10 Ways to Help Patients With Dental Anxiety
Patients around the world avoid regular cleanings because of their dental anxiety. This can lead to varying levels of gum disease and cavities – even all sorts of chronic illnesses that could be identified in the dentist chair. In order to better help your patients, we’ve compiled a list of ten ways you can help your patients overcome their dental anxiety and get back in the office!
Providing a method of entertainment in your operatory can be a simple cure for dental anxiety. For example, some dental practices install televisions in their operatories. Access to a TV while at the appointment not only provides a distraction for the patient, but can also bring a sense of familiarity and comfort. Giving a patient the remote allow them the ability to control something in a situation they normally feel extremely vulnerable.
Inform Your Patients
For many patients, dental anxiety is due to a lack of understanding of what is going on inside their mouth. When feeling uninformed, people frequently imagine unrealistic scenarios in an attempt to anticipate what lies ahead. Rather than giving your patients time to envision the worst, be sure to take the time to explain the necessary procedures as soon as possible. Bonus: ask if they have any concerns and eliminate further anxiety!
Start Children Young
The younger that little ones start attending the dentist, the better! In addition to promoting good dental hygiene, it also allows time for children to become more comfortable going to the dentist. Early dentist visits can be extremely positive in eliminating dental anxiety later in life.
As outlined in #2, a lack of understanding promotes dental anxiety in patients of all ages. However, if you invite patients to share their fears, you create an environment where you can reassure them and explain procedures to help ease stress. Plus, if you understand their fears, you can adapt the procedure if/when you can to help meet their needs.
It is important to remind patients to breathe deeply during their appointments – especially when experiencing dental anxiety. Deep breaths regulate the patient’s oxygen levels and ultimately keeps him/her more calm. It can also be helpful to promote techniques and exercises to help patients ease their anxiety prior to coming to the appointment.
When undergoing a cleaning or various procedures, many patients feel limited in their ability to communicate due to the instruments in their mouth. To help in these instances, give patients a list of hand gestures to use by which they can communicate. An example chart is listed below:
Schedule for Success
Oftentimes, patients schedule their dentist appointment directly before another commitment. One way to reduce dental anxiety is to encourage patients to make sure they schedule a buffer before and after their appointment so that they are not in a rush. Encourage them to plan for an adequate allotment of time to complete the intended procedure.
When people look for a new dentist they look to online reviews. Consumers trust other consumers – so it is crucial that your practice has great reviews. If patients see that their new dentist is highly rated, they are less likely to be worried. Don’t be afraid to ask your satisfied patients to write you a review!
Sedation Dentistry & OTC Medications
Sedation dentistry is another viable option for patients with extreme dental anxiety. This can benefit both the patient and the dentist, as the dentist has increased access to the patient’s mouth and the patient is able to relax and cooperate with the dentist. Another option for patients experiencing extreme dental anxiety is to prescribe a medication to take before the appointment. A short-acting anxiety relief dose prior to a dentist appointment can help ease their stress and make it easier for the patient.
Blankets & Personal Touches
The easiest option for a patient with anxiety and special needs is to encourage him/her to bring items from home that help them feel safe. For example: a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or even comfortable clothing are easy ways to help comfort and relax a nervous patient.