Azadirachta indica or the ‘neem’ is a tree native to the Indian subcontinent. Often, it is referred to as the ‘village pharmacy’ with its twigs used as toothbrushes, its bark for healing gum disease and its leaves as medicine. For many communities, the neem tree plays an essential role in day-to-day life; in the words of clinical director, Dr Smita Mehra, “it is a plant that looks after everything”. Fitting, then, that the UK’s most patient-accommodating, holistic practice should be named after it.
Typically, the dentists’ is a place of resentment or, worse, panic. Some of us get sweaty palms just thinking about it. A 2016 study from the Sri Ramakrishna Mission Dental College and Hospital, Chennai, India, confirmed what was largely suspected, that dental phobia was having a profound effect on overall health. Dr Mehra and her team are all too aware of this and have looked to change the ordeal entirely.
Chief operating officer, Dr Zayba Sheikh, explains that “one of the areas we really look into is dental anxiety and phobias. We have a great team of people here trained specifically.”
From the outset, patients can expect a different approach. Upon entry, you will be greeted with a herbal tea and asked to take a seat in the zen lobby. Significantly, the study above outlined the positive effects of aromatherapy in concealing the smell of eugenol (which, associated with the dentist experience, often triggers anxiety). So, if you can smell something, it’s likely to be the hand-chosen, scented aromas selected to conceal any of those distinctive ‘dentist’ scents. You will be pleasantly surprised to find the interior is decorated naturalistically, giving the impression of a serene forest rather than a dentistry on Fleet street. Every aspect of the experience has been thought through and addressed.
The intention, here, is to transform your entire perception of ‘a trip to the dentist’. From one of reluctance to one, maybe even, of anticipation. This starts with better accommodation of patients, “one of the things we pride ourselves with at the neem tree are conveniences. We like to have extended opening hours, we offer appointments from 8am to 8pm as well as weekend appointments at most of our clinics.” It is a rare approach in an industry that is notoriously obstinate when it comes to accommodating work or school schedules.
With a change of attitude the dental group are hoping to usher in a new generation of excited dentist-goers, “…it is important to get babies used to sight and smells of the dentist from an early age.” Children struggle especially with this vital aspect of hygiene but Dr Mehra is quick to point out the importance of getting into an early routine, “…from brushing their first tooth to deciding when to bring them to the dentist for the first time, a child’s dental health and good dental habits need to be planned from the very beginning so that they feel that this is a very normal part of their life and the right dental habits are formed from the start.”
With some luck, other practices will take note of the neem tree. Although unorthodox in its habits, this group promises a bright and more relaxing experience for the patients of tomorrow.