Only 62% of adults visited a dentist in 2009. It doesn’t take a psychology degree to know that patients aren’t avoiding your office because they love tooth decay. Many times, the fear of dentists is based on traumatic dental experiences. A successful dentist is not only good at cleaning teeth, filling cavities, and restoring smiles, but also at putting patients at ease so that they will keep returning. Here are a few tips to help reduce your patients’ dental fears and anxieties so that you can best treat them and send them home smiling:
• Communicate clearly: Talking through the steps of the treatment with patients can significantly reduce their fear. When a patient comes to your office, sit down with them and talk through what you will be doing, even if it is only a cleaning.
• Soothe with music: According to a study by the American Dental Association, music is a great tool for distracting patients and reducing their dental anxiety. Have soothing music playing in the examination room, or better yet, encourage your patients to bring an iPod or MP3 player with their favorite song to listen to throughout their appointment.
• Try a relaxation technique: One of the most effective ways to reduce fear in particularly anxious patients is to have them do a short relaxation exercise prior to their treatment. Consider getting a relaxation DVD or written instructions for a relaxation exercise and encourage anxious patients to listen to it through headphones or read it quietly while in the waiting room before their appointment.
• Distract, Distract, Distract: Some dental offices are beginning to set up television screens above the dental chairs, and allowing patients to choose from a DVD collection or set of television stations prior to their procedure. This is particularly helpful for longer procedures, and can offer a distraction from their fear and anxiety.
As a dentist, you know that dental work does not have to be scary. By communicating clearly with your patients, creating a relaxing and welcoming environment, and offering them distractions such as music and television, you can help your patients to reduce their anxiety and keep fear at bay. Even for patients that do not have obviously high levels of dental anxiety, these tips can help make them feel more relaxed and create a welcoming atmosphere that gives patients positive associations with the dentist.
Allison Gamble has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing with psychologydegree.net.