Dental Care A Reason to Smile – EMA Dental’s Refresh Whitening Spa Offers Easy Way to Whiten Teeth

Several weeks ago, members of a bridal party met at a pre-appointed time at EMA Dental in East Longmeadow.
They enjoyed refreshments and lots of laughter and fun. But the reason they were there was to have their teeth whitened as a group in the newly opened Refresh Whitening Spa.
It sits on the second floor above the dental examining rooms, and the atmosphere is indeed spa-like; the roomy space features comfortable chairs, bouquets of fresh flowers, and a relaxed atmosphere.
Each woman had her mouth examined and gums protected before whitening gel was applied in concentrations that correlated to the degree of discoloration of each individual tooth. When that was complete, they donned special goggles, then listened to soothing music piped through the spa while a heatless lamp aimed at their teeth in 12-minute increments sped up the whitening process. They were checked on a regular basis, and more gel was applied where and when it was needed to achieve the best results.
Dr. Lisa Emirzian and her husband, Dr. Vincent Mariano, said they created the spa to make it easy for people to brighten their smile.  “It’s a simple, easy, and cost-effective way to whiten teeth,” Emirzian said.
She believes a beautiful smile is something everyone should aspire to, and noted that options include simple home whitening, porcelain veneers, bonding, space closure, and Invisalign braces.
“A smile breaks down barriers between people and acts as your connection to another person. It’s your initial greeting, and a person who doesn’t feel free to smile has a physical handicap,” she said. “I have had many patients tell me they cover their teeth when they talk or smile because they are embarrassed. So, fixing your smile and brightening it can change your life.”
Mariano agreed. “Many people have trays and whitening gel at home but never use them, so we wanted to create a way to lighten teeth that was affordable, comfortable, and efficient without the soreness that sometimes occurs with the trays,” he said.
Clinical Assistant and Whitening Specialist Amy Postlethwait said the spa offers state-of-the-art equipment which helps make the process painless.
“In the past, ultraviolet lamps gave off a lot of heat, which made the teeth and gums sensitive, but new solutions and the new, heatless lamps eliminate that problem,” she explained.
People can start with a 30-minute session, and if that isn’t enough, they can schedule an hour-long session or purchase a ‘Refresh 6’ package, with six weeks of in-office whitening sessions. “We use our experience to guide them to attain the look they want,” Emirzian said.
She cares deeply about cosmetic dentistry, and although there is not an aesthetics specialty in the field of dental medicine, she is one of only 120 fellows worldwide who belong to the American Academy of Aesthetic Dentristry. Both Emirzian and Mariano are also on the faculty at Tufts University School of Dentistry; she teaches advanced aestheticsm while he teaches classes in prothodontics.
He told HCN that whitening is a safe procedure. “Whitening involves cleansing the enamel and the secondary layer of the tooth,” he explained, adding that, in 1989, Dr. Van Haywood from the University of North Carolina co-authored, with Dr. Harold Heymann, the first publication on nightguard vital bleaching, and since that time, many inroads have been made, and whitening has become easier than ever before.
“In the early years, people spent $500 to $600 on in-office whitening procedures. They worked, but the patients experienced a lot of sensitivity and relapsed after about 18 months. The ones who retained the lighter color did something to maintain it,” Mariano said, adding that they typically took home trays that they filled with whitening gels and wore for short periods of time or used over-the-counter whitening strips.
“Many people have what they need at home, but never find the time to use it, so we created a new delivery concept. We thought, if people come in twice a year for their cleaning, they could also come in once or twice a year for professional whitening that is done under supervision in a controlled environment.”
He said whitening spas are springing up in New York, but many don’t have a doctor on site who can discuss options to fit each individual’s needs.
“It’s not a black-and-white science,” Emirzian explained. “Everyone whitens at a different level. Lifestyle also plays into it because, if people drink coffee, tea or red wine or smoke, it affects the longevity of the outcome.”
Established Practice
The history of EMA Dental dates back to 1942, when Emirzian’s father, Dr. A.A. Emirzian, opened a successful dental practice in Springfield. She followed in his footsteps, and met Mariano on their first day at Tufts School of Dental Medicine.
Lisa graduated in 1982 and joined her father’s practice, but Mariano continued his schooling. However, after graduating from Tufts Dental Specialty Program of Prosthodontics in 1984, he moved to Western Mass., and the couple opened EMA Dental in East Longmeadow.
He told HCN that he was the first prosthodontist in Western Mass., and is still the only board-certified specialist in the field working in the region today.
Lisa’s father joined them, and as the practice grew, they bought in additional associates, which include general dentists as well as one of Mariano’s professors, who is the only person who does maxillofacial prosthodontistry in Western Mass.
 “Our doctors collaborate with one another and educate each other, assuring the finest and most recent updates in techniques and service,” he said.
Mariano’s work allows him to provide a variety of treatment options for patients with complex needs, which can range from difficulty with dentures to temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) or other joint problems, as well as replacing teeth that have been lost or worn down to nubs from grinding.
“While a dentist typically replaces one tooth at time, a prosthodontist can replaces 28 in one sitting, which can be done using partials, crowns, caps, and dental implants or a combination,” he said.
“Last week, I had a patient who left with a new smile. I rebuilt her bite, addressing aesthetics and function, and prepared all of her top teeth, then outfitted them with temporary crowns,” he went on, adding that a significant portion of his business comes from referrals from local dentists, and he often sees patients with old dentures or implants that have failed.
“However, some people come to our office because they want to match one tooth perfectly to another,” he added. “Our large, in-house lab allows us to show patients what we can offer them in terms of designs for crowns and partials. They can see exactly what their teeth will look like before they are made and make a choice that suits the shape of their face. It’s what makes this profession so rewarding; replacing or restoring teeth enhances the quality of people’s lives.”
The couple opened a second office in Northampton in 2010, and although they don’t have a spa there, patients can get their teeth whitened in both locations.
“We’ve served generations of families with our combined practice,” Mariano said. “Much of our treatment is done under one roof because patients demand it.”
Emirzian concurred. “We have a long tradition, and our dentists have 120 years of combined experience.”
They are both dedicated to reducing barriers that prevent people from visiting a dentist. “Some people are afraid to come in because they associate a dentist’s office with fear, drills, and a high cost,” Mariano said, adding that people can get their teeth cleaned in the spa if they choose, which has a much more relaxing feel than the dental treatment room. “We just want to educate them and allow them to choose the level of care they would like to receive.”
Emirzian agreed. “There is always more than one way to solve a dental problem, and our goal is to help the patient decide what options are best for their individual needs,” she said. “People often go to a dentist to address an issue, but don’t always fully understand the options available to them.”
As a result, education is a critical component of their business. “We teach patients small but important things,” Postlethwait said. “For example, if a patient has dry mouth, they may need special rinses or products. We advise people who are very prone to cavities to use high-fluoride rinses and explain the different types of dental floss.”
Bright Future
Mariano says whitening is a stepping stone to improved health. “If you are looking at your teeth on a regular basis, you know you need to keep them clean. Oral health is the window to overall health, and it’s very clear that, if you have periodontal disease or an abscess, it creates bacteria that gets into the blood and travels throughout the body and affects other systems,” he explained. “There is a relationship between heart disease and periodontal disease.”
Aesthetics matter too, however, because a beautiful, white smile helps people feel attractive.
“Whitening can take years off your appearance, and it’s the least invasive cosmetic procedure available,” Postlethwait said. Which is certainly something to smile about. v