Friday, December 7, 2007

Fear and Anxiety When Visiting the Dentist

A person searching the Internet found my site and wrote in via email:

I have read your comments about new dental technologies and how they can reduce fear and anxiety when at the dentist. I was just enquiring about what are your views about the interior environment (interior space) and its impact on the patients fear and anxiety. Do you feel that this plays a role in dentistry?

As an LVI-trained dentist, I firmly believe that the interior of my office and its decor help reduce patients' fear and anxiety.

We have been trained since childhood to associate certain smells, sounds, and even colors with medical offices. When you walk into a dental office, you often smell antisceptic. Some dentists will make an effort to "warm up" their lobbies with furnishings and curtains, but the lobby is still often dark or lacks natural light.

The treatment rooms themselves can be pretty dreary as dentists getting on in years don't want to make the investment in new colors, treatment chairs and even new dental technologies.

All of this is one reason I've made a real effort to design my office to not look or smell like a dental office. When you step into the lobby, the first thing you notice is the abundance of natural light, waterfall, and seasonal decorations.

The entire office, including the treatment room, is immaculate, warm, and inviting. When you visit my dental spa, I want you feel comfortable and relaxed -- as if you're stepping into your own home.

In fact, you can take a tour of my office without leaving your home -- just click on the following link which will open a virtual or 360 degree tour of my office.


aurora dental implants said...

I'm not sure everybody would agree but environment plays a big part in almost any kind of therapy. We can't have patients dreading their visits to our clinics do we? ^_^ Dr. Smith got it right with the well-lighted lobby. Patients should be comfortable to make the experience more pleasing and successful.

Marianna said...

Environment is soothing, pleasing and plays a role in how we feel, yet it is often not enough for those with a deep fear of dentists or dental work. Anxiety comes from within and is caused by our perceptions to a stressful event.

The best way to overcome our fears is to learn techniques to transform how we perceive that which stresses us or causes us anxiety.

I'm sure that you've had patients, who upon entering your beautifully appointed office comment how lovely it is, yet once they sit in your chair, exhibit the classic signs of a panic attack.

Patients who learn how to manage their stress response by balancing their nervous system become empowered.

Helaine Smith, DMD said...


I am very fortunate to have a practice where most patients have evolved to overcome their dental fears and they are able to mange their anxiety very well.

It takes a lot personal work to be at this level. Also, my patients know that I am not going to hurt them and that they are in control. We are able to move quickly to a place of mutual trust and this is key.

Everything matters from the environment, to my approach, and the support team. Additionally, I feel that if patients need to take a pill of triazolam before a procedure that is fine and they are never denied that option. Why should anyone suffer unnecessary stress? We listen to the needs of our patients and personalize care to what they ask for.

Marianna said...

I agree, Helaine, it does take a lot of personal work to overcome fear...regardless of what that fear is.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide how and what they are going to do, if anything, to overcome this fear.

As a professional, you have recognized what you can do to help your patients the best way in which you can. This is where you do what you do to make the patient comfortable, so that it is a good outcome for all concerned.

I am looking at it from the point of view that if the person has a fear - of dentists, dogs or vaccinations - and they wish to do something to overcome it, that they can learn to have control over their Autonomic Nervous System so that they act from a place of higher thinking, before the 1400 physical & chemical changes take effect.