How To Manage Patients With Dental Anxiety

Posted By: Stella Pike | July 23, 2020


Do you fear going to the dentist? If you find the thought of being in a dental chair disturbing in any way, you are not alone.

In the United States, there are an estimated 30 to 40 million people who have the same fear of going to their dentist. It is known as dental anxiety and there are many ways to help relieve this feeling and bring it under control.

Dental Anxiety – What Is It?

How to Manage Patients with Dental Anxiety

Dental anxiety, or dental fear, is experienced in different ways by different people. It can cause patients to lose sleep the night before a dental appointment. It can cause an uneasy feeling while sitting in the dental office waiting room and it can cause patients to just skip their appointment and avoid seeing the dentist.

For some, dental anxiety is a result of a negative previous experience in the dental office. Others are embarrassed to show the condition of their teeth to anyone – including a dentist. There are other possible reasons for dental fear including a feeling of helplessness while in the dental chair or a generally negative feeling about the dentist or procedure.

Whatever the reason for dental anxiety, leaving it unchecked can mean not going to the dentist as regularly as you should, or even worse… not at all. This can have a detrimental effect on your long-term oral hygiene and overall health.

Managing Dental Anxiety

There are many ways that your dentist can work with you to curb your fear. The first thing you must do to start this process is to inform the dentist or receptionist at the dental office that you have dental fear. Your dentist will employ one or more different methods to try to help ease your anxiety and give you a positive experience.

This may include one or more of the following:

1. Provide Pre-Treatment Sessions

One way to ease dental fear for a patient is to meet with them before an appointment and review what they can expect to experience during the procedure.

The consultation will give the patient an opportunity to get acquainted with the surroundings in the examination room and more comfortable when sitting in the dental chair. This is also a, excellent time to allow the patient to ask questions.

2. Use Positive Distractions

For many who have dental fear, their anxiety is set off by certain triggers within the dental office.

For example, the sound of the drill can be masked somewhat with calming music being played into the examination room. The smell of the dental facility and some of the products used there can be hidden with the use of essential oils in a diffuser. These small things can help distract someone from their fears.

3. Dress The Part

Sometimes a trigger for those who suffer from dental fear can come from what they see.

An example of how dentists can build trust with their patients is to wear clean and well-kept uniforms or dental smocks. Clothing that looks worn and neglected can send a negative message to someone who is dealing with fear and trust issues with their dental visit.

A professional look will help ease this, and may be something for a patient with dental anxiety to look for when choosing a dentist.

4. Have A Professional Setting

Speaking of looking professional, the dental facility from the parking lot outside to the reception area and through the hallways to examination rooms and washrooms should all look their best. By keeping the entire facility looking neat, clean and tidy dentists can build trust with their patients.
Friendly and helpful staff, as well as a clean, neat, and tidy waiting room and non-controversial reading material all help to provide a more professional and comfortable setting.

5. Use Good Communication

Patient knowledge varies, so it is important for a dentist to explain things in a way that the patient understands. Plus, anxious patients may also be so focused on their fear that they may not properly hear something, miss an important detail, or not retain information.

A good dentist can help to resolve issues by concentrating on their communication and by even providing written details on complicated matters.

6. Properly Assess Dental Fear

Dentist are trained to recognize the signs of dental fear when it shows. However, patients who have difficulty communicating this or do not show visual cues will have to be able to let the dentist know something is wrong.

By establishing a signal or just talking about the way they are feeling can help the dentist in identifying a situation and acting upon it quickly, which can help to relieve anxiety in the patent from the outset.

7. Be Conscious Of The Wall Space

Have you ever wondered why the dental office typically has generic art on the walls and are painted in pastel colors? These are some of the methods used to keep people calm and relaxed.

Music, aquariums with fish in the waiting rooms, and soft, comfortable seating all work together to create an atmosphere that should relax most patients who have a fear of seeing the dentist.

8. Allow A Partner To Attend

While the dental examination room may be fairly crowded when in use, for children and the elderly who have dental anxiety, some dentists make exceptions and allow these patients to have a family member present. In many cases, this relieves their tension and they can relax while in the dental chair.

Your dentist may be willing to do this for you and that may be the easiest solution to your situation.

In Conclusion

It is not uncommon to fear a dental visit. For some people, it has nothing to do with the dentist or the setting, but for others, it is the sights and sounds of the dental examination room that triggers their fear.

Dentists are completely aware of the fact that some stay aware because of their anxiety and as a result, risk issues related to their oral hygiene. You should see your dentist for a checkup at least once, and preferably twice a year. So if you have dental anxiety, it is always a good idea to discuss it with your dentist so that you can work together to come up with a plan to help deal with your anxiety. Your dental health depends on it.