How Dental Assistants Can Help Patients Deal with Fear of the Dentist
Very few people actually enjoy going to the dentist, but there are some who have a real fear. In fact, it’s been estimated that up to 15% of Americans (about 40 million people) avoid seeing the dentist because they are simply too afraid to go. As one of the primary points of contact with patients, dental assistants can play an important role in helping ease their anxiety.
While chatting with a patient before the dentist arrives, if a dental assistant senses fear, there are several steps they can take to calm the patient’s nerves:
- Ask what the exact fear is, so you can target your advice and words of encouragement.
- Explain in detail the procedure the patient is having done to remove the mystery behind it.
- Remind the patient that dental procedures have become more comfortable and painless in recent years due to advances in technology and anesthesia and due to an emphasis on providing a better patient experience.
- Tell the dentist about the patient’s fears so the dentist can use this information to determine how best to address those concerns and possibly adjust the procedure as needed — even possibly setting up a “stop” signal in case the patient wants to pause during the procedure.
- Recommend the patient schedule more frequent visits for simple procedures like cleanings so they can become more familiar — and thus more comfortable — with the staff and the environment.
- Recommend the patient bring a iPod with their favorite music to calm their nerves during the procedure, or in offices that have TVs in the examination rooms, ask what TV shows or channels the patient would like to watch during the procedure.
- Recommend the patient focus on breathing by inhaling through their nose for four seconds and then exhaling through their nose for four seconds. This should help them relax.
- Consider taking courses in relaxation and holistic therapy. There is even certification that can be earned, through companies like Oraspa, that provides dental assistants and hygienists with the skills and training needed to relax patients by engaging their five senses — for instance, smelling oils, feeling warm stones on their skin and hearing scientifically tested audio — to create a spa-like setting.
(Sources: Colgate.com, National Health Service, Psych Central, Redding.com, Oraspa)