For patients with apprehension about visiting the dentist, comfort-based dental care is critical. Many times this is due to negative past experiences. It’s important to remember that while you may prioritize dental care and are sure they’ll have a positive experience, not all dentists are the same way.
By focusing on how your patients feel and taking steps to make them feel more comfortable, you can help them overcome their fears and improve the oral health!
Rethink Patient Experience
It may be time to rethink how patients move through your office. Customer experience focuses on not only the journey customers take through a company’s process, but also how it makes them feel.
These are a few points to focus on:
- Are your receptionists friendly and making a point to engage with patients?
- Are hygienists aware of patient cues that can signal their distress?
- What types of amenities do you offer to anxious patients? (E.g. blankets, nitrous oxide for cleanings, relaxing music, and sound cancelling headphones.)
- Does your body language send the right signals?
- Are you taking the time to talk before continuing the exam or procedure?
The goal is to create an experience that’s calming, professional, and welcoming. Your patients will notice when every department prioritizes comfort-based dental care!
Make Appointments a Conversation
It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of patients, but focusing on conversations can help ease patients’ anxiety. Discuss concerns they may have, if they’ve had negative experiences in the past, and if there are specific procedures they dislike.
It’s good to talk about these topics! Fear isn’t something we should avoid, even though it’s typically ignored. Comfort-based dental care focuses on what we can do to alleviate patients’ fears, and opening a dialogue can help you learn specifics.
Establish a Signaling System
Dentistry is a field where communication with patients can be difficult, since, well, tools are in patients’ mouths! Establishing a signaling system can help alleviate patient anxiety because they know procedures can stop if needed.
Explain to patients that they can raise their hand at any point, and you will take a break. Whether pain, questions, or they need to take a minute, signaling gives patients control in a situation where they often don’t have it. When they know there’s the option, they may be more likely to accept needed procedures.
Focus on Patient Education
We’re proponents of patient education, and it can be particularly useful with anxious patients. Some patients like to know everything that will happen during a procedure, because they don’t like surprises. Others may not, so it’s always a good idea to ask.
Patient education can also share why procedures need to happen sooner rather than later. Patients with dental-related anxiety may put off procedures, which means a small procedure now can become a larger, more expensive fix in the future. By explaining what could happen if left untreated (gently, of course), patients may be more likely to schedule the appointment.
Comfort-based dental care is a valuable resource for every dental practice. When you and your team focuses on patient experience, conversations, signals, and education, you can help ease patients’ anxiety and help improve their oral health.