It is essential to be aware and inquire when any degree of dental anxiety or high odontophobia is perceived in a patient.
Management of anxiety in dentistry: Having a conversation
There needs to be a conversation in which the patient feel heard and seen by asking empathic questions such as “I get the impression that you are somewhat agitated. What degree of uneasiness do you experience by coming to the dentist? Have you had any unpleasant experience previously with a dental clinic?”
These questions need to be asked with a genuine interest. The dentist must listen keenly and actively listen to the patient. The dentist who listens to the patient with attention and affection generates a relationship of trust and cooperation. The exercise of real, active, committed listening is somewhat unusual within the dental sector.
During the anamnesis, space is given for the patient to freely share their dental history and emotional experience of dental clinics. It is vital that the doctor show an attitude of active listening and interest. Non-verbal language expresses feelings that the patient might not even be aware of. For example, the patient’s facial expressions, silences, looks, voice intonation (stretching certain consonants), sighing, smiling, expressions of fear and the facial expression of disgust; are all communicative acts that can be even more important than the verbal expression itself. It is therefore essential for the dentist to pay close attention.
Never undermine or underestimate the fear the patient might be experiencing towards dental procedures. The feeling of fear is normal. In fact, approximately 10% of the population suffers from dental anxiety. The doctor who dismisses this fear through non-verbal language of disbelief or responds by dismissing it with generic phrases is not building a trusting relationship. Instead, the doctor increases the patient’s anxiety and creates a further distance from the patient.
Doctors should avoid using the phrase «Everything will be fine.» Dr. Mary Funnell (2000) from Michigan University, in her experience with diabetic patients, states that the doctor should validate the patient’s feelings and ability to manage the problem instead of saying «Everything will be fine.»
How to proceed in cases of dental anxiety?
First and foremost, the dentist needs to display genuine empathy for the patient. This opens a space of trust in which the patient will further open up about their dental anxiety.
During the explanation, the doctor should remain silent and listen attentively. The doctor should try to reflect what they understand from the patient’s words and feelings by asking emotional questions or restating their words. For example, “It sounds like that treatment caused you much pain and you didn’t feel at liberty to voice it to the dentist?”
Reflecting what they have told you, as their dentist, will allow the patient to feel heard, understood and thus safe – all ingredients to cultivating deep patient loyalty.
Once the patient has explained everything about his dental anxiety, the doctor goes on to explain, in a direct yet gentle manner, and without hesitation what the treatment will consist of, at what moments the patient may feel some discomfort ( the word pain should not be mentioned ). Also how you, as a dentist will try to this discomfort as much as possible.
It is important to be able to explain the dental processes and treatments with visual aid (photos, videos, drawings, diagrams, etc.). This will help reduce uncertainty and thus insecurity in the patient.
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Advances that minimize dental anxiety in patients.
Today there are advanced systems for the patient to feel comfortable and calm:
- Devices that practically eliminate noise from dental tools.
- Relaxing music and fun magazines in the waiting room. The Bare concluded that 89% of patients consider that music helps them relax and 75% positively assess the presence of magazines.
- Buttons that stop the drill or allow the automatic release of local anesthesia
- A decrease in the typical smell of a dental clinic
- Watching movies (including 3D) to distract the patient from the dental intervention.
- Conscious sedation or general anesthesia for cases of severe odontophobia.
All the clinics have at one time or another dealt with odontophobia patients. Only some treat them correctly.
Why do we believe that our collaboration in your dental clinic would yield successful results?
- Our purpose is not only to increase the amount of knowledge of our clients but to support them to implement ethical practices in the management of dental clinics successfully.
- We offer personalized consulting processes for each dental clinic.
- We provide answers to those dentists and managers of dental clinics who are interested in developing their knowledge in the management of a dental clinic, being able to lead teams and add clinical and economic value to their dental clinics.
- Our work aims to embed the circle of excellence in your dental clinic, causing an increase in first visits and cultivating deep patient loyalty towards your dental clinic.
- We accompany dental clinics on their way to continuous improvement through the Mystery Patient, coaching, marketing/sales training, teaching excellent patient care protocols, implementing business strategies and successful teamwork. We can also manage the marketing plan if that is our client’s desire.
Pedro Morchón Camino
Director de Enfoque dental
Coach certificado por Asociación española de coaching ejecutivo (AECOP) y laAsociación española de programación neurolingüística (AEPNL)
Tfono: 671038509 / Email: email@example.com