Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Rather Be at the Spa? April 16th, 2003 They wear herbal eye masks, sip healthy drinks from the juice bar and rest their necks on warm pillows. They slip their feet into toasty booties, breathe in the sweet aroma of lavender and lemongrass and watch movies through video goggles. No, Alex isn't a massage therapist, but the Athens, Ga.-based dentist believes such pampering will make his office seem, well, less like a dentist's office. He began creating the spa-like atmosphere -- a massage therapist works out of a converted treatment room -- about four years ago after the staff brainstormed ways to make dental appointments more appealing. "It's changing people's perception of what it is to have dental treatment," Alex says. "People are looking forward to coming to the dentist." That sums up the goal of a growing number of dentists across the country who have adopted the spa-dentistry concept, with luxuries nobody would have dreamed of in the traditional sterile dental office where the most comfortable thing around was the chair (even if those sitting in it rarely were). It's hard to say how many dental offices have combined elements of the spa or other soothing touches with the more typical filling, drilling, root canals and such. However, anecdotal evidence suggests the idea is spreading in dental care, which federal officials say accounted for a record $65.6 billion in U.S. spending in 2001. At one of the biggest dental conventions in the country, the Chicago Dental Society will offer a course at its midwinter meeting this weekend that includes tips on how to "create a comfortable spa-like atmosphere for patients and team." "We've been seeing more and more focus on making our patients comfortable at the dentist office, and I think this whole spa-dentist office concept has come out of that," says Dr. Kimberly Harms, a consumer adviser to the American Dental Association (ADA). "And given the positive response from patients, I think you're going to see more and more of a trend in that direction." Harms and her husband, James, both dentists, have an office in Farmington, Minn. She likes pampering in the dentist office in part because she empathizes with dental-phobic patients. "We don't have a good reputation in the public," she concedes. And her view of getting dental care? "I'm a big baby. I hate going to the dentist." However, Harms dreads it much less nowadays. After all, she's not only a dentist but a patient at her practice. And slipping on goggles to watch a movie somehow made getting a root canal much easier to bear. That's but one of the plush features at the Harms' practice, which they renovated extensively after moving in a decade ago. Today, patients settle in to couches and easy chairs in a reception area painted in soothing pastels, read books or magazines from the library, nibble cookies and drink juice or coffee. In treatment rooms, patients sit on chairs with back massagers and snuggle in warm blankets beneath ceilings with flowers painted on them. Instead of watching the needle or drill, they can take in a movie or gaze out the large picture windows at a garden with evergreen trees, flowers in summer and heated bird baths. Harms says she and her husband don't charge additional fees for any of their non-dental services. Other practices, such the Imagemax Dental Day Spa in Houston, charge separately for each service. Along with dentistry, Imagemax offers Swedish body massage, massage with hot stones, "body polishes" with sea salts, body wraps for weight loss, facials and Botox treatments, among other options. The ADA, Harms says, considers quality dental care the top priority, but welcomes the meshing of luxury and dentistry for a simple reason. "What will happen is patients will be more comfortable going to the dentist, and that will cause them to go more often," she says. "The ADA's main concern is the health and safety of our patients, and anything that can bring them into the office and improve their oral health is a darn good thing." Harms sums up the boom in spa-dentistry this way: "It all really relates to what the patients are wanting, and we're not only dentists, we're small businesspeople. It's really fun to practice in an arena where you're giving patients what they want. I think it's a nicer way to practice dentistry, improving our lifestyle as well as patients' lifestyles." More information For more on maintaining oral health, visit the American Dental Association. Or check out the Imagemax Dental Day Spa in Houston. Source: HealthScoutNews

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Child Abuse Cases On The Rise Cases of child abuse and neglect rose slightly in 2001 for the second straight year, government officials said. The increase was not statistically significant but Prevent Child Abuse America, a private group in Chicago, worried that it could be the start of a new trend. Officials could not say what accounted for the increase in 2001, the last year for which data are available. But Prevent Child Abuse America said the stress of an economic downturn and unemployment increases the risk of child abuse. About 1,300 children died of abuse or neglect in 2001, 100 more than in the previous year. Overall, 903,000 children were victimized, said Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services. "The good news is that the overall rate has not significantly increased from the previous year," Horn said. "The bad news is that there were 903,000 children who were victims of abuse and neglect. That's 903,000 too many." Confirmed maltreatment cases peaked in 1993, with 15.3 per 1,000 children. The rate fell for six straight years, hitting 11.8 per thousand in 1999. In 2000, there were 12.2 cases per thousand. In 2001, there were 12.4 cases per thousand, or a total of about 903,000, the agency said. Child protective service agencies across the country received 2.6 million referrals in 2001, according to data reported to the federal government. About a third of them were substantiated after investigation; the majority were cases of neglect. Of those that were confirmed, 59 percent suffered neglect, 18 percent were physically abused, 10 percent were sexually abused and 7 percent were psychologically maltreated. Consistent with previous years, 81 percent of perpetrators were parents. Horn, joined by Sid Johnson, president of Prevent Child Abuse America, presented the results at a news conference in St. Louis, site of a national conference this week on child abuse and neglect. Both Horn and Johnson emphasized the importance of prevention, but they didn't agree about how that should happen. Horn focused on the Bush administration's proposed granting of modified block grants to states' child welfare systems, an attempt to give states more flexibility and fewer rules. Under the plan, states could use some money now designated solely for foster care for abuse prevention. Johnson said he likes the flexibility but has reservations. He said he worries that the financial risk would shift from the federal government to the states "and ultimately children" if a capped five-year block grant was not enough to cover any spiraling of abuse cases. Democratic legislation introduced Tuesday by U.S. Reps. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland and George Miller of California would, among other things, give performance bonuses and grants to states that improve their child welfare systems and improve the quality, training and retention of caseworkers. Source: