Most of us fear the unknown, that’s human nature. Put that together with a visit to a new dentist, and you may have a prescription for anxiety. Even people who have gone to the same dentist for years and are comfortable with that dentist can begin to feel uneasy if there are changes in the office. We are all creatures of habit, and changes in the way we are used to being treated can have a strong impact on us. Changes in personnel, length of time waiting to be treated, and how treatment is delivered tend to leave the greatest impression on dental patients.
Turnover in personnel is a common phenomenon in today’s job market. This is unfortunate when it happens frequently at a dental office. The dentist should not underestimate the importance of their friendly, hard working people on the dental team. People feel more secure when they come to a dental office and see a familiar face greeting them and even when they call for an appointment on the phone. When the dental office manager and other front desk personnel have been there for many years, they will usually know about their patients scheduling preferences, insurance information, and about their family and interests. Clinical personnel such as dental assistants that are familiar with the office’s patients can help them relax during dental treatment. It is clear that pleasant, sincere, and long time members of the dental office staff can help allay a great deal of anxiety for many patients.
For the anxious patient, long periods of time in the waiting room can become very stressful. A dental office that repeatedly makes a patient wait more than twenty minutes sends a signal to the patient that their time is not respected. Patients prefer to get their treatment completed as soon as possible. Dental offices that consistently stay on or close to schedule help patients feel comfortable and well cared for.
The way in which the dentist and dental hygienist treat their patients will either impair or enhance the experience. If a patient knows that every time the dentist gives an injection, the dentist will use topical anesthesia, an ultra thin needle, and gently move their cheek to take extra care to reduce discomfort, the patient will usually become less anxious every time an injection is needed. On the other hand, if the dentist is inconsistent with the technique and there is occasional discomfort with the injection, the patient is likely to become anxious any time they get an injection. The dental hygienist should also be consistent in her approach towards patient care. The patient should know what to expect during a routine dental cleaning and for treatment of the gums.
Dental offices that can deliver a consistent and comfortable experience for their patients will help them reduce anxiety, improve their visit, and become an asset to the community.