Tri-City dental offices provide spa-like experience

Dentist Antonio Lopez-Ibarra is one of a growing number of dentists offering spa-like services to patients. Photo: Noelle Haro-Gomez/Tri-City Herald/AP

KENNEWICK, Wash. (AP) — Jonathan Martinez dipped his hands into a warmer filled with paraffin wax.
Then, as the wax got to work softening and moisturizing his skin, he sat down in a reclining massage chair.
He relaxed as music played in the background and enjoyed a pleasant scent — lavender, maybe — wafting through the room.
Then his dentist walked in.
Martinez, 34, of Pasco, wasn't at a day spa, but a dental appointment.
His dentist, Dr. Antonio Lopez-Ibarra of Tri-City Dental Care in Kennewick, is one of a growing number offering spa-like services to patients.
The extras — from paraffin hand wax to aromatherapy — help calm patients, make treatments go more smoothly and contribute to a better overall experience, Lopez-Ibarra and others said.
"When I opened the practice, I wanted to bring a good experience to every person coming in," Lopez-Ibarra said. "We wanted to do something where people felt comfortable in the chair."
At Tri-City Dental Care, patients can try out the paraffin treatment and slip on headphones to listen to music or watch TV or movies.
Aromatherapy and massage chairs also are set up in each room.
Martinez liked the wax treatment. "I work a lot with my hands, and (afterward) they are really, really soft," he said.
Tri-City Dental Care isn't the only local spot where dental care and spa-like services are coming together.
At Lifetime Dental in Richland, patients can indulge in paraffin wax, sit in massage chairs, enjoy aromatherapy and listen to music or watch TV as they're being treated.
The practice, a five-time Tri-City Herald People's Choice Award winner, draws raves online for the spa-like options.
Brande Hirai, manager, said those options are part of what Lifetime Dental — which was started by Dr. Michael Breier and now includes Drs. Robert Pinón and Cameron Warner — does to put patients at ease.
"We give patients a tour, show them the office and introduce them to staff. There's a computer to use while you're waiting. We tour them around as they come through the back. It makes a difference," Hirai said.
They've found that "patients have such a good experience and such a genuine experience when they're here," she said.
At Gledhill Dental in Kennewick, paraffin wax is a popular extra. So are neck pillows and warm blankets.
The practice — the dentists are Drs. Lance Gledhill and Daniel Petersen — also offers music and other entertainment options.
"Every one of our patients is valuable and important to us. We try to put ourselves in their position, when they're coming here," said Renae Quigley, practice administrator.
"Being in the industry, we know what we're doing and why we're doing it," she said. "But not everyone is in a dental office every single day. Thinking about them and making them as stress-free as possible is a priority for us."
Lopez-Ibarra opened Tri-City Dental Care in March, after 2 1/2 years at West Pasco Family Dental.
A native of Mexico, he came to Washington with his family as a little boy.
His father was a teacher's union leader in Sinaloa and moved the family so Lopez-Ibarra and his four brothers could study in the U.S.
At first, Lopez-Ibarra's father worked in the fields and as a teacher's aide, eventually getting a teaching job and earning a master's degree in English as a Second Language.
Lopez-Ibarra, who grew up in Yakima, went to dental school at the University of Washington.
His parents' hard work and sacrifice inspired him and his brothers, he said. The brothers are all successful professionals — two business owners, two dentists and a chiropractor.
"We've done as much as we could in our careers to help my dad realize he came here for a reason and didn't just waste his time," Lopez-Ibarra said.
The 31-year-old, who lives in Richland, said he's looking to make Tri-City Dental Care into the best practice it can be.
The spa treatments are part of that, he said, adding that his focus is on providing top-notch dentistry.
Oscar Suarez, 29, of Pasco, said he's been happy with his experience. The spa-like extras are a plus in his eyes.
The last time he was in Lopez-Ibarra's chair for treatment, he watched a cartoon — he thinks it was Zootopia — while the dentist did his work.
"Something like that is really soothing," Suarez said, as we waited to be seen for a follow-up.
"I would always get nervous (going to the dentist). You think, it's going to be long, it's going to be painful, I'm going to have to wait," he said.
"It's nice that when you come to a place like this, you're not looking toward that chair, you're looking forward to what you're going to experience. It throws off the edge."
Information from: Tri-City Herald, http://www.tri-cityherald.com
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