Esthetic Hygiene: Baker, move over ...

April 1, 2001
A pleasant bouquet diffused throughout a five-star practice can transform a normal dental visit into an oral health occasion.

At Cosmetic Dentistry 2001 - which was an action-packed continuing-education experience - one of the speakers, Dr. Mike Maroon of genR8TNext, addressed the "message" your practice conveys - either consciously or unconsciously. Two questions that challenged me were: "Does your office smell like Eugenol?" and "Do you smell like Eugenol?"

Early in my career, I remember conversations with my then boyfriend (now husband) about how I "smelled like a dental office" when we would meet after work. I would sarcastically respond that, if he thought about it, the "odor" was a good thing, since that was where I had told him I had been all day. But, internally, those comments would open the floodgates back to my high school days, when I used to work for Burger King. Then, I was fully aware of the stench that attached to my person, and nothing short of a shower would remove the greasy hamburger reek.

Since clients change dental "homes" based on their perceptions of care and attention from the professional team, it would be a worthy endeavor to consider what our practices smell like! Arguably, most esthetic practices are or try to be conscious about the appearance and atmosphere of their offices. However, we do have to deal with odors such as breath, abscessed teeth, Eugenol, methylmethacrylate, formocresol, autoclaves, etc. Some practices even have neighboring businesses that generate odors. According to Neal Smith, DDS, owner of Fresh-Concepts Direct, an aroma therapy company (, the major drawback to the smell of a dental office is "the bad experiences related to them ... One whiff of the wrong smell puts up all kinds of barriers."

During Dr. Maroon's presentation, he gave the following suggestions to create an illusion of smell: Baking of bread or cookies, burning candles, and cooking bacon. Aroma therapy has spawned a new science dedicated to the interrelationship of psychology and fragrance technology called "aroma-chology." One aspect of aroma therapy, environmental fragrances (EF), consists of using aromatic botanical extracts known as essential oils. These oils may alter brain chemistry to produce emotional or psychological effects. Essential oils work through the olfactory nerve, a direct extension from the limbic system of the brain. They work at stimulating feelings of relaxation, confidence, trust, and perhaps even a sedative effect that may limit anxiety-triggering dental phobias.

In 1997, Mary Anderson, RDH, SDT, ([email protected]) learned that essential oils are routinely used in many European hospitals for therapeutic and antiseptic purposes. Some of her research revealed that sales volume increased up to 10 percent when consumers shopped in an EF atmosphere. Anderson then wanted to see if this modality would increase case acceptance and office production in her dental office.

"I thought that, at the very least, the increased feelings of confidence generated by EF would make patients less tense and possibly reduce perception of pain," she explained.

Anderson's employer, Dr. Michael King-Brown, was motivated by curiosity and a willingness to try a broad range of healing options to initiate aroma therapy. Dr. King-Brown said that the "Confidence" blend of aromas "increases case acceptance and, when clients come to get essential oil products from Mary, they stay to book dentistry!" Both Anderson and Dr. King-Brown believe that the fragrances help their clients with feelings of relaxation and being cared for - "that extra touch."

When the goal is turning your practice into a dental spa with the addition of these fragrances, there are lessons to be learned. Dr. Smith recommends not using too much fragrance. He warns, "The fragrance should be at threshold level ... barely noticeable, if at all." He recommends that an office keep the fragrance at an even and consistent level while choosing scents that have a broad spectrum of aroma therapy properties. Dr. Smith uses two different families of fragrances: relaxation and invigorating. His examples of relaxing fragrances are called Vanilla Calm, Relaxing, and Peaceful Garden. The invigorating types are Alive, Invigorating, Refreshing, and Vibrant.

Anderson offers some suggestions for getting started with aroma therapy:

  • Keep essential oils in a dark glass bottle, away from heat and direct sunlight.
  • The volatile compounds in essential oils interact with metals and plastics, interfering with purity and disturbing therapeutic properties.
  • Ensure a respectful introduction of botanical extracts by first receiving the client's permission and checking for sensitivities.
  • Know your source for the essential oils. If you are using adulterated or synthetic oils, you will not receive the therapeutic benefits.
  • Some essential oils are hazardous if not used skillfully and in extreme dilution.
  • Do not use essential oils if a client or team member objects to it.
  • Do not use essential oils if you cannot be sure of their efficacy, purity, and safety.
  • Consider reading Valerie Ann Worwood's The Fragrant Mind (published by New World Library in 1996).

As a practicing hygienist, Anderson augments her clinical day by using a spray or diffusing a blend first thing in the morning for its esthetic appeal or "to brighten up any sour moods." She contends, "Confidence is sprayed at least once a day, more often during flu season. It has the additional benefit of being an effective antiseptic, as well as its obvious emotional benefits." She describes essential oils as extremely effective deodorizers. They do not merely mask unpleasant odors; they actually eliminate odors through physiochemical means. These scents assist in ridding the office of any unpleasant or anxiety-producing dental odors.

When her clients arrive, she then places a single drop of Lullaby on their bibs, so they can inhale it throughout the appointment. Her clients comment on how much they enjoy and appreciate the added touch. Or, she suggests placing a few drops on the cardboard box containing the bibs for a more subtle effect.

During the mid-afternoon, or anytime when a slump may occur, Anderson places a drop of Relax/Refresh in her clients' bibs, for she feels it creates a mental state of relaxed alertness. Lastly, for her clients who may have a stress-induced headache, she offers them the Headache/Migraine relief formula. If they are feeling any TMJ strain or neck/back pain, she will apply - or have them apply - the Muscle Spasm relief blend.

A pleasant bouquet diffused throughout a five-star practice can transform a normal dental visit into an oral health occasion. As a closing viewpoint, Dr. Smith believes that dental practices should consider this reality: "Why smell like the 19th century when we are in the 21st century?"

Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS, presents seminars nationally about esthetic hygiene. She also has developed Pre-D Systems, a pre-diagnostic esthetic enrollment software for oral health professionals. She can contacted through