Addressing Patient Anxiety: 4 Tips

Thu, Oct 22, 2015 at 5:56PM

If you’ve been a dentist long enough, you’ve probably seen your share of nervous patients—and by this point, you know how to recognize them when they walk through the door. They may not be vocally distressed, but they will often be quiet, jumpy or otherwise nervous.

But even if you know what they look like, you may not always know what your patient needs to see or hear to feel better. In today’s blog, we will discuss three ways you can help to ease your patient’s fears and make their dental experience as pleasant as possible.

Expect it.

One of the most important things to remember as a dentist dealing with nervous patients—it’s going to happen! You are bound to see your share of less than comfortable patients in your chair, whether they are kids or adults, newcomers or regulars. What’s key here is that you expect such patients so that you can respond easily and appropriately. Remember… while this is a normal day for you, it probably isn’t so typical for your patient. They aren’t used to the dental process and, often, they don’t like it! By knowing that this is a possibility with every patient, you can be more prepared to respond. (And, of course, the next time a cool, cooperative patient walks in, you’ll be able to appreciate them that much more!)

Offer calming resources.

You may already employ some calming methods in your office, which is great! The key is to having several options on hand so that you can find a solution that works on the patient in your chair. Some patients enjoy watching a light TV program or comedy during their visit, while others like to close their eyes and listen to music. Kids, of course, will often enjoy some comfort from toys or puppets you may have in the office. And finally, all patients appreciate being spoken to in a calm, comforting manner that shows them 1) you care about their comfort and 2) you are confident in what you are doing.

Be straightforward.

While it may seem counterintuitive, some patients will actually feel more nervous when you behave like nothing’s “wrong”—even though you know that nothing is! For this reason, it may be helpful to address any possible anxiety right away. Asking a patient if they’re nervous—and following up by asking if there’s anything specific they don’t particularly like—can be a step in the right direction. While you can’t necessarily remove the source of their anxiety, you can show your patient that you care and are willing to explain processes that worry them. 

Be confident.

Nothing says to your patient that you’re confident and know what you’re doing than… well, being confident and knowing what you’re doing! Don’t let the patient’s stress “rub off” on you and lead you to become unsure or anxious in your own movements. Show them that you are capable of handling the task at hand and that there really is nothing to worry about.

Nervous patients are just a part of the job—but by knowing how to respond to them, you can make their experience (and yours) a little bit more pleasant.

 

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