One of the most obvious statements of all time is that going to the dentist isn’t sexy. But…could it be? Ever since “modern” dentist offices started popping up in New York City in and around 2019, my suggested Instagram ads have been working overtime to convince me that they can.
So what does a “sexy” dentist’s office look like exactly? For starters, they’re chic, non-intimidating, and highly Instagrammable. They resemble a lavish spa at first glance (and second) and make patient satisfaction its top priority. If you live in the Big Apple, chances are that you know what I’m talking about: spaces like Tend. If you haven’t heard of it before, you certainly will now.
“Tend was created after our team saw a need for change across the highly fragmented dental industry and a massive opportunity to improve the patient experience,” Melania Lonchyna, Tend’s Chief Product Officer, tells GRAZIA. “We all go to the dentist, and yet, people consistently dread going. We built Tend to create a new standard for oral health, starting at the dentist and extending into daily life.”
The Tend team went to great lengths to make the design elevated and photogenic. “We tapped industry-leading designers and partners to help us create a studio environment that’s designed to comfort and soothe, especially for guests with pre-visit nerves,” says Lonchyna.
Since my Instagram algorithm seemingly knows me better than I know myself, I caved and made an appointment at Tend’s Grand Central studio — one of six locations in New York City. It was pouring rain on Wednesday, November 11, which seems, in theory, like a fine day to cancel one’s dentist appointment and binge-watch TV. But I found myself genuinely excited to experience the space and fill in all of my friends about the experience afterward.
No phone calls are necessary before your appointment. All you need to do is provide your insurance information via an online portal up to two hours before your scheduled visit. They also ask you what your top priority is when it comes to your dental health (Feeling clean? Staying healthy? How your teeth look?) to personalize your experience.
At first glance, the space reminded me of a boutique spa. Upon walking in, you check in at the “Welcome Bar” and — in my case — are so distracted by the pretty aesthetic, you briefly forget where you are: the freaking dentist. I notice a subtle-but-pleasant scent in the air and am later told that it’s Tend’s custom fragrance called “Bergamist,” featuring notes of sandalwood, cedar, and citrus, designed to calm your pre-appointment nerves.
After completing a brief check-in and being greeted with a soul-soothing smile, the front desk attendee encouraged me to swing by The Brushery, a zen, teal-patterned room resembling an art studio. Overwhelmed with the chic-ness, my mirror selfie was less than ideal, but I intend on giving it another try at my next appointment in six months.
Then, I was led to my “guest suite,” where my hygienist gave me the option of placing my phone in a fancy germ-sanitizing box (I did). From there, she brought me into another room for a few quick X-rays, which went by in a flash thanks to a dental-inspired word search hung at eye level.
Next was my favorite part of all: the teeth cleaning. I was provided Beats by Dre headphones and aviator sunglasses before my hygienist reclined my chair so I could watch Netflix while she cleaned my teeth. From there, the process went by in a flash. I usually dread the awful scraping sensation of getting plaque removed, but thanks to Tend’s innovative, quieter tools and Great News playing at high volume, the process was much more tolerable. After a good and thorough conversation with a Tend dentist, I was sent on my way — but not without being given an Ursa Major Essential Face Wipe to freshen up in the mirror.
“Ahead of Tend’s 2019 launch, our team focused on evaluating and understanding current attitudes and behaviors around dental visits through interviews, reviews, and a pilot practice, which treated more than 1,500 patients over ten months,” explains Lonchyna, when asked how statistics played a role in the brand’s identity and aesthetic.
“The process showed us that clinical expertise and emotional and sensory experience were the two main factors that created patient dissatisfaction, so we sought to change that.” According to the statistics, Tend has achieved its goal of making patients happy and less fearful about their dentist’s visit. The dental industry’s average Net Promoter Score is 1 on a scale ranging from -100 to 100. In other words, very few people are raving about their dental experience. “That’s lower than mattress stores (8) and just two points higher than cable companies (-1),” says Tend’s CEO, Doug Hudson. According to the company, Tend’s score is an 85.
Social Media’s Influence
I first heard of Tend via Instagram and was curious to find out if my New York-based followers were fed as many advertisements on the social media platform as I was. After posting this question on my Instagram Story, I was quickly inundated with messages from people who see the ads frequently, too.
I asked what’s holding them back (if anything) from converting to the trendy studio and received a wide variety of responses. Many admitted that they were interested in the dentist’s office but simply haven’t taken the plunge just yet since it’s such a new, foreign concept. That said, Tend has certainly placed itself on the map through its social media promotion, but it has a ways to go with actually getting people into the office.
“I think they offer interesting services like Tend with the braces that go on the back of your teeth,” says a Manhattan-based publicist. “I don’t typically think to ask about these services at my primary dentist or even know if their office offers them. If anything, it’s inspired me to ask about what additional services my current provider offers, and if they don’t offer this, I would look into an alternative like dntl or Tend.”
“I started seeing targeted ads and influencer posts about Tend a while back,” says another Manhattan resident who works in media research. “The brand has definitely nailed the ‘cool girl aesthetic,’ to the point that I’m not sure if I’m cool enough to book an appointment. I feel like I’d be infiltrating the popular girls’ lunch table if I went, but it’s almost like I feel exclusive for just being served the ads.”
A third user wasn’t sure whether they accepted insurance, which was why I, too, took so long to make an appointment. When I saw the space for the first time, I assumed that it was too-good-to-be-true insurance-wise. But as it turns out, Tend accepts most major insurances, including my out-of-state coverage.
“Patients don’t pay more for our level of care,” Lonchyna says during our interview. “We like to joke that we are not a more expensive dentist, we just look like one.”
“Patients don’t pay more for our level of care,” Lonchyna says during our interview.”We like to joke that we are not a more expensive dentist, we just look like one.”
Tend’s Future and Final Thoughts
Tend will be expanding its studio locations to Boston and Washington, DC in early 2021. It’s also recently launched a full range of oral care products and accessories, including a limited-edition Swishy Swirly Counter Cup created by the designer of the sinks and shelves in Tend’s Brushery, and innovative Breezy Braces born to simplify the teeth-straightening process. The newest launch is the Soothsonic Electronic Toothbrush, which the brand deems “the Rolls Royce of brushes.” All factors considered, Tend is doing an excellent job growing its brand, which values transparency, patient satisfaction, and the soothing power of monochrome interiors.
Having experienced the practice, I regret to inform you that it is still the dentist at the end of the day, and I can’t promise that you’ll happily skip to the office to get a cavity filled. But what I can assure you is that your traditional provider has some serious competition.