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How to manage patient anxiety in the dental clinic

anxietyPatient anxiety, whether mild or severe, has a major influence on a patient’s perception as well as overall experience in a dental setting. Anxiety is associated with a wide array of triggering factors but normally, the primary cause has proven to be a gaping fear of the unknown.

During the proceedings of a characteristic dental appointment, a patient is made to sit in a rather defenseless position while a group of masked individuals surround and then blast him or her with possible diagnoses and treatment options. This is routine for a dental practitioner, however, the patient is relatively unfamiliar in such situations and that might trigger fear or anxiety.

Dentists can be very resourceful if they pick up on hints of discomfort and anxiety. They can guide and reassure their patients throughout the procedure to make the patient feel more relaxed.

Practitioners are always recommended to communicate with their patients in the simplest language possible to give them a better understanding of what to expect from the procedure. Sometimes, however, due to lack of time, dentists might not be able to get their message across which can confuse patients and thus make him or her feel judged.

Verbal education is a blessing in disguise. Practitioners often explain procedures with the help of charts, illustrations, and simple layman terms. Despite attempts at getting the message across to everyone, practitioners and hygienists can often be inconsistent. The reason is that the process is tiring and tedious and it may take up time reserved for more important tasks. Rushing through the basics and immediately demanding consent will only make the patient feel more uncomfortable, pressurized and hence, anxious. The goal is to have the patient leave the practice feeling content with their decision.

There are various alternatives that may be used to effectively get the message across and ease anxiety such as, video-based patient education systems. These programs are particularly popular because they are convenient, consistent, easily accessible, and exhibit designed illustrations that explain every single detail and answer frequently asked questions. Eventually, there is a lot more time available for the dental practitioners to carry out other necessary tasks in the time the patient watches the videos.

These systems have managed to invoke a certain sense of empowerment in the patients as well because they do not feel like they are being instructed by someone to do as they say. They have the right to go with whatever decision pleases their fancy after they have had time to process all the information. Furthermore, if they have more questions, they can always discuss the matter further with their dentist.

The unpredictability of the unknown is a particularly damaging source of anxiety especially when it comes down to healthcare. The key is to utilize the right kind of tools to change perceptions. Providing patients with an in-depth explanation of the proceedings can alter the fear of the unknown. Progress only results when the patient is willing to set his fears aside and analyze the scenario better.

April 4, 2017

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