From Scheduling to the Actual Appointment, These 3 Tips Can Help Ease Anxious Patients’ Fears

Many patients feel some anxiety while sitting in the dentist’s chair. Even just a regular cleaning can call up old childhood memories of sounds and smells that seemed frightening. 

These anxious feelings, while they can be annoying to hygienists and dentists, are totally normal. Patients with anxiety about a dental appointment should be made to feel like their concerns are heard and that they are being cared for in a compassionate manner. 

Here are 3 things you can do to help anxious dental patients relax while in the chair. 

1 | Start off on the Right Foot

When a patient schedules their appointment, ask them if they have anxiety while sitting in the chair. Knowing this ahead of time can help you provide better, more compassionate care for this patient from the moment they walk in the door. From the check-in desk to the procedure room, your staff will know this patient needs a few extra smiles and calming encouragement. If you offer sedation options, be sure that a patient can select an option when scheduling their appointment.  

2 | Give Your Patient Some Control

Let your patient know they are in control. Tell them to hold up their hand if they need you to stop, if they need a break, or if they feel any pain. Giving them this control can help reduce anxiety and makes the treatment more bearable for patients who fear the dentist’s chair. Remember, don’t ever harshly criticize your patients or show annoyance for them wanting to pause for a few minutes, even if you are already running behind. 


3 | Play Music or an Audio Book

Music or an audio book can help distract patients. If you are able to, have a stereo device that patients can hook their device up to and play music or an audio book of their choice. Or offer to put the radio on a station they love. If having a stereo in each exam room isn’t an option, encourage anxious patients to bring a set of headphones to play music from their phone or device during the exam.

Final Thoughts

While many dentists and hygienists are used to the sounds, smells, and sensations of the exam room, it can be scary for patients, especially young children. Taking a little extra time to reassure patients while also providing them with some control and options for sedation or distraction can go a long way in helping them to relax more while in the chair. Smoother, more enjoyable exams and procedures for your patients means that even those with anxiety won’t procrastinate on scheduling their next exam, which is a win-win for you and the patient! 


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