Patient’s Choice: 5 Ways to Overcome Dental Anxiety
Most patients wouldn’t know the difference between a periapical and a panoramic x-ray, or between air driven and electrical handpieces… what they do know is how they feel about going to the dentist.
It’s estimated that nearly 75% of adults experience some level of anxiety when visiting a dental office. In a National Institute of Health study, more than a third said they were “very anxious” and 12% experienced extreme dental fear that could be considered phobic. That means almost half of all adults may stop or delay going to the dentist to avoid the anxiety it causes. It stands to reason that dental practices that effectively address patient fears and anxieties have increased patient retention and referrals.
Your patients may know nothing about your equipment, but they do know about pain and discomfort. Be sure you are purchasing equipment that increases patient comfort and decreases procedure times. DES Dental’s experts can work with you to economically outfit a patient-pleasing facility.
The National Institute of Health discovered that most dental fears stem from a frightening dental experience, often stemming from childhood. Other causes are stories from family members, friends, and media; and personality traits or non-dental experiences that have created more generalized anxieties.
Since direct previous traumatic experiences are the most common cause of adult dental anxiety, so the most obvious solution is to avoid creating these experiences, especially in children. Here are five situations that may cause patient trauma and how to avoid or improve the outcome:
1) Patients with a history of head and neck trauma may experience (or fear experiencing) discomfort. Be sure to get as many details as possible about past injuries, especially to the head and neck.
2) Generalized anxiety, depression, and PTSD often contribute to dental fears. Intake form questions about medications can be one guide, but it’s best to ask about specific fears people may have experienced related to dental procedures. Extreme anxiety like claustrophobia, agoraphobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are also important to address directly. Ask what the patient needs to feel safe and secure. Signals, taking frequent breaks, and explaining each step can all help to assuage anxiety.
3) The mouth is a very personal space, and the combination of the invasion of this private area and loss of control can create anxiety in a high percentage of patients. Make sure patients can signal if they need to stop – and that all staff will pay attention to the signal and take a break when requested, even if it means taking more time for the exam.
4) Childhood dental trauma is a key cause of adult dental trauma – so it stands to reason that children should be made as comfortable as possible to avoid imprinting lifelong dental anxiety. Parents bring their own anxieties to their children – so ask them about their past experiences so you can address concerns.
5) Many patients are bothered by the sound of the dental equipment, so headphones with music, guided meditation, or even stories can be distracting and helpful. For extreme cases, don’t hesitate to offer whatever pharmaceutical assistance seems appropriate, from anxiety medication to conscious sedation – and some people with severe phobia may need general anesthesia.
Of course, equipping your office to offer the most efficient and comfortable procedures is an important priority for any practice. When your patients feel they are being heard, that your staff is responsive to their needs, and experience less anxiety during their visit, they will naturally become a great source of referrals.
Get in touch with us today at DES Dental and let’s equip your office for patient comfort.