With the exception of people who work as dentists, almost nobody enjoys going to visit a dentist’s surgery. It’s a sad fact of the job that dentists do that no matter how hard they try, nobody is happy to see them, and the majority of them hate the time they spend with you. It doesn’t matter how charming the dentist’s persona is or how welcoming they are when they come to sit in the big chair - the fear is still there. The idea that everyone is afraid of the dentist has become a running joke - although it’s not a very funny one if you happen to work in the dental profession.
Aside from being discouraging, dealing with agitated or terrified patients can bring practical problems to dentistry, and adds to the stress of the job. The waiting room becomes a giant human-powered game on online slots site, where a dentist doesn't know what's going to happen next until they open their doors and gamble on letting the next patient in. They have to hope that they have a calm one as opposed to a lively one. The comparison is an apt one - there's even a dentistry-themed online slots game called 'Crazy Dentist,' which doesn't do much to help with the public's perception of the profession! There's no way to take control of most online slots games and determine what's going to happen next time you spin, but is there a way to improve the chances of keeping a patient calm? Actually, yes, there are several.
If a dentist is dealing with a patient that has a truly ingrained and genuine phobia of seeing them, sadly there’s not a lot that can be done to help. If, however, the patient is dealing with a simple case of dentist-related anxiety, there are a few things a dentist can try to make the experience as relaxing as possible for them. We’ll reel them off one at a time.
Anybody who’s ever been for a professional sports or therapeutic massage will know that the relaxing atmosphere in a massage facility is set by the music. Birdsong, pan pipes, and other reliable relaxation sounds are the order of the day in such places, and that’s not by accident. Human beings are incredibly responsive to sound. Loud, blaring music will increase someone’s adrenaline levels and put them in an active (and potentially aggressive) state, whereas calming music will have a more soporific effect. Scientific studies have conclusively proven that the right type of music can reduce both heart rate and blood pressure, and both of those things make for a calmer person in a dentist’s chair.
Turn Down The Lights
Psychologists are becoming increasingly concerned about the effects of over-illumination, which can include both stress and depression. While detailed studies into the idea are a relatively new thing, knowledge about the impact of shining a bright light directly into someone's face is not. There's a reason why it's used as both a torture and interrogation technique - it puts people on edge, and it makes them feel like they're being attacked. Unfortunately, dentists have no choice but to do this because if they didn't do it, they wouldn't be able to see into the back of their patients' mouths. They can, however, mitigate it. By putting sunglasses or darkened glasses on their patients, they can limit the effect of the bright light, and therefore make the patient feel less like they're under a spotlight. This also has the added bonus of keeping stray fluids away from their eyes.
Television As A Distraction
Almost every dentists' waiting room has a television, and if it doesn't, it should. A patient-conscious dentist will take that idea one a step further, though, and have a television inside their surgery room, too. The reasoning for this is quite obvious. If a patient doesn't have any distractions, all they can think about when they're in the chair is what the dentist is doing inside their mouth. They're conscious of every push, every poke, and every movement. If there's something in their eye line to distract them, it will at least partially take their mind off the procedure they're undergoing. As an added bonus from the point of view of the dentist, it means they can also watch television while they're at work and get paid for it!
A Well-Run Schedule
We don't know when it became a requirement for people to turn up half an hour before their dental appointment, but the requirement needs to end. The longer someone is sat in the waiting room, thinking about what's about to happen to them, the more nervous they'll become about it. It won't take long for them to begin imagining worst-case scenarios, and by the time they're eventually sent in to see the dentist, they might have worked their way up into a highly anxious state. All of this could be avoided of dentists were willing to cut down on waiting times. If someone has booked an appointment for 3 pm, they shouldn't need to be any more than fifteen minutes early for that appointment. Having an efficient, timely, well-run schedule benefits both the patient and the dentist.
Stop Talking To Them
Nobody knows why dentists feel obliged to talk to their patients while they're in the chair, but it's been passed down from generation to generation. When the current generation of dentists were children, their dentists spoke to them while they were undergoing dental work. They now feel like they have to speak to their own patients and keep the tradition going. This needs to stop immediately. As should be immediately apparent to anybody, a patient with a mouth full of dental tools cannot respond to questions because they can't talk properly. A patient who has been sedated is even less capable of holding a conversation. All talking to patients in the chair does is make them feel awkward and embarrassed because they can't respond properly, but feel obliged to try. It also draws more attention to what the dentist is doing, because the patient's tongue will move around their mouth and feel the dentist's fingers and tools as they attempt to reply. Save the conversations before and after the work, and let the patient zone out in the chair.
If all of the above fails, the one option a dentist has left is nitrous oxide, which will bring even the most highly-strung patient under control. Although it’s colloquially known as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is no laughing matter. It should only be used when the situation truly calls for it. For the majority of patients, following the advice we’ve outlined above should improve both their mood and the dentist’s experience of dealing with them - so there’s no reason not to implement it!