Last month I discussed what feng shui is and determined that it is essentially how a human being interacts with the world around him/herself. We do not do well unless things are in order around us. Hence, feng shui is a means of survival. Environmentally, things should make us feel good so that we are not burdened.
I also wrote about first impressions and how they are the initial imprint that a patient will keep forever about the dental office. I discussed the outside feng shui of the dental building, reception room, and most importantly, front-desk person. In Chicago, we have what some would consider a harsh accent. We Chicagoans, of course, don’t see it that way. What we do notice is people with different accents from around the country. In my office, we have the sweetest, most soft-spoken Southern gal from Alabama, and the patients just melt around her. I do too! I could have her read me bedtime stories all day. She “blesses your little heart” every time you call. That is the warm welcome that you want from a dental office - not a high-tech, stringent computer genius who can roll out your schedule, monthly billing, and insurance all in one sweep! Patients want the nurturer, someone who cares about them, someone who will make sure their dental experience is one that makes them feel secure!
Let’s continue with our rooms behind the reception door. (See “Feng shui - Part 1” in May 2006 RDH.)
Keep restorative rooms in the back, hygiene in front
Hygiene and prevention rooms are generally happy rooms. We are always happy to see our patients, and this is the patient’s time for the “deeper connection.” This is where patients love to open up and feel confident. This is where the medical history assessment begins, a sometimes sensitive area. This is where we ask about their family and they, in turn, ask about ours. If you have a door to your room, determine whether or not to close it based on your patient’s feelings. Some patients like the privacy; others may feel closed in. Recognizing these details in our patients is something we hygienists do well.
Be aware of intrusive noises that we take for granted as normal sounds in the dental office. The shrill sound of the drill, for example, is unpleasant, but sometimes unavoidable. The same goes for the air compressor, suction, and model grinder. Patients are unfamiliar with these sounds, so they imagine all different kinds of freaky dental tools being used on another patient.
Once in the dental chair, optional virtual movies are helpful for long appointments. Although the idea of a TV sounds great, patients are not really in a position to watch it. The television is not a “warm fuzzy.” It eliminates the opportunity for us to have genuine conversation with our patients. I know there are days when we feel like we want to put a bag over our heads or, better yet, some patients’, but with time and seasoning we learn to find the joy in every heart.
■Fountains - Fountains are great anywhere. They bring a sense of calm. You can even keep a small one up on the reception counter near the sign-in sheet. Be sure to take care of any water splatter.
■ Music - Generic, pleasant music can be calming initially for the patient. Initially is the key. We also need to work in an acceptably sound environment. Once in the treatment room, you can individualize with personal CD players, iPods, and individual room-controlled music. Many patients want to “rock out” to dissipate the high-speed handpiece or ultrasonic instruments, along with any “scraping” sound that accompanies a procedure.
■ Lighting - Full-spectrum lighting or whole lighting is essential. Don’t use fluorescent bulbs. They produce toxicity, which will add to the burden one feels in the office. Fluorescent light stops the production of serotonin in the body. The endocrine system is negatively stimulated by this lighting. Fluorescence is known to create more hyperactivity in children with ADD/ADHD. Two other reasons not to use fluorescent lighting: cosmetic teeth and skin tones look yellow.
Lighting influences mood
Humans are biologically designed to live outside. Sunlight contains all colors of the spectrum and triggers production of serotonin, a neurochemical that can make us feel euphoric and optimistic. We tend to be empathetic and careful in our communications when we feel good, but abrupt and charged when tense. In contrast, unlike the fluorescent lights so common in our offices, full-spectrum lights illuminate the surroundings with an array of colors that help induce good feelings.
For a change, turn off your overhead fluorescent lighting and just leave on the overhead dental light and X-ray viewbox and/or other indirect lighting. It will create a more calming mood for both you and your patient.
The SAD syndrome (seasonal affective disorder) is a type of depression caused by lack of exposure to sunlight. When not surrounded by light with a full complement of colors, we are denied a natural opiate. Replicating natural lighting indoors can reduce depression and general malaise at work. Moreover, cones of light created by spotlights, tabletop lamps, wall sconces, and floor lamps produce a more natural atmosphere than a room lit by overhead fixtures and will light a space in a pattern closer to sunlight.
In addition, skylights are great. Walls of glass, atriums, sliding doors, or picture windows to view nature create freedom, well-being, and happiness.
Strain can be caused by an abundance of reflective surfaces - anything made with stainless steel, bracket table, light, fluorescent lighting reflection, cabinet doors, or shiny plastic.
■ Aroma - For those of you who know me, here is my soapbox. What scents are in your office? What do your patients smell when they walk in? Eugenol? Decay? Surface disinfectants? Here are some others: chemicals from the Chem-Clave, cold sterilization, formaldehyde, rubber base, melting plastic, Lysol, ozone, bad perfume, body odor, malodor (yours, mine, and the dentist’s), X-ray processing chemicals, plug-in air fresheners, employees lunches (baked fish), candles that do not appeal to everyone in the room, and candles high in camphor.
Never use synthetic air fresheners, whether they are room sprays or plug-ins or diffusers. They are chemically toxic and prone to affect people with allergies.
The olfactory system is the most primitive of all the senses. It can stir up both pleasant and negative emotions. If you have a lavender scent in your waiting room and something happened to someone as a child that reminded him/her of that scent, the negative energy and ill feeling of that scent would translate into thoughts such as, “This is a bad place to be.” There would be no hope for that person when he/she goes into the treatment room.
Scented candles have the same effect. Do not keep any candles in the treatment rooms per OSHA. The hazard of candles near the oxygen tanks is quite dangerous, as are aerosol cans and children who cannot be closely supervised by the parent.
Here is your aromatherapy tip: There are only two scents that are universally accepted, and they must be from quality, pure distilled essential oils: FRESH citrus (lemons or limes) and peppermint.
Eucalyptus could run in third place here. It suggests a feeling of well-being and actually is therapeutic for those with congestion. More good scents include baked bread, baked cookies, and fresh flowers.
What is usually lacking is an assortment of scents. Remember, there are only two universal ones. Different categories of scents evoke specific emotions. (See Table 1.) Without scents, we are isolated from the basic experience of life.
Credibility breathes confidence
Any degree or certification by dental professionals should be displayed. This gives the patient a sense of confidence. If you are a member of ADHA, display your membership plaque of many consecutive years. A “wall of fame” is most impressive. Professionally frame any published articles you have written or that have been written about you or your office. This will give your clients and peers insight into who you are and what you are made of. Continuity is important, so make sure all frames look the same.
If there are not too many, duplicate the frames for the various treatment rooms. Hygiene degrees and awards should stay exclusively in their individual rooms. The dentist who shows pride in his/her team will also have your name on the door. If there are part-time hygienists, their names can be changed according to the days they work.
If you have a “mom-and-pop” look in your office, a wall of fame in the reception room can be comforting.
Here are two more tips:
✽ Put baby pictures neatly on a bulletin board as a great way to show pride in your clientele.
✽ Frame thank-you cards to inspire confidence in new patients. Notes from patients are a treasure and something to be proud of. I have one simple note from a patient that reads, “Deb, you’re the best part of my day!” It is framed not only to inspire confidence in patients but also in myself, especially when someone decides not to use the saliva ejector and spits straight up in the air to get rid of the water. That has actually happened to me twice!
■ Treatment rooms - If possible, eliminate the open-style clinic look. Patients do not feel secure and comfortable in those wide “in the round” dental chair arrangements. If you have this design, there are ways to compartmentalize the individual
chairs. One of them is the Shoji screen. Clinic settings that have open bays need space of at least five feet beyond our bodies’ boundaries to give us a feeling of comfort. Insufficient space makes us sequester ourselves from others, both mentally and emotionally.
Treatment rooms with doors are the best option. Pocket, vented, or French doors work great for ensuring security in patients. I have even seen beautiful etched or frosted glass doors going into each treatment room.
Have as little exposed metal as possible. Now, I would not recommend that you wrap your ostrich boa around the metal dental arm, but covering metal trays with dark colors is most acceptable.
Covering metal with plastic bags does not promote a secure feeling. If you have appropriately wiped down your unit, handles, etc., why do you need to put the plastic covers on them? Did you sterilize the bags or cellophane? The sterile look is long gone.
Metal and plastic coverings remind patients of operations and surgery. Patients are conscious in our offices, for the most part, and they don’t want to be reminded that they are in an operating room. Treatment rooms are to be considered healing rooms. In fact, that is what I call my hygiene room.
Scare-tactic posters are not a good means of motivation, especially if the clientele is healthy. If my oral health is healthy and I am taking care of my mouth, I don’t want to see gross, ugly pictures of Stage IV periodontitis. If I even had Stage IV periodontitis, I would not recognize that as ME!
As important as oral cancer screening is, I do not want to see cancerous lesions blown up to the size of a fist. Family pictures and vacation pictures are uplifting! They also stir up conversation.
As you can see, feng shui is all about how a human being interacts; it’s their means of survival. It is the way they feel in an environment. If you feel the burden during the day, step outside, look up at the sky, and breathe deeply 10 times. Feast your eyes around you to add change to your senses in order to be refreshed for the next patient.
When evaluating your own office, ask yourself about the five senses:
➊ What do you see?
➋ What do you smell?
➌ What do you hear?
➍ What do you feel?
➎ What do you taste?
As I mentioned in last month’s column, Oraspa feng shui consultant Cathleen McCandless has a book coming out soon titled Feng Shui That Makes Sense. For more information on any of the subjects mentioned in this column, please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected].