Helping Patients With Dental Anxiety

How our Wickford dental team encourages nervous dental patients.

When someone attends our practice with dental anxiety, they may well think that they are alone and that no one else feels as nervous as they do.

However, we can assure them that this is the case with most if not all practices across the country and that it is a very common issue.

For most people, the best thing that happens when they see a dentist is when they are given a clean bill of health and need no treatment. For these patients, they can breathe a sigh of relief and put their anxiety on hold for another six months. For those of a nervous disposition who do need treatment though, it can open the floodgates to a whole new level of anxiety.

The need for dental care

Whether you are a nervous patient or not, if you have tooth decay, to take one example, it does need to be treated. Failing to do so because of your anxiety will only result in further decay and you will probably eventually end up in a lot of pain, AND still need to have the treatment done. In most cases this will be in a more extensive manner than if you had acted when it was initially diagnosed.

So, what do we do to assist nervous dental patients?

The first, and most obvious thing that we do, at the Cygnet Dental Practice, is to make sure that all of our patients are treated well. Our staff are trained to be pleasant and friendly and to help patients relax as much as they possibly can. This applies to receptionists as well as dentists and dental nurses as we all have a role to play in supporting nervous patients. The decor and facilities at our practice are also designed to help engender a calm and relaxing environment.

This may seem very obvious, but any dentist will tell you that if the patient is not treated with respect and their anxiety levels are too high, they simply won’t return for future treatment, or even examinations. Over time, this patient will almost certainly suffer from some serious oral health issues, and a likely subsequent decline in their quality of life.

Strategies employed

Nice decor and a friendly team alone are not enough. However nice we are to patients, the reality, from their perspective, is that they are going to be helpless whilst the dentist ‘prods and pokes’ around in their mouth. Some patients have told us that it is the lack of control which is probably at the heart of it (the same reason is sometimes given by those with a fear of flying). To help with this, we do our best to keep communication open with the patient, explaining what we are going to do so that there are no ‘surprises’. As a patient is unable to speak to us when having a filling, for example, we will discuss appropriate hand signals with them so that they can indicate if they are in discomfort and need a short break to take a few deep breaths and compose themselves.

Some patients may wish to bring in mp3 players so that they can listen to music via headphones during treatment. This can help, but the music musn’t be so loud as to render the patient unable to hear the dentist if they need to talk to them.

For younger children that attend our Wickford dental practice, they may wish to bring in their favourite ‘teddy’ or similar. Parents are also generally able to come into the treatment room with them during checkups. For health and safety reasons, this is sometimes not possible for actual treatments.

Care plans for nervous patients

Whilst the portrayal of dentists in various media, over the years, hasn’t exactly helped our cause, dental care is very important and is now increasingly being linked with other serious health issues. As dentists, we mustn’t leave all of the coping strategies regarding anxiety to the patient alone. We must continually look at ways that we can assist with this, so we are always interested to hear from nervous patients, if there is anything that we can do to improve their experience. This could be something as simple as a more relaxing painting on the wall for them to focus on during a procedure. Sometimes it is the small things that count.

If you suffer from dental anxiety, please don’t ever think that you can’t face seeing a dentist again. Your oral health care is extremely important, and we are here to help you with that. We are always happy to see nervous patients for a non examination appointment where we can discuss a care plan and answer any questions that you have, in order to help you feel more relaxed and confident about any future appointments. If you would like to book one of these appointments, you can do so by calling the Cygnet Dental Practice on 01268 733078.