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.