By Cynthia Koons
It is new age dentistry.
Aromatherapy scents, soft natural music, a flowing water wall and massages greet customers at the Bayside Smile Design and Dental Spa at 38-39 Bell Blvd., a dental office designed to combat pain with pleasure.
“Nordstrom, Sax, the Ritz — they’ve all played on quality service,” said Jerome Vitale, the dentist who brought the idea to Bayside. “Everyone who comes in gets a routine head and neck massage — no extra charge. We see eight patients a day, there’s no running between rooms.”
His massage therapist, Jennifer Ouziel, said she worked in a spa for year, but finds this work more gratifying because she appeases patients’ nerves prior to medical procedures.
“Here I get to sit with them and if they need any help, I bring them an herbal wrap or give them a (jaw) massage,” she said.
She used to be “dentalphobic,” but ever since she began working in the clinic she has returned to getting routine check-ups. She even convinced her whole family to schedule appointments at the dental spa.
Vitale schedules fewer appointments and conducts a variety of procedures, from routine cleanings to what he calls porcelain “smile makeovers.”
“We can do instant orthodontics,” Vitale said. “I can create a smile from a library of smiles or of your favorite celebrity.”
In smile makeovers, Vitale can enlarge, straighten and whiten teeth. He said he always refers patients to orthodontics first, but many of them come back for porcelain treatment because of the speed of the process. A makeover can take as little as two visits or four hours, he said, without months of retainers or braces.
“We use the world-renowned porcelain technicians on Park Avenue,” he said.
“We’re bringing a little Manhattan to Bell Boulevard,” said his assistant, Tina Chamberlain.
Chamberlain said she has seen introverted, quiet girls with little self-esteem get smile makeovers and leave the office outgoing and energetic.
The smile makeovers, a common practice among celebrities, are what Vitale is trying hardest to market.
“If a dentist doesn’t do this, they’re not a cosmetic dentist,” he said.
Vitale’s practice has built to the size it is now from small beginnings in the basement of a building in Flushing, where he saw patients for seven years.
Many of those patients have made the transition to the dental spa with him. A few of the older ones, he said, are wary of his new approach to dentistry.
“There’s the occasional patient that doesn’t want a massage,” he said. “Most of the patients know what they’re getting into.”
He said his prices are in the same range of other dentists’ offices and that most patients come by personal referral.
“The biggest problem is that my old patients come here and think it will cost more money,” he said.
He said that when he brought the idea up with his family, he got mixed responses.
“At first they thought I was crazy,” he said.
He said he sold the idea to his staff after he took them to a conference in Florida that hosted a segment on dental spas.
“It’s changing the way we practice dentistry,” he said of dental spas.
“If we could get 10 percent more of the population seeing dentists, that’s all we need,” he said. “Most of the dentists’ offices you see around, they’re more high-volume, more of a clinic. I like those because I get their patients.”
Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.