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Scary Movie Ten
Well - surprisingly you may think - some people still have palpitations about coming to see us dentists. Officially, we are scarier than open spaces, spiders and flying. Oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation asked more than 2,000 people if they were more afraid of the dentist than the UK's 10 most commonly reported phobias.
This survey also pointed to some of the main reasons a visit to the dentist is seen as scary. When asked what influences fear of the dentist the most, one in three (31 per cent) said needles and injections while one in four (25 per cent) suggested pain was the main influence. This should give us a clue as to how we might do things better.
If you want to build a list these days then offering services aimed at anxious patients is a good move. Not only is this a good commercial move, but understanding patients' fears, and performing treatment with a combination of kindness and gentleness can do a lot to increase the quality of dental care. This can be achieved using a combination of improvements in technology and training in soft skills such as listening.
Karen Coates, a Dental Advisor at the British Dental Health Foundation says the organisation's Dental Helpline receives many calls about fear and phobia, and that the reality is there is nothing to worry about. "People who are scared of the dentist often call us for help because they're at the end of the line. Their teeth don't look nice anymore or they're in a lot of pain with toothache, and they want to make the first step to seeing a dentist and getting their teeth sorted out.”
These patients are going to seek out practices with a reputation for dealing sympathetically with people who have not seen a dentist for some time and offer specific services for nervous people. This may include hypnosis, sedation or simply orientation and introduction sessions for new patients.
Many people who are scared of the dentist remember the smells and sounds of the surgery. We can give them a pleasant surprise with flowers in the waiting room, nice pictures on the wall and easy listening in the air. Additionally, extra training for staff in customer service is a good investment too.
Have a walk around your practice and try to see it through a patient’s eyes. What would you like to see/smell/hear if you were nervous? Further advice on making your practice more ‘user-friendly’ can be found at a number of sources, or use your imagination to make things less scary!
Dr John Shapter – QCS Expert Dental Contributor