Helping People Overcome Fear of the Dentist
Did you know that one of the main reasons people avoid going to the dentist is out of fear? As dentists, we know that there’s nothing to fear but over 75% of Americans say that they have some type of fear of going to the dentist. Another 5-10% have actual dentophobia. So what can we do as dentists to help our patients through these fears?
To answer this question, we must first ask ourselves, why are people afraid of the dentist? What makes the dentist such a scary place to be?
The truth is, there are lots of reasons that someone might be afraid to visit the dentist. By far one of the most common causes of dental anxiety is childhood trauma. Adults who had bad dental experiences as children tend to be more afraid of visiting the dentist as adults for fear of further trauma.
Other considerations may be the fear of needles, fear of the unknown, fear of loud noises, sensitive gag reflexes, and fear of dental equipment (because let’s face it, that stuff looks scary!). Some people might also have a fear of bad news, so they avoid going to the dentist to avoid it.
The Problem with Dental Fears
There are many people out there who will visit the dentist despite their fears. The problem is, there’s also many people who won’t. And when people don’t visit the dentist regularly, their oral health suffers. It’s only once they are in severe pain that they seek treatment, and by that time, our job as dentists becomes much more difficult.
So what can we do to ease fears about visiting the dentist?
Give your Patients more Control
A lot of people fear the dentist because they have no control over what goes on in there. So let’s give them back some control. Be sure that you carefully explain any procedures to your clients and give them options whenever possible. Also make sure that you give them the option to take breaks when they need or to stop if they become uncomfortable at any time. Be sure to check in with them often throughout procedures to ensure that they are comfortable and feel safe.
Create a relaxing environment
When we think about going to the dentist, we don’t generally think about relaxation. But why can’t the dentist be a relaxing place to go? By creating a more relaxed environment, we can help our patients feel more comfortable and secure. Things like soft lighting, neutral colors, comfortable seating, relaxing music, and a clutter free environment can go a long way in reducing anxieties. Many dental offices also put televisions on the ceiling so that patients can watch tv while having dental procedures. This is a great way to keep their mind busy and off of any dental related fears.
Caring and Communication
When someone has anxiety over dental procedures, it’s our job as dentists to help ease those fears. One of the best ways to do this is by showing your patience, kindness, understanding, and caring. Be attentive to their fears. You can help to decrease their anxiety simply by letting them know that you genuinely care about them and their well being, and by checking in with them throughout the procedure to make sure they are okay. Communication is key.
If you are working with someone who has an extreme fear of dental procedures, utilizing the above options may not be enough to calm their anxieties. In extreme situations like these, you may consider offering dental sedation. Depending on the procedure and the severity of the fear, sedation options can range from nitrous oxide, to mediations, to complete dental sedation.
In conclusion, dental anxiety can not only be harmful to the person who experiences it, but can also make our jobs much more difficult as dentists. By utilizing some of the methods above, we can help to make our office a safer, calmer, more relaxing environment that will help to ease some of the everyday anxieties associated with dentistry. By being known as the “gentle” dentist is priceless in terms of generating new patients and keeping your existing ones happy!