How to help patients reduce their dental anxiety

Some patients might be able to walk into the dental office with confidence, but others faint at the idea of stepping foot inside the clinic and avoid dental care as a result of this fear. Today we are focusing on the latter category and how to help them get over their dental phobia or anxiety. A strained dentist-patient relationship dominated by anxiety may result in misdiagnosis, as a study suggests. Hence, it is imperative for dentists to work on improving that relationship.
If you are a dentist, it is very likely that you have encountered nervous patients before, as dental anxiety is the fifth most common form of anxiety. Finding a way to help them can tremendously improve their experience and oral health, while also making it easier for you to treat them properly.


Tip #1: encourage patients to talk about their concerns

Simply talking about their fears can help ease their anxiety. Once you understand what they are dealing with, you can comfort the patients better. Be open to listening to them, and make them feel comfortable and heard. Make them know their fear is natural and common.


Tip #2: explain and demonstrate

Walking the patients through a step-by-step guide of the treatment can drastically reduce their fears and make them trust you even more. With children it is common to use the “Tell-Show-Do” approach, of explaining every step, then showing them what will be done, and only then doing it, but an adjusted, less-detailed method might be helpful also with fearful adults.


Tip #3: distract the patient from the treatment itself

Once you listen to them and explain how everything will go, you can take advantage of technology to distract their attention. Watching TV or listening to music can help them focus on something else rather than their fear.


Tip #4: good communication

Good communication during the treatment is equally important as the tips mentioned above. Let your patients know that they can signal you during the treatment if they are uncomfortable. Agree in advance that you will stop upon them raising their hand (the one that’s away from you) for example. This will give them a sense of control and will reinforce the idea that your clinic is a safe place where their well-being is a top priority.


Overall, empathy is key! Listen to them, validate their fear and offer solutions to alleviate it. The better the dentist-patient relationship is, the better the treatment will go. Do not let dental anxiety stop your patients from getting the care they need.

Of course, there might still be patients with more profound anxiety, needing comprehensive solutions, but these tips may suffice in many cases.


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