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How to Comfort a Patient with Dental Anxiety

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The bright lights. The sharp tools. The prospect of throwing up while laying in the dental chair.

These are all common factors that people fear when visiting the dentist. As many as 1 in 5 people avoid the dentist due to dental anxiety. That’s too many people missing out on essential dental care!

As a dental health professional, you have the ability to calm dental anxiety. With a few anti-stress measures, you can drop your patient’s dental fears down to zero.

Here’s a quick guide for how to comfort patients with dental anxiety.

Provide Distractions

Start by putting yourself in the patient’s shoes. As a dental hygienist or assistant, you are the one interacting most with the patients. What would you like to see at your dental office to keep your mind off of a procedure?

Provide plenty of interesting books on the lobby table. Have calming music playing from the overhead speakers. Install a television in the lobby and program it to something entertaining.

While the patient is in the chair, talk to them. Tell them lighthearted stories. Ask them questions while they take breaks to rinse.

Some offices provide television screens with movies playing during the procedure. Or offer them headphones to listen to calming music while you work.

Teach Relaxation Techniques

People have anxiety for a lot of different reasons. That’s why teaching relaxation techniques is a big help. These techniques calm all types of anxiety and fear and are useful to patients even outside the dental chair.

Provide your patients with breathing exercises to practice before and during their procedure. Guide them through a short, peaceful meditation before you start. Also, if you know ahead of time that the patient struggles with anxiety, send home some suggestions to use at their next visit.

Also, plan plenty of time for dental visits when you know your patient has anxiety. Everyone is more relaxed when the time is not an issue.

Ask Your Patient to Give You a Signal

Many dental phobias stem from a lack of control. Plus, laying on your back with your mouth open is not very comfortable.

Before you begin, agree on a signal that your patient gives when they need to stop and take a break. When they give the signal, like lifting their hand, stop and allow them to sit up for a few seconds.

If you communicate well with your patient, they’ll feel more in control of the situation.

Encourage Supportive Guests

Sometimes having a familiar face nearby makes people calmer while in the chair.

Encourage your patients to bring a guest that makes them more comfortable. Provide a chair next to the dental chair so that person is close to the patient.

Keep Dental Anxiety at Bay with These Tips

Remember, communication is the key to calming dental anxiety. Talk to them before and during the procedure so they know what to expect.

Keep them distracted by asking questions, telling stories, and providing music to listen to. Consider teaching relaxation techniques to those patients who struggle more. They might even thank you for it in other areas of their life.

Let the patient have a say in the procedure by agreeing on a signal so you know when they need a break. And encourage them to bring someone along for support.

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