At Turn Key Dental, we recognise that a large amount of the population experience some level of fear or anxiety when visiting their dental practice, with 17% experiencing a phobia so severe they avoid the dentist altogether. Patients might be scared of the overall experience, or their fear may focus on a specific element such as needles, drills, pain, or feelings of powerlessness.
Dentists can undergo specific training on how to make nervous patients feel more at ease. However, there are also things you can do within your practice to make those with dental anxiety feel more comfortable.
Entering The Surgery
Many patients feel anxious while waiting to be called for their appointment and sitting in waiting rooms has been found to be a highly stressful part of visiting a medical setting. Therefore, it’s vital that your dental surgery waiting area offers a calm and welcoming environment.
Shades of blue evoke feelings of relaxation and calm, and hanging artwork on the walls or providing reading material gives visitors a way to distract themselves. Ideally, your waiting room should have fresh air and natural light, but if this isn’t possible soft lighting will create a more pleasant environment than harsh fluorescents.
Feeling crowded or cramped, loud music, and feeling too hot or cold can lead to sensory overload and increase feelings of anxiety. Ensure that seating is spaced out and keep the room at a pleasant temperature. Ask other visitors to keep noise to a minimum, for example by putting phones on silent and using headphones when listening to music or videos.
Receptionists play a vital role in making sure everyone feels comfortable. Remember that not every anxious patient will feel comfortable sharing their feelings, so everyone must be treated in a kind and compassionate manner. If a patient does mention that they feel apprehensive about visiting the surgery, an early morning appointment will stop anxiety building up throughout the day and the waiting area is also likely to be quieter.
Before The Appointment
First impressions count, and you want patients to feel at ease the second they walk into the treatment room. High-quality equipment and clean and tidy work surfaces will reassure patients they’re in safe hands and create an environment where they feel comfortable sharing their concerns.
Keep equipment such as needles or drills stored away out of sight, but somewhere where they can be accessed quickly if needed. Invest in plenty of storage so that patients aren’t left lying in the chair while you search for the tools you need, as this could increase anxiety levels.
Just like in your waiting area, soft colours and lighting will make the room feel less cold and clinical. Essential oils could be used to remove the smell of disinfectant, which can trigger unpleasant feelings in patients who have previously had a bad experience in a medical setting.
During The Appointment
While no one particularly enjoys a dental examination, there are several ways the experience can be made better for nervous patients.
Place seating within the treatment room so that your patients can bring a partner, friend, or family member in with them for support. Position this so your patient can see their loved one from the dental chair, and put your patient in control by agreeing on a hand signal they can use if they need to pause at any time.
Gentle, calming background music played at a low volume can help to take the patient’s mind away from the examination or procedure. A comfortable and high-quality dental chair will also improve the experience and make things easier for you and your team.
After The Appointment
Hopefully, your patient will find their experience was much better than they expected. Encouraging people to book their next appointment before they leave the surgery increases your chances of seeing them again and avoids any anxiety around getting in touch to make their next appointment.
Attending regular dentist appointments and having a positive experience every time is a powerful way to reduce dental anxiety. This will also build a relationship with the patient and increase loyalty. Make it easy for patients to book their next visit before they leave by ensuring your reception area is placed on the way out and invest in a fast and efficient booking system.
Benefits For Your Dental Practice
Specialising in making sure nervous patients feel supported and comfortable benefits both your patients and your practice. Positioning yourself as an expert at helping nervous patients can be a lucrative niche and providing anxious patients with the best possible experience is likely to lead to an increase in positive reviews and referrals.
Turn Key Dental provides all the support you need to design a friendly and welcoming practice that includes all of the above suggestions and more. From surgery redesigns to making sure you have top-of-the-range equipment, we’re here to help from build to installation.