Treating patients with dental anxiety or dentophobia can be very challenging for any dentist. However, it’s important that you make the effort to help relieve their fears so that they continue to make appointments in the future.
About 36 percent of people living in the United States have a fear of dentists. Even though dental anxiety is extremely common, it is something that is not discussed very often, especially between dentists and their patients.
In this article, we will go over some tips for dentists to help patients with dental anxiety feel more comfortable each time they see a dentist.
Reasons people have dental anxiety
Before you can help patients with dental anxiety, it’s important to understand why they have those feelings. People skip going to the dentist for many reasons including fear, stress, and anxiety associated with dental procedures or previous experiences.
Here are some reasons that people have anxiety at the dentist:
- Traumatic dental care or healthcare experience
- Trauma to the head, face, or neck area
- Past trauma or abuse
- Depression or PTSD
- Trust issues
- Fear of being out of control
- Anxiety, which can come from these disorders:
Tips for dentists to help patients with dental anxiety
Now that we know some reasons why people suffer from dental anxiety, let’s look at tips for dentists to help these patients. As a dentist, it is important to educate your patients about the negative effects of skipping appointments as well as making them feel comfortable during their visit.
Patients can trap themselves in a cycle of dental fear, which leads to delaying dental visits and ultimately results in even more severe dental problems after avoiding the dentist.
Here are strategies for dentists to help their patients ease dental anxiety:
- Care and communication: One of the best ways to ease patient anxiety is to help them feel comfortable. Asking patients to voice their concerns can help them relax. Remember to continually check on your patient before, during, and after the dental procedure.
- Control of appointment: Express to your patients that they have some control. For example, allow the patient to let you know when they are ready and give them the option to have hand signals to “stop” and “start”.
- Distractions: Distractions at the dentist are becoming more common because they are very effective. Calm music, deep breathing techniques, and mobile phone games can help ease dental anxiety.
- Office atmosphere: Try to make the vibe around your dental office inviting with warm and natural lighting. A dental office with calm music, a pleasant smell, a variety of reading options, and food or beverage options can help patients feel comfortable.
- Follow-up: To keep patients from falling into the cycle of dental fear, we recommend following up to make sure the dental experience was positive. This can help create relationships and help patients get into a consistent routine of going to the dentist.
Using some or all of the tips above can help patients feel more comfortable and at ease during their appointments. If a patient is relaxed, they are more likely to come back for regular appointments.
Easing dental anxiety keeps patients coming back
Having positive experiences at the dentist plays a major role in easing dental anxiety, so it is important to be a dentist who treats even the most anxious patient with kindness, compassion, and care.
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