It’s common knowledge that most patients do not look forward to dental work. On the other hand, it is a small number of patients who have significant fear or anxiety about dental care, the kind that prevents them from getting the procedures they need and want. So for this small group of people what systems do you have in place. The traditional things we do to help patients be comfortable are not going to make enough of an impact for people who are truly apprehensive about dentistry.
There are many options we can offer our patients to help them relax and take the stress out of coming in. Nitrous Oxide is used commonly in many offices with great success. There are challenges with Nitrous that include that many patients do not like the feeling or do not get adequate anxiety relief. From the dentists side it can be awkward to work around the nasal mask, especially when working on upper anteriors. The use of medication can be very helpful for patients, whether using an anxiolytic or a sedative. As with Nitrous some patients respond very well to oral medication and others find it disconcerting or ineffective. In addition the use of medication now adds a logistical issue of the patient having someone else provide transportation.
The next step is offering patients a form of conscious sedation or full anesthesia. You may choose to get the necessary training yourself or work with a traveling anesthesiologist who will come to your office. One of the factors to consider is both the training, emergency preparedness and risk and the challenges of working on a patient that is not responsive. On the patients side the cost can becoming a limiting factor, but grants access to dental care to many patients who otherwise would not get treatment.
However you are able to help your anxious patients, the most important piece is to be supportive and understanding. If you have ever experienced real fear or anxiety you appreciate that it feels absolutely real and you can not simply talk yourself out of it.