It’s no secret that many people are scared of the dentist. Indeed, reports suggest that as many as half of the adults in the UK suffer from dental anxiety – approximately 20 million people across the country.
Trying to ascertain precisely why people are scared is an impossible task, as everyone has a different reason, stemming from their personal experiences, but we do hear similar stories from time to time – sometimes it’s the fear of anaesthesia, or the fear of needles, the sound of the dental drill or the thought of choking. Often, it’s simple embarrassment that causes a patient’s anxiety, or the awkwardness of being forced into close proximity with a stranger. Maybe it’s because that stranger will be wearing a mask and loupes, and wielding instruments that our brains tell us will hurt – or it could be the sense of powerlessness that people feel when they are tipped back in the chair.
No matter the underlying reason for their fear, the implications it can have on a patient’s oral health can be serious. If a patient is too scared to attend regular appointments, they run the risk of developing dental caries, gum disease or worse. And, if left unchecked or untreated, even relatively minor problems can develop into more complicated issues that require more invasive treatment – the thought of which will simply dissuade the patient from visiting the practice in the future.
As such, it is important for dental professionals to address the dental anxiety issue and implement different methods in practice to assuage patients’ fears and concerns – and there are many techniques that can be employed to achieve this. Perhaps the most important – and the approach that should be adopted in every practice – is ensuring that patients are made to feel at ease from the very moment they enter the practice. This can best be done by making sure the reception area is welcoming and manned by friendly, attentive and empathetic staff. Interpersonal skills are incredibly important, both for the reception team and for the clinical personnel, to ensure that patients are treated in a way that helps them relax.
The physical environment inside the practice can also play a major role in helping patients overcome their fears. By designing the practice in a way that makes it appear welcoming and relaxing, rather than clinical or forebodingly sterile will immediately change a patient’s perception. Many modern practices are taking design cues from spas and hotels, rather than hospitals or laboratories, to create an aesthetic that encourages patients to relax before they are called into the treatment room. Such changes can be made easily and without great cost, whilst still remaining mindful of the essential cross-contamination protocols that must be stringently followed in all practices.
Similarly, many practices are beginning to play relaxing music in both the waiting and treatment areas to not only detract from the typical healthcare setting but to also mask the common sounds of dental equipment that may cause anxiety. Television screens that relay calming scenes or interesting videos are also an effective way to ‘distract’ patients from their fear and can be used to great effect in both the treatment room and elsewhere.
In the surgery, where a patient’s dental anxiety is likely to manifest most acutely, there are a number of different ways to help keep patients relaxed. Some practices have introduced a dental ‘panic button’ – which allows patients to signal to their dentists that they need a break. These small devices help put the patient back in control of their own situation. Furthermore, there are products available that can help reduce the noise of a dental drill, eliminating the sound that is so often associated with dental fear. These devices fit onto headphones and emit an inverted wave that limits the sound of the drill.
On top of this, dental chairs are increasingly being designed to offer exceptional comfort for patients. This can truly encourage them to relax – and, in conjunction with relaxing music, distracting screens and noise-cancelling technology, can produce significant results. What’s more, modern chairs can be adjusted smoothly, without jerky movements or mechanical noise, which allows any work to be conducted calmly and comfortably.
Similarly, a flexible delivery system that can be manoeuvred away from the patient’s head will remove from view any instruments that might cause fear, while still allowing the practitioner to access what they need with ease.
A-dec is renowned for designing dental units that offer practical, reliable solutions to everyday issues. The range of chairs and delivery systems, such as the A-dec 500, offer unparalleled ergonomics for both the dental team and patient, and can transform the look and feel of your surgery.
By combining some or all of these different approaches, dental professionals can help patients overcome their dental anxieties. Indeed, the use of effective interpersonal skills, distraction techniques and comfortable, effective equipment can all work together to lessen the fear of the ‘dreaded’ dentist.
For more information about A-dec Dental UK Ltd, visit
www.a-dec.co.uk or call on 0800 2332 85