I thought for this blog I would talk about how I help nervous patients and then hopefully other people can add their thoughts as well.
We don't offer sedation in our practice and if we did I'm sure that some patients would love it, but instead I try to use just a few simple principles to help nervous patients:
Firstly I treat everyone as if they might be nervous. New patients may have slight apprehension because they are in an unknown environment not knowing whether they will like their experience today. Patients returning for an exam may have some nerves about whether I will discover a big problem which will take a lot of work to fix or will cost them a lot of money. And patients returning for treatment may be nervous about whether it will hurt, how long it will take etc. So if you treat everyone as if they are nervous about something then the ones who are perfectly relaxed are just a nice bonus.
I pride myself in my explanations to patients and I think this really helps to overcome nerves. I always start every appt with the same patter checking complaints and MH etc then explaining what I will be doing at that appt and asking if the pt has any questions before we start. During treatments I explain every step that I am doing. I find this really helps pts to understand what we are doing and why and hopefully highlights my passion for high quality dentistry. I also find that using photos and iPad animations really helps my ability to explain things well to patients when discussing treatment options, and as I have discussed previously I am a big fan of written OHI and personalised complex treatment packs summarising options. Remember that patients forget 50% of what you say to them. So when they return next time they might be nervous about the bits they cant remember. If you can give them written info it will allow them to fill in those blanks after they have got home,
I make a point of giving LA really slowly to make it as comfortable as I can. You could invest in an LA wand but I just use a traditional syringe very slowly. This helps amazingly because a lot of people are understandably nervous about LA as most people have had a painful experience in the past. If you can make their first part of the treatment pain free then suddenly they relax a bit more.
I have previously discussed offering pts wireless headphones so that they can block out some of the surgery sounds and choose some music to listen to instead. I do use this but not very much. They block out external sounds so well that it means they cant hear me explaining what I am doing so I personally don't really like treating pts who wear them. For extremely nervous ones they can be good and for really long appts like multiple crown preps or endo they can be OK.
And the final thing I do is to remember to experience what it is like as a patient every now and then. I have had very minimal work on my teeth up till now. Just a couple of fillings in my teenage years and ortho. It can be very easy for us to forget what pts are going through when they are in the chair. So I make a point of having a S&P now and then to remind myself of that feeling. And when I get a new material try it out on myself. See what your impression materials taste like etc.
So nothing revolutionary here but a few principles that I work by to help my nervous pts. What do you do?
Dr Chris Harper