Dental Empathy – Helping Nervous Patients

Contrary to what some might think, dentists do understand dental anxiety!

fear of the dentistSeeing nervous dental patients is part of our job. In fact, it is probably fair to say that the majority of patients that enter our Wickford dental practice, as with other practices in the country, have some level of anxiety about their visit.

This should be no surprise really. No-one is likely to claim that seeing a dentist, especially for a procedure, is great fun and it is not the reason that we exist. We are here to help you maintain a healthy mouth and teeth that allow you to eat comfortably, and increasingly, to help improve a patient’s smile.

It is quite possible that some patients think that dentists are ‘above it all’ and feel no empathy with the patient that is about to undergo a procedure. We can assure you that this is not true and at the Cygnet Dental Practice, we strongly believe in making our patients as comfortable as possible, both physically, and mentally.

The fact is that, although as fully trained dentists we understand the treatments in more depth than the patient, it is far from unusual to find a dentist that doesn’t have some level of anxiety about having treatment themselves.

Why are people scared of the dentist?

Some people are naturally more anxious than others, but even the calmest person might find their heart rate increasing and their palms becoming a little sweaty as they sit in the dental chair. There has been much research done into why this might be the case. It can only be generalised as everyone is different but there is a strong feeling that the main reason for this lies in the area of the body that is being treated.

For example, although you might not be overjoyed about it, the likelihood is that you wouldn’t have the same level of anxiety if it was your ankle that was being treated. The theory is that as this is nowhere near the part of your body where the main senses are located, you will be less aware of what is going on. Contrast that with even a straightforward dental filling and you can see that all the senses are likely to ‘kick in’ given how close they are to the procedure. You can hear the drill at close range, you can smell the aerosol spray from the drill, see the dentist at very close quarters and of course, your brain detects any discomfort or even unusual sensations that you might experience.

How can we help?

First of all, we, as dentists, have to acknowledge that although we might carry out hundreds of procedures; for each patient that comes through our door, it is a unique and individual experience, and quite possibly an anxiety that has been building for some time. We always try to take an empathetic approach when we see a patient, making sure that they feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible, especially when about to undergo an invasive procedure. We are happy to take time to discuss the treatment with you and to explain the treatment if you so wish.

Equally, of course, we are happy to simply ‘get on with it’ as some patients prefer not to know any details and just want to get the treatment over with as quickly as possible. Over the years, we have mostly learned to tell what each patient prefers and are happy to adapt our approach to each individual. We are sure you will find our dental team to be friendly and able to help you relax so that you can have the treatment that you need.

How to relax ready for your appointment

We appreciate that you can’t simply ‘flick a switch’ and turn your dental anxiety off, but there are a few things that you can do that might help, at least a little. Some of our patients tell us that they have found that meditation or breathing techniques help. There are a lot of instructional videos available that might help and it is worth looking at these.

Try not to arrive too late for your appointment. Rushing in all hot and flustered at the last minute is only likely to make things worse for you. Equally, arriving too early will allow anxiety to build as you sit in the waiting room anticipating the treatment. Give yourself time to get here on time and allow a little time for any form filling that needs to take place. Finally, remember that we are human too and have no desire to inflict pain at all. We will always do what we can to make your visit to our Wickford practice as pleasant as possible. From the clinic decor to the way that we interact with our patients, you can be sure we will do what we can to help you!

Above all though, please do remember that oral care should not be something that you consider skipping, however anxious you feel. Your teeth, gums and oral health in general are very important and you should see a dentist on a six monthly basis for regular check ups.

If you would like to make an appointment at the Cygnet Dental Practice, or wish to discuss your treatment anxiety with us, please call our friendly reception team on 01268 733078.