethan Nand Kumar, chief administrator at Swiss Smile Dental Clinic in Bangalore.

Kuldeep Singh is a senior HR executive in an IT firm in Bangalore who says he has visited dental clinics across various Indian cities - including Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi and Indore - and has had his share of scares. "Some clinics resembled barber shops and some doctors were plain insensitive, " says Singh who confesses that his pain threshold is very low. He recalls one visit where the dentist made no effort to calm him down although he was visibly terrified. "I asked her if it will hurt a lot and she said yes. I ran away, " he recalls. These days, he prefers Swiss Smile on Hosur Road, where dentists first show him a video to explain the procedure before getting down to it.

A well-known European brand, Swiss Smile, claims it runs the largest dental clinic on the continent. It opened in Bangalore in 2010 and has since become popular with local politicians, actors, businessmen etc. All dentists working at the clinic have been put through the grind in the US and the UK, and follow strict international standards of hygiene. The clinic also offers pick-and-drop facilities for senior citizens, and has a play area where you can leave your tyke behind while you deal with a root canal. In case your tab runs upward of Rs 1 lakh, you have the option of paying in installments.

If you still feel nervous, try looking at their trademark aqua-themed wallpaper. Its vivid colours and beautiful fish are supposedly designed to calm your nerves so you don't mind the whine of the dentist's drill.

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