How to help patients with dental phobias

treat dental phobias

For some people, the very thought of visiting the dentist may send shivers up their spine. Although many people have visited the dentist several times without incident, there are some individuals whose nerves get the better of them during their appointment. People with a fear of the dentist usually have the perception of possible discomfort or pain as the root of their fear. The truth, however, is that dentistry has come a long way in recent years, and is relatively pain-free compared to how it once was. So, how do you deal with dental-phobic patients? We thought we’d ask the Dentistry Award’s Best Dentist in London winners, the Smile Cliniq, for some tips:

Give control to your patients during the treatment

If you have a particularly nervous patient, it might be a good idea to establish a signal with him or her before embarking upon a procedure. That way, the patient will feel as if he is in control and will know that there’s something they can do if he starts to feel pain. The signal can be something as simple as raising his hand if he’s experiencing discomfort. Once you see the raised hand, you’ll know to stop in order to relieve your patient from the pain. Although it’s only a small gesture, it can make a big difference when it comes to a patient’s mindset.

Use Distraction techniques

Distraction techniques are a great way to bring a phobic patient’s stress levels down. By simply playing some music, especially through headphones, you can encourage a nervous patient to relax. The music will also serve as a distraction from any noises that may go along with the procedure. So, if you know you’re going to be dealing with a phobic patient, and the procedure has the potential to be noisy, it’s worth recommending to the patient that he or she brings along a new CD or a playlist. Songs that are new to the patient are usually more interesting, whereas familiar ones can sometimes go unnoticed.

Stress your professionalism

Above all else, a phobic patient wants to feel like nothing can go wrong. In these instances, it’s always worth stressing your professionalism as a dental practitioner. Gently remind your patient that you’ve seen thousands of clients and that you’ve helped all of them through various dental conditions. The more aware a patient is of your professional approach, the less likely he or she is to feel insecure about the procedure.

Do Pretreatment conditioning

For patients that are particularly phobic, you might want to consider bringing them in for an initial meeting. Let them sit in the dental chair, and use the time you have together to become more acquainted. If possible, involve your dental assistants in the meeting, so that the patients can get to know everyone who will be working on their procedure.

By sitting them in the chair, you’ll be conditioning them to feel more comfortable, giving them the opportunity to distance themselves from any painful and fearful associations they may have. Talk them through the procedure step by step, making sure they are clear with what is going to happen during their appointment. A patient in the know is far less likely to be scared than one who doesn’t know what’s going to happen.

If your patient’s phobia is particularly strong, it may be helpful if he or she speaks with a licensed mental health professional. Online therapy is also available for people who have very busy schedules.

Image courtesy of Steve Loos