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The Best Dental Office Music Ever.

The right music can make even a trip to the dentist better.

I have been practicing as a dentist in Laguna Niguel since 2015.  Many of you know that I also practiced in Cleveland before that.  Not many people, however, know that prior to studying dentistry, I was a double bass player.  Most people, when they find out this little bit of superfluous trivia wonder how I made such a “big jump” in my work.  The fact of the matter is, the jump wasn’t that big.  As a musician, my life was measured in fractions of a millimeter.  As a dentist, the same rings true – an error in the magnitude of a fraction of a millimeter can mean that a ceramic veneer or porcelain crown must go back to the lab.
Music has always been and has continued to be a big part of my life – I grew up with wonderful parents that played a lot of guitar, and constantly had music playing.  Though most of what they listened to was classic american rock and singer-songwriter, they instilled in me a love of music that runs deep through my veins.  I was able to study and perform with some of the greatest artists in the world – now I still perform as a volunteer member of the South Coast Symphony in Aliso Viejo, California.
It is because of this exposure from a young age that I grew to study and understand the power of music.  As I dentist, I have learned to take advantage of the magic music creates.  You are probably aware that the music you hear while you are doing your shopping isn’t an accident.  Sound is an important part of our environment, and the noises around us can effect our mood, our sense of well-being, and our energy level.  Think of the baby crying in the row behind you on a airplane, or the sound of padded synths at the masso-therapist – completely different experiences in part, because of the sounds.

Creating an Atmosphere To Calm Nerves and Brighten Your Day

Now think of sitting in the dentists chair.  I hear from my patients on a daily basis how nervous they get from memories of past experiences.  I think there is a way to not only calm the nerves of uneasy patients, but also create a more positive environment that can energize my team too – using a carefully curated selection of songs as background music.  This same strategy can be brought to the foreground – used with earphones, dark glasses, and a neck pillow to make the music dominant in the senses.
There are certain things I listen for when curating a playlist for our dental office in Laguna Niguel.  Not every song meets every criteria, but that’s ok with me because it creates interest.  If all of the songs met all of the criteria the playlist would be boring and become ignored – allowing the patient to focus on our dentistry instead of the music.  Most songs meet most of these, however, and I think if you apply these concepts to any of your playlists you can better tune-in to your desired emotion.  Here they are in no particular order:
Key: Major key is preferred
Tempo: 60-100 beats per minute [walking, not dancing].
Tension: Things like dissonance in the harmony, or lots of distortion / effects can create a feeling of uneasiness.
Consistency:  The song should have a similar feel from beginning to end.  Stairway to Heaven is an example of one I would avoid.
Lyrical Content:  Positive attitude preferred, but any well written lyrics that are interesting will do.
Familiarity:  If we know what’s coming, we tend to be more at ease.
Enough with the talk! On to the playlists!

Music while you get your Teeth Cleaned

  • It’s Too Late – Carole King
     A classic from one of America’s greatest songwriters.  This comes from a time when everything was done by hand.  Every instrument was played by a real musician, and the rhythm section just kills the groove.  This first tune happens to be in a minor key, but everything else about this tune makes it very relaxing.  Rolling Stone even included it as one of the top 500 songs ever written.
  • Baby I’m Yours – Arctic Monkeys
     A wonderful cover of Barbara Lewis’s 1965 hit.  It maintains a cool 60’s vibe and stays true to the style of harmony from that era that we are all familiar with.
  • In Your Arms – Chef’Special
     This is from one of my favorite new bands, Chef’Special.  An awesome tune to sing in the car – it’s also a touching ode in remembrance of the father of the lead singer.  If you’ve ever experienced losing someone close to you, it can be a tear-jerker.  A positive, uplifting tear-jerker.
  • Running for Cover – Ivan & Alyosha
     If you’re not yet familiar with this group from the Pacific Northwest, get on it.  The songwriting is outstanding, arrangements simple and fun to listen to.  I love everything they’ve produced.
  • Los Angeles – the bird and the bee
     Retro-electro-pop-candy.  The vocals on this are plush and luxurious, and the pulsing synth and drum beat seem to elevate you to another place.
  • Soul to Squeeze – RHCP
     From the movie “The Coneheads”, this was an instant favorite of mine.  What’s not to enjoy from one of the funkiest rhythm sections in modern rock?  Flee’s melodic bass serves to counter Anthony Kedis’s vocals.  When the hook is the bass line? I’m instantly in love!  The pocket is so deep you can help but to settle in and get comfy.  The transitions into the chorus can get a little more intense – but it’s a perfect song to mix into some more subdued tunes.
  • In Bloom – Sturgill Simpson
     This is one will be a favorite for years to come.  The song has a special place in my heart because I was a teenager when “Nevermind” dropped.  This neo-country-soul verison of the Nirvana classic brings up harmonies and brass sections that I never could have imagined.  My favorite covers tend to be completely new interpretations – they challenge what I knew to be true and make me look at things in a different way.
  • Slow Motion – PHOX
     This single from PHOX makes me whistle right along with them.  This group takes unique instrumentation, a vocal that is very easy to listen too, good writing and creates a gem of a tune.  The song builds up to a gentle climax with sixteenth notes that spread across from the drums through the banjo and into the rest of the group ending in a drastically sparse restatement of the chorus.
  • Rock with You – Michael Jackson
     My favorite tune from the classic “Off the Wall”.  An example of Michael at his prime as the king of pop.  Nothing more needs to be said.
  • Pale Blue Eyes – The Velvet Underground
     The only percussion in this Lou Reed song is a lonely tambourine.  I first heard this on REM’s Dead Letter Office.  The harmony is predictable, and the guitar solo is classic Lou Reed.
  • Catch & Release – Matt Simons
     The heart-beat of the bass drum grabs me from the beginning of this offering from Matt Simons.  I also love the harmony of the chorus.  The repetition of the guitar creates a latin inspired groove that supports the vocals very well.  The message is positive – “we’re just catchin’ and releasin’ what builds up throughout the day”.