Fear towards dental appointments is one of the main reasons why patients don’t seek treatment. Dental anxiety is the fifth most common cause of anxiety.
Most of this phobia is not realistic and it can be caused by a fear of pain during an appointment. With the growth of technology and dental education today, there is a lower expectancy for pain in patients.
Patients who have anxiety will be more sensitive toward any stimuli. These patients will experience more intense pain for a longer period of time. These patients generally will need more time to get their work done.
Dental anxiety will cause patients to avoid visiting a dentist which usually causes lower oral hygiene. More decay and gum disease can be found on these patients, who seek a dentist only when there is a dental emergency. These emergencies usually need more complicated treatments, which can have a more negative effect on them. On the other side if they see a dentist regularly, they are less likely to face these emergencies.
Dental anxiety can be caused by:
- Previous unpleasant dental experiences especially as a child.
- Learning from anxious family members.
- Lack of understanding the procedures and consequences of not doing treatments on time.
- Media portrayal of dentistry without proper information.
- Fear of instruments, needles and blood.
- Smell of dental material and even the noise of the instruments used.
- Fear of unknown, especially if it is their first dental appointment.
- Fear of chocking, gagging, or even radiation exposure.
Dentists needs to know:
- Why the patient is seeking treatment.
- Patient’s expectations.
- Patient’s experience with previous dental treatments.
How to reduce or eliminate dental anxiety:
- The dental office environment should be welcoming. Receptionists, dental assistants, hygienists and any other staff member should be considerate of the situation. They should be trained to answer and explain every question that patients might have.
- Communication and building trust is the main key to reduce the anxiety. If the dentist and the team are experts, trust will be gained very quickly.
- Relaxation techniques such as meditation can be very helpful. For instance, focusing on breathing can calm the patient down. When patients are relaxed physically they will have less anxiety.
- Manage the patients’ perspectives by showing and explaining what will be done. All the steps of the work can be explained for the first few sessions until the patient is fully aware of the treatment.
- Distract the patient. This can be very beneficial for younger patients, especially kids. In some adults talking about things other than dentistry while working might help to distract them from overthinking.
If a patient’s anxiety can not be controlled by these steps, more professional help can be beneficial. For instance, counselling appointments may reduce the anxiety felt towards dental treatments. Dentists can also prescribe medications that can be used before the treatment to control the level of anxiety.
Dental anxiety can have negative effects on the patients’ life. This is our (dentists) duty to help the patients overcome their fear.
I am happy to announce that “Happy Smile Dental Clinic” has been extremely successful in achieving this goal. We are proud to make our clinic environment as comfortable as possible for every single patient.
Dr. Roushanak Shafaghi