As more Americans skip the dentist because of rising out-of-pocket costs, dental practices are struggling to maintain the same level of revenue and attract new customers. That’s got dentists investing in fancy new equipment and spiffing up their offices. Many begin adding spa services to their practices – foot massages, back rubs, Botox, and candlelit reception areas – hoping to offer a high-end experience (albeit at an inflated price) and obviate the annoyance that they no longer take insurance. But despite these efforts, the recession has continued to drill a hole in profits.
Since 2007, business at many dental spas has plummeted by around 50 percent, says Dan King, the marketing director of the Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry. He says the Atlanta practice remained afloat by cutting staff, but many high-end practices, despite outward appearances, are hurting, he added. “We’re serving top entertainers, athletes, CEOs,” said King. “How long can it keep going? Does it dry up at some point? There’s not enough of those types of people to keep a lot of practices afloat in the style of dentistry they want to do.”
While discounter Brighter.com advertises crowns for $595, King said that his practice uses hand-painted, hand-fired crowns. They start at around $2,000. “We’re talking apples and oranges. A lot of people think ‘a crown is a crown is a crown,’ but they’re not...It’s like comparing the Ritz-Carlton or the Hilton to Motel 6.”
From massage chairs to spectacular views, here’s our photo gallery of 8 over-the-top dentist offices.
Doug Merlino contributed reporting to this article.