Address Your Patients’ Dental Phobias, and They Will Say Yes to Treatment

Sam Muslin, DDS


Americans have strong opinions about the role of dental health in their lives. It isn’t surprising, given its association with cardiovascular disease. However, the roots run deeper than you may expect.

Over 84% of adults across all age groups believe that bad teeth are a barrier in both their personal and professional lives. It’s also telling that more than a third of millennials worry occasionally or very often about their oral health.

You may wonder what’s keeping them from seeing their dentist and correcting these issues. It’s a valid concern, as over 80% feel that they could get ahead in life if they only had straight teeth.

You likely know of many reasons why people skip their biannual visits. Embarrassment is a common feeling, especially if they’ve neglected a problem for a while. Some people are afraid of pain, the sounds of the drill, and the smell of the exam room. It’s frustrating when the thing that can allay their fears, the needle, is another one of their phobias.

Many times, it’s the result of a bad experience. Often, it occurs during childhood and creates an indelible mark. But for every challenge, there is a solution.

A New Approach

With this understanding of your patients’ perspective, you can try innovative ways to reach out with new solutions. It begins with knowing their expectations and showing them the possibilities of what dental procedures can offer them.

After all, a lack of communication or miscommunication often is the source of the barriers to good dental health. Therefore, it’s essential to comprehend the patient’s life experience. Poor oral health has profound impacts on an individual’s well-being that go beyond the dentist’s chair. That’s what makes a holistic approach to dental treatments so imperative.

For example, some patients may suffer from the direct and indirect effects of misaligned jawlines. They may feel neck pain. Their sleep quality may be poor. Or, they may avoid particular foods and some social settings.

The fact remains that the mouth-body connection is real in ways that researchers are still investigating. That’s what makes getting a picture of your patient’s dental, physical, and mental health so vital to the process.

The Promise of Technology

Dealing with the source of patients’ fears holds great promise. Fear and pain are the foes of good dental health. Open communication offers excellent ways to reassure them and put them in control with gentle guidance.

The fear of the unknown is a formidable but not infallible demon.

Pain presents another challenge. While it is often unavoidable, there are better ways to harness it. Complementary treatments, for example, provide a relaxing environment with equally pleasant experiences to relieve anxiety. They can also foster more positive associations that can negate past fears.

Simple things such as ambient music or a pleasing digital photo frame can provide noticeable stress-reducing effects on your patient’s anxiety. Even aromatherapy can help by substituting the unpleasant smells of a typical dental clinic with something more pleasurable.

Another avenue is the use of nonsurgical procedures to correct oral health issues. They jumpstart the banishment of both fear and pain to give practitioners an open door of opportunity. It’s the proverbial win-win.

The patient is less reluctant to accept treatment when the procedure is nonsurgical. Also, less invasive methods reduce the chances of complications that can further cement avoidance behaviors. A customized approach can offer a more realistic solution as well.

The process behind some of these options offers more ways to communicate with patients throughout their course to give them the attention they want before, during, and after the procedure. It’s another means to put them in control of their health outcome.

Overcoming Other Obstacles

An overriding disadvantage of some dental solutions is the fact that they are not permanent. Crowns and veneers have a lifespan, putting fear and pain on the back burner.

Also, time becomes an enemy when the process is lengthy. Every adjustment or follow-up appointment conjures up the original negative feelings in patients with the added risk of a setback. And, some procedures just don’t fix the root of the problem.

That’s one reason it’s vital to consider the entire picture. A detailed workup is an excellent start. It can also uncover other factors that may be in play that aren’t evident in the beginning. Breaking the chain from cause to its effects is essential.

Final Thoughts About Treatment Options

Some people resign themselves to their poor oral health. They dismiss treatment options out of fear of surgery and the accompanying discomfort with its risk of complications. There are other paths they can choose, though. Creating a more relaxing office setting is an excellent starting point. However, the road to recovery requires a clinical solution that fixes the problem as well.

Dr. Muslin’s dental practice, Face Lift Dentistry, focuses on specialized techniques that create an improved bite, maximize oral health, and rejuvenate the face with a youthful and proportionally balanced look.

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