Dental fear, phobia, or dental anxiety affects approximately 9-20% of the population, with 12% having extreme dental fear. Phobia of the dentist’s office is a severe condition worse than anxiety. Sadly, it leaves people panic-stricken and terrified, and they miss out on essential dental care services. The consequences can be detrimental to their oral health.
Common causes of dental phobia include:
- Fear of needles and anesthesia and their side effects
- Bad experiences in the past
- Fear of pain
- Embarrassment and loss of personal space
- Feelings of helplessness and loss of control
- Fear of the dentist
Fortunately, individuals who experience dental phobia can overcome it. Together with their family members and with the help of their dentist, here are strategies to ease dentist’s office fears.
Having a patient accompanied by someone they trust during their dental visit is an excellent starting point. Besides, it would help to have the friend or relative sit with the patient during the dental work if your office setting or space allows. The strategy works best if the accompanying individual has no dental fear. A patient will feel more relaxed and safer knowing that someone who loves them is right there for them.
It’s common for patients to ask many questions during their dental appointment. Luckily, you have a lot of experience handling patients with dental phobia, and you should never miss a moment to utilize it. As such, encourage your patients to speak out about their fears so that you can offer them a personalized treatment plan. A patient will feel more relaxed when you try to ease the dentist’s office fears.
Consider leveraging technology to create a welcoming environment to ease dentist’s office fears. For example, digital signage displays are practical solutions you can implement to calm the nerves of your dental patients. Various ways to ease dentist office fears using digital signage include:
- Introducing your staff: Creating a digital slide about each staff member will help patients connect with your dental practice. In essence, it portrays your dental clinic as trustworthy, and it’ll be easy for the patient to trust your services.
- Showcasing patient success stories: Showing before and after photos of patients who received dental care from you can help ease dentist’s office fears. They’ll understand that a procedure at your clinic amounts to excellent results.
- Creating a relaxing atmosphere: Consider rotating beautiful photography, displaying images of nature, or playing relaxing music to distract patients from the sound of the drill.
- Getting patients to laugh: When done tastefully, a joke added to digital signage content can enhance personality and comfort in the dental office.
Remember that patients don’t want to feel like they spent an entire day at the dentist’s office. Interestingly, digital signage displays in the waiting room can cut their perceived wait time by 35%.
Sedation dentistry has various options that vary from mild sedatives to general anesthesia, and it’s only fair that you avail them to patients. Likewise, you may use nitrous oxide or laughing gas to soothe an anxious or fearful patient. Consider prescribing anxiety medication like Xanax or Valium before a procedure, depending on the situation. Consequently, a patient will receive dental care while alert and responsive regardless of their dental phobia.
A few dental fear clinics exist where dentists work together with psychologists to ease dentist office fears. They provide tools and skills to help patients with dental phobia manage and overcome the fear.
Where such a clinic doesn’t exist, dentists help patients overcome the fear by explaining the procedures as gently as possible to reduce fear of the unknown. Additionally, positive reinforcement works effectively to boost confidence and reduce anxiety.
On the other hand, a dentist may refer a patient to a psychologist if their dental phobia paralyzes them completely from receiving dental care.
The average adult spends 70% of their waking hours communicating. Dentistry calls for a lot of keenness, and when you observe your patients well enough, you can pick cues when they need a break. Your patients shouldn’t fall into the trap of being a martyr if they’re uncomfortable during a dental procedure. Therefore, if they express pain or discomfort, let them take a short break.
Additionally, use this time to help them relax. For example, you could ask your patients to practice deep breathing or apply muscle relaxation techniques while sitting in the dentist’s chair. Likewise, you may want to use guided imagery to draw your patients’ minds away from their fears to help them relax.
A visit to the dentist’s office can be stressful for many reasons, but it doesn’t have to be. If your patients suffer from dental phobia or anxiety, be creative enough to know how to ease their dentist’s office fears. The above tips form an excellent starting point. Try them to see what works for different patients.