Dental anxiety

How the dental office can help with dental anxiety

Dental anxiety is arguably the number one cause people do not come to the dental office. Anything the office can do to help with this anxiety will help both the patient and the dentist.

How can staff help with dental anxiety?

The first step is empathy and for the staff to know that it is common and normal part of the human experience. Many employees get complacent and think because it is all so normal for them that there is nothing to fear. Patients do not see it that way. It’s the old adage of you need to walk in the other persons shoes.

Things people can do to help out with dental anxiety

Doctors and staff with great bedside manners can make a world of difference!

  • Make a connection by finding something the patient likes and talk about it. Make eye contact and use appropriate touch.
  • Listen to the patients concerns and use reflective listening. Find out what their fears are exactly.
  • Don’t have parents say, “There is nothing to be afraid of.” or ask kids “Are you scared or nervous?” Change to are you excited today?
  • Remind the patient they are doing great. They are a great patient and everything is going great!
  • Distraction is always a great idea. There are many forms but asking the patient to do something like wiggling their toes keeps the mind busy.
  • Tell show do is a classic dental technique to help with dental anxiety, although it is mostly for use of children.
  • Work fast but talk and touch slowly.
  • Have patient do calm breathing. Dentist and staff should do also after leaving op, especially if feeling stress.

Equipment and systems people can use to help with dental anxiety

There are lots of things you can buy to help with dental anxiety.

  • Televisions in the ceiling are a great distraction. Adding headphones with music or connected to the TV helps even more.
  • Shades help reduce light as does just turning off the operatory lights.
  • Use a weighted blanket, in the dental office your lead apron works great.
  • Nitrous and other medications of course are always an option.
  • Have patient use a stress ball to squeeze.
  • We made a custom book for new kids to introduce them to the office. It is a social story.
  • Ask on NP forms if patient has dental anxiety and what their triggers are.

Dental staff need to know the signs of anxiety

The staff should know how to read the signs of dental anxiety. This sheet should help.

Signs of dental anxiety

Who gets dental anxiety?

Anyone can get dental anxiety but there are some people that are more likely than others. Fear and anxiety have previously been tied to the MC1R gene, which results in red hair.  This new study shows that red hair and the MC1R gene are significantly linked to higher levels of dental anxiety.  Fortunately for red heads this study found that it does not impact the success rate of anesthetic blocks, particularly the IAN block was tested.

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