The Importance of Smell in Your Orthodontic Practice

Imagine that you are walking into your dentist’s office. You just opened the door; what comes to your mind? Perhaps this exercise made you recall the teal color on the walls in the reception hall or the dark wood of the chairs. Or maybe the first thing that popped into your head was an image of Diana, who checks in patients and always asks you how your golf game has been as of late. Did a particular smell also come to mind?

The Smells of Medical Offices

The offices of medical professionals are notorious for being very odiferous, and orthodontist offices are no exception. But no one is making a candle from the scent, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

The high level of sanitation that must be achieved to give your patients the best experience and to keep your office safe and clean, requires using specific products. And the materials used in procedures in an orthodontics office, combined with the presence of gloves, antibacterial soaps, disinfectant wipes, and sanitation ovens, can create some potent smells.

Why Scents in Your Orthodontic Office Matter

Why do people make such a big deal about scent? Smell is the only human sense processed directly through the limbic system, which is why it is linked so strongly to memories and emotions (and is why the smell of your dentist’s office might linger in your mind in a memory). Unfortunately, many people have negative memories and emotions associated with past work they’ve had done on their teeth and in their mouths.

The work an orthodontist does is a big unknown for many people, especially if they’ve never had a person close to them go through the process of getting braces or Invisalign. Having a pleasant smell be the first thing that greets new patients when they walk in your doors can go a long way in easing their anxiety and comfort level.

The Calming Effect of Scents

Research shows certain scents can have calming effects on people. A study by Japanese researchers, published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience on October 23, 2018, contributed to a theory that specific smells can have the same effect on our brain as an anti-anxiety medication, changing the brain’s chemistry in the same way prescription drugs like Valium and diazepam do. In this study, mice who were exposed to the aroma of the organic compound that gives lavender its floral scent had lowered anxiety levels.

There are different ways to make sure that your orthodontic office smells pleasant, but you might consider a diffuser system that uses oil-based scents, perhaps a scent with lavender oil in it. It’s not absolutely necessary to rely on the smell of your office to put your new and existing patients at ease. Luckily, humans are gifted with many senses, including sight. If your office staff is friendly, and everyone is greeted with a smile when they walk through the door, this will create a lasting impression.

If you decide to use a scent in your practice that hasn’t been scientifically shown to reduce anxiety (like lavender), it’s still possible for your patients to have a positive experience. A nice scent can completely change an environment and create positive associations for your patients. If you use a fragrance that smells like ocean air or evergreen forests, your patients are more likely to be reminded of their favorite coastal getaway spot or family camping than any past experience they’ve had in a medical office.

Your patients are no doubt excited to be working towards a beautiful and healthy smile and are very grateful for your expert assistance in achieving this. But (no offense), if it were up to them, they would probably choose to be relaxing on the beach or hiking a nature trail over sitting in any orthodontist’s office!

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