Dental Phobia – Make the Right Impression

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3M Oral Care’s Tom Mackie: “Improving patient comfort”

In modern dentistry, it is more important than ever that we provide patients with a comfortable, relaxing experience as soon as they step through the door. Dental phobias and dental anxiety are highly prevalent throughout the patient population, and it is estimated that as many as half of UK residents are scared of visiting the dentist. 12% of these individuals can even be classified as having extreme dental anxiety or phobia [1].

As such, it’s vital that professionals explore ways to make visiting the practice as stress-free as possible.

Don’t scare them away

The main reason this issue is so significant to think about is because if patients are suffering from these phobias/anxieties and have an unpleasant experience, they are unlikely to return for further care. A lot of these anxious feelings are inspired by negative past events, and if a patient is feeling anxious it probably means that they are entering into your practice with a negative mindset from the get go [2]. As such, you will need to help them overcome this mindset and make the process as stress-free as possible so that they realise your practice is a safe space and not something to avoid.

If patients do avoid care, it’s inevitable that they will only seek out dental treatment when they have a problem like serious decay or a tooth fracture. By avoiding regular appointments, they are more likely to need expensive and invasive treatments in the future, so it’s necessary to help tackle these anxieties and phobias early so that this doesn’t become the case.

Make them welcome

As soon as a patient steps through the door, comfort comes first. This will probably be the biggest step of their journey to overcome their fear, and so you have to make sure that they are feeling welcome and safe from the off. Your receptionist should be welcoming and friendly, and it’s a good idea to look into ways of increasing the ambience of your waiting room. Indoor plants, calming fragrances and even supplying TV/music options have all been proven to reduce stress and calm nerves [3], so these may be good ways to ensure that your waiting room has a soothing atmosphere.

This is not just necessary in the waiting room, and dentists and other dental care professionals need to ensure that they are taking the time to greet patients properly and help them feel at ease. Ask them about their day, catch up with them about family – building a better rapport with your patients has been proven to help reduce any feelings of anxiety or stress, meaning that following this, patients will be far more open to treatment [4].

In the chair

Of course, the way you provide treatment also makes a huge difference to the patient experience. Some procedures can be very uncomfortable and certain sounds such as drills may even set off anxieties further [5]. Although some of these things cannot be avoided, there are always improvements you can make to ensure that patients feel more at ease.

For example, the impression taking process can be difficult for patients, especially if they are already feeling anxious and unhappy. The biggest problem with some materials is that they take a long time to set. A patient might grow restless and this increases the chances that they will move during the setting time and morph or disrupt the material, meaning that the whole process has to be repeated due to inaccuracies. Many impression materials also have an unpleasant taste, and this too can make this process more difficult for patients to endure.

This is why it’s a good idea to look into products that can help enhance patient comfort. Impregum Super Quick polyether impression material from 3M Oral Care has been especially devised to help patients experience a less stressful impression taking process. With a setting time of just two minutes as well as a fresh, minty taste, Impregum Super Quick polyether impression material from 3M can easily help patients with anxieties experience a more palatable impression taking experience as well as achieve accurate, quick results.

Make a change

With such a high proportion of patients experiencing fear towards dentists, it makes sense to ensure your practice is as accommodating as possible. You may only wish to implement little changes here and there, but by evaluating the welcome your practice provides – as well as investing in products that are specifically created to boost patient comfort – you can help soothe anxieties and give yourself the best chance of retaining these patients moving forwards.

Author:

Tom Mackie, Marketing Executive for 3M Oral Care – North Europe Region.

For more information, or to request a demo, visit www.3M.co.uk/ImpSQ today

3M and Impregum are trademarks of the 3M Company.

 References:

1] Anxiety.org. New partnership: Centre for Dentistry. Link: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/partnership-withe-centre-for-dentistry/ [Last accessed November 19].

2] Dental Phobia. Fear of Visiting the Dentist. Link: https://www.dentalphobia.co.uk/casestudies/fear-visit.html [Last accessed November 19].

3] Appukuttan, D. Strategies to manage patients with dental anxiety and dental phobia: literature review. Clin Cosmet Investig Dent. 2016; 8: 35–50.

4] Dang, B., Westbrook, R., Njue, S., Giordano, T. Building trust and rapport early in the new doctor-patient relationship: a longitudinal qualitative study. BMC Medical Education. 2017. 17 (32).

5] Better Health. Dental Anxiety and Phobia. Link: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/dental-anxiety-and-phobia [Last accessed November 19].