Easing Fears and Discomfort at the Dentist

It’s no secret that most people avoid the dentist at all costs.  We know that a dental appointment is rarely the highlight of someone’s week. 

 

However, we also know the importance that oral health provides to not only the mouth, but the entire body as well.  That’s why it’s so important that we work to comfort people who feel anxious about seeing the dentist.

 

Here are a few simple ways to reduce fears, discomfort and anxiety:

 

1. Ask.  The best thing you can do is ask your patients if they experience any anxiety in general, and then specifically, if they have any fears or anxiety about dental work.  Awareness is key.  So, if you know, even before a patient is in your chair, that they have concerns, you can be more gentle and patient with them.  One of the easiest ways to find this information is to include the question on an intake form as part of the patient’s general medical history or basic info. 

2. Distract the Patient.  The decor in your office can make a difference. You can make it something that a patient can focus on, even while they may be feeling discomfort in their mouth.  We’ve seen things like Where’s Waldo posters on the ceiling, Netflix shows playing or simple landscape photography.  Give the patient something else to think about or focus on.

3. Make your patients as comfortable as possible.  Provide disposable, wrap-a-round lenses from Rollens to protect your patients’ eyes from bright lights and any flying spit or debris from a dental procedure.  Bonus!  This helps with comfort AND safety!  Keep the temperature comfortable for patients so that they aren’t shivering in your office.  One good tip is to occasionally lay down in your chairs yourself and see a procedure from the patients’ eyes to see if there are things you could be doing to angle the light better or otherwise improve the experience.

4. Think Outside of the Box.  Dogs are often used for therapy for a reason, so it’s no surprise that having a dog in your office may reduce patients’ fears and anxiety. While this can serve as an anxiety remedy, it can also be a welcome distraction.  Before your patients know it, their appointment is over!

5. Follow Up.  One of the best things you can do as a dentist is personally follow up with your patients who deal with anxiety, discomfort or fear of the dentist.  Handwritten cards or phone calls from the dentist (not just staff) can go a long way!

 

You probably won’t be able to make everyone’s anxiety disappear or make everyone jump for joy when it’s time for their appointment. But you can help ease patients’ fears and discomfort, making their experience a positive one.  Dentists have a unique opportunity to create memorable experiences for patients - ones that are truly worthy of a giant smile!