Dentistry design in the hot seat

How about glass candelabras and scented candles at the dentist, along with blond wood floors, flat-screen TVs and piped music? Trish Lorenz looks at how clinics are using spa tactics to pull in the punters


If you hate going to the dentist, you’re not alone. And those feelings of angst probably aren’t helped by the predominant design aesthetic – clinical, cold, haunted by the sound of a whining drill and scented with antiseptic, adding to the many reasons why a visit to the dentist is a less than riveting experience. But as dentistry becomes an increasingly privatised and lucrative business, some clinics are waking up to the possibility of attracting customers by employing design cues more common in the spa and leisure industry. A whole new dental experience looks like it might be a short step away.

Austin Smith Lord has recently begun work on the interiors of a £1.5m dental surgery for the Harley Dental Clinic in Folkestone, Kent. This 1200m2 facility, which is scheduled to open in September, will see state of the art Finnish dental equipment in treatment rooms featuring yellow, blue or green colour schemes, plasma TV screens and high-specification finishes such as timber and stone. The waiting area takes its cues from spa design, with an elm, ebony and vertical grain wenge reception desk, acid etched glass, bespoke floor-to-ceiling aquariums and integrated playrooms for children.

According to Austin Smith Lord interior designer Letisha Moody, an increasingly competitive market is driving the change along with growing consumer awareness of design. ‘There’s the expectation among consumers that design standards are high in all the places they visit, including the health sector,’ she says. ‘Colours, layouts, finishes and furniture choices are becoming essential in developing a desirable space that doesn’t feel institutional.’

For the Folkestone project, the group was briefed to create interiors that reduced the clinical feel of the practice. ‘The client was keen that interiors were much more design-led,’ explains Moody. ‘They want people to feel that they’re treating themselves when they visit the dentist and asked us to achieve a balance between their desire for a very modern clinic and their wish that it should be comfortable, not intimidating.’

It’s a theme that’s echoed at London’s Brook Street-based Swiss Smile. The brainchild of Swiss sisters Golnar and Haleh Abivardi, who are both trained dentists, it’s designed by Swiss architect Decoris and is nothing like a traditional surgery/ indeed, it feels more like a cross between an upmarket hotel and a spa. In the reception area, backlit reception pods are framed by a mirrored wall and opulent glass candelabra in black and red. The waiting room next door features a leather sofa and leather tiled wall, offset with simple rough-hewn wood and a warm red and black colour scheme. There’s even a fire, a flat-screen TV and a small shop-cum-champagne bar, complete with leather and cowhide bar stools and chocolate brown textured wallpaper.

Downstairs the treatment rooms are lighter, with blond wood floors, soft gold walls and full wall aquatic scenes. Softly piped music (chill-out and contemporary pop) and scented candles ensure that no trace remains of the traditional dentist’s surgery. Looks like it’s time to say goodbye to angst and hello to a relaxing, pampering dental experience – at least, until the drill revs up. l

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