How can we help our patients cope with dental anxiety?
Fears and phobias can affect any person’s day-to-day life one way or another, no matter their nature. Some people may be faced with a fear of spiders, others may fear snakes or even unusual ones, like the fear of mirrors. But what happens when one of the things that can be the scariest, also significantly impacts physical health?
At the root, a phobia is an irrational fear that may be caused by an object, a being, or a situation. Luckily, anxiety is a lighter manifestation of that and it has easier ways of being combated or even completely eliminated.
Dental anxiety is a fear manifested by people that find themselves in a dental environment or one that is associated with it. This is a mental health issue that can have its grounds in other significant experiences or even in other mental health issues as well, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or generalized anxiety disorder.
Being faced with dental anxiety can cause people to refuse to go to the dentist, postponing treatment, and eventually aggravating already existing medical problems that require medical attention. In case you identify that one of your patients is suffering from this type of anxiety, here are some ways you can help:
Openly discuss triggers
Let your patient know first that avoiding a problem doesn’t make it go away. The first step, and one of the most important ones in managing dental anxiety, is to have an open conversation with your patient about what scares them most in this scenario. This is extremely necessary as it can help you find a better way to go around the issue and come up with an action plan specifically tailored to your patient.
Anything can become a fear stimulus, and one way you can help with that is to offer a set of distractions that could take a patient’s mind off of what is happening around. When the sound of drilling becomes almost unbearable, encourage your patient to listen to music through their headphones. Some dental practices even have TVs that can help patients cope with the visual aspect of a procedure. Scary things tend to go to the back of our minds when we don’t think about them completely.
Using happy gas
In case of severe anxiety laughing gas can be a light and easy solution to help your patient cope better with their inner feelings when it comes to a procedure. The gas effects go away fairly quickly and you end up with a more relaxed and often more talkative patient. Come on, we all know those funny clips of people after wisdom teeth removals!
Recommend a therapy specialist
Sometimes, just as with any other type of anxiety, the dental one can be treated more effectively by a person who specializes in this type of issue. Recommending a therapist to a patient and encouraging them to follow this path, can lead to a faster way of removing the problem from the root. The result will be something similar to a chain reaction: a more relaxed patient who will not continue to avoid the visits to the dentist and will not postpone treatments in regard to oral health.
We are looking forward to hearing your notes and thoughts about this topic.