When concentrating on efficiency and making the best use of the available space, it can be easy to forget a dental office also must provide the right atmosphere for clients. Although many dental practitioners have done their best to reduce anxiety for clients, Ondontophobia is still all too real for many people.
While some of these individuals require therapy to manage this issue, practitioners can still do their part to reduce anxiety experienced by anyone dreading a trip to the dentist. A great way to start is by reducing a client’s apprehension before they sit in the examination chair.
Here are some things to keep in mind for dental office design that will help to generate an inviting, relaxed atmosphere for your patients.
In the old days, dental offices often had a tropical fish tank in the waiting room. These provided a gentle distraction for patients, particularly children. Many still do, but now many offices are also installing televisions.
These generally play programs and movies without the sound, but with closed captions activated so interested viewers can follow what is happening.
A TV can provide a relaxing diversion, but you need to be careful about what is on. Violent shows or ones that are particularly suspenseful will be counterproductive, as will news channels on days when the reporting is particularly negative.
Personal preference always plays a big role when choosing colours for an office, but here are some suggestions to consider. When choosing your colour scheme, aim for hues that induce a sense of tranquility and do not have any hint of threat.
Colours able to bring about a calming energy include those people commonly enjoy in nature, such as sky blue, green/sage, and tan/brown.
White suggests cleanliness and reminds some of anti-septic, but can be triggering for some due to its hospital connotations.
Bright colours, while attractive, can actually put people on edge (red is particularly strong in this regard), so try to stay away from them.
Do not choose only a single colour; pick a main one as well as another that provides a notable contrast, but not too harsh (e.g. a darker and lighter version of the same hue). Solicit opinions from your staff, and ask what they would prefer for areas only they will use.
Artwork can also provide both decoration and visual interest. Be sure to choose art the average person can easily relate to and does not include an abundance of off-putting shades.
Plants will help to reinforce the natural theme and suggest that your practice is a healthy and vibrant place. Be sure to regularly water and maintain them so wilted, dying leaves are never apparent. If it is apparent that everyone on staff is too busy to ensure this happens, hire an outside company to do it.
Choose chairs that look and feel comfortable, but can also hold up well to steady traffic and children. Side tables should be big enough to accommodate patient’s incidentals, but not take up so much space that it becomes awkward to move around.
Include magazine and brochure racks for those who would prefer to read.
If building design permits, and you are lucky enough to be in a picturesque area, provide a window view in the waiting and exam rooms.
This offers another healthy and natural way for patients to get their minds off their procedures, both before and during the process.
Some people find a trip to the dentist quite stressful. This can stem from anxiety, an unpleasant experience with another practitioner, or even a dental accident they saw in a movie or television show. Let’s face it—the thought of a stranger having access to an intimate part of the body can spook some individuals.
Many practitioners already take steps to offer the most relaxing and professional atmosphere possible to allay such fears. However, a recent study by Deva Priya Appukuttan offers additional suggestions on how to help clients struggling with dental phobia and a subsequent failure to maintain oral health through regular appointments.
Here are three of the main points the author discussed.
When a practice first accepts clients, they answer a series of questions relating to their medical history, insurance, etc. Appukuttan suggests it is also wise to consider a semi-structured interview. This calm, informal conversation would allow the practitioner to learn more about situations causing fear and/or anxiety. The dentist or staff member could unobtrusively guide the conversation using open-ended questions, rather than direct and potentially off-putting queries.
In addition to learning what situations may cause issues, the dentist might also determine such fears are part of a wider psychological issue and recommend the person to seek out a therapist. This mental health professional may work directly with the dentist to design an approach to help the patient overcome their worries.
In addition to the medical questionnaire mentioned above, practitioners can also offer a second one dedicated to anxiety issues patients sometimes experience. This would act as a confidential way for nervous clients to self-report using a series of questions and a scale mirroring the person’s anxiety. For example, when asked about having a cavity filled, a “1” could mean little worry and a “5” could show great worry.
The dentist could use this knowledge to categorize patients and approach them accordingly. Starting a dialogue in this fashion can help avoid unexpected issues during the moments of a procedure where such an interruption could be problematic.
The rapport dental professionals build with their clients is very important. A busy practice often reduces the amount of time a practitioner can spend with patients, which is unfortunate, as it can lead to an increase in anxiety for some.
Taking the time to listen, answer questions, and map out each step in the procedure can go a long way in reducing a client’s fear. This opportunity to make inquiries and spell out any concerns will increase the person’s respect for the practitioner. It is important to acknowledge it is not unusual to experience some anxiety before a procedure. Make eye contact, avoid any negative word choices, and emphasize you are here to help. All questions are valid; provide detailed responses demonstrating your interest and desire to do a thorough and professional job.
Maintain this dialogue while performing the procedure. Keep the client informed of what you are doing and what the next step will be. Also, ask whether they are experiencing any discomfort and reassure them they are doing well. Be honest and straightforward.