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Strategies for managing dental anxiety

Helping patients manage dental anxiety doesn’t just improve the oral health and lives of your patients. It makes your life a whole lot easier, too.

Here are some simple strategies for helping patients be relaxed and comfortable in your waiting room and operatory.

Use hand signals

A common factor leading to dental anxiety is the feeling of being in a situation that is out of your control. Teach anxious patients to use hand signals to communicate with you while you’re working in their mouth. Something as simple as putting up 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 fingers to indicate different levels of discomfort and a full fist to stop can give patients the control they need to relieve their anxiety.

Distractions in the waiting room and operatory

Installing a television and playing cartoons is a fantastic way to distract children from thinking about what’s going on in their mouth, and the same distraction tactic can work on adults, too. A Netflix subscription is a simple way to allow nervous patients to choose their own distraction.

Calming music

Many studies have been done on the profound effect music can have on the human body and while personal music preference comes into play, slow tempo, relaxing music typically quiets the mind and signals muscles to release tension.

Deep breathing exercises

A deep breathing routine is a proven way to reduce almost any type of stress or anxiety. Deep abdominal breathing works to prevent hyperventilation while increasing the supply of oxygen to your brain. Additional oxygen stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn promotes a state of calmness.

Sedated care is better than no care at all

While heavy medication should be a last resort, the reality is that some patients’ past trauma truly will prevent them from getting the care they need unless some measures are taken.

Remember to be patient and sympathetic with patients suffering from dental anxiety. It’s important to remember that they would happily choose to not feel and react that way if they could. If you want to help them have a positive experience at your practice, kindness and understanding are key.