Dentistry has been practiced for more than 9,000 years. In that time, there have been massive changes in tools, practices, and methods.. Despite these changes, one thing has stayed the same - the importance of the patient/dentist relationship.
As long standing as the profession of dentistry has been, so too has been fear of the dentist. Dental phobia has become ingrained into mainstream culture with idioms like pulling teeth being used to mean difficult and unpleasant. As a result an important part of the dentist’s role has become putting the patient at ease, making them secure and comfortable.
Those with dental phobia avoid dentists as if they are a disease. Unfortunately, putting off regular check-ups is a good way to end up with gum disease or other oral complications. Avoiding simple and comfortable visits lead to a higher likelihood of requiring a visit to an emergency dental clinic. This is why establishing a good patient-dentist relationship is so important.
What makes a good relationship between a patient and a dentist? A good patient-dentist relationship is one of trust, understanding, and strong communication. A great relationship is friendly but professional, a relationship in which mutual trust and confidence are assured.
Anxiety is one of the root issues in dental phobias. Most often a patient will get anxious, either because she is anxious of dentistry or worried about a particular procedure, and when this happens the dentist’s well being and by extension ability to do good work is affected.
One study showed that dental anxiety occurs at a rate of 10% within the general population and attributed six factors as causes: preexisting unfavourable attitudes towards dentists, infrequent check ups, dissatisfaction with one’s own mouth, small numbers of filled surfaces, being female, and having a lower income. Unfortunately these infrequent check ups can lead to complications, and further anxiety since they are at higher risk of requiring an emergency dental clinic.
It’s important for dentists to be aware of these causes so they are better equipped to address them and make for a better patient/dentist relationship. Patients too can help solve the issue by addressing these root causes and minimizing their anxiety, beginning with being honest about it with their dentists. If you are a person who suffers from dental anxiety, mention it to your dentist and she will work with you to find a way to alleviate the stress.
A study published in the British Dental Journal found that people’s general outlook on dental health is a result of cumulative experiences and events of their own lives. Among the strongest factors influencing the likelihood that a person has dental anxiety are experiences from childhood and in the early formative years, or over the earlier part of what specialists call a “health career.”
What does a patient gain from a good relationship with his or her dentist?
She feels more comfortable. She feels less stress. Most importantly, her dental health gets better. Being comfortable with visiting a dentist means she doesn’t avoid her regular check ups, and benefits with a beautiful, healthy smile.
There are two ways patients can have a better relationship with a dentist. The first is by changing their own views of dentistry. Changing your view can be hard, especially if you’ve had a bad experience or have a fear of dentistry.
Are you are like 5% - 8% of Americans who avoid going to the dentist due to fear? The first thing you can do is pick a good dentist. You’ll never overcome your fear of the dentist if you don’t like your dentist personally. A big part of good dentistry is putting the patient at ease. Pick a dentist who you like. It’s hard to hold a conversation when someone has fingers in your mouth, but it’s best pick someone you like to talk to when you can.
When you are positive about a trip to the dentist, it makes it better for everyone. The dentist is more comfortable and calm working on your teeth, and he or she can do a better job. You’ll feel more at ease and comfortable in the chair. Becoming comfortable with regular visits to the dentist helps prevent costly trips to the emergency dental clinic, prevents painful or irreversible damage, improves overall health, and makes it easier for the dentist to maintain your oral health.
The first thing to do when you have a problem with dentists is to acknowledging it. You won’t get anywhere by avoiding the issue. When you admit to having a problem you can take steps to overcome it. If you don’t you will never face the issue and have a good relationship with your dentist.
Next, figure out where your fear or distrust of dentists stems from. Some people have an easier time with this step than others. Maybe you remember having a bad experience at the dentist’s when you were a child. Bad experiences as a young person is one of the leading causes of people fearing a trip to the dentist. It is important to figure out why you have a problem because it will help you solve the problem.
Once you’ve figured out why you have a problem, ask yourself if you need help. Help can come in many forms. It can be as simple as a conversation with your dentist, or it could be professional therapy. Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can as a friend or family member who you trust to talk the problem out with you. Sometimes just talking about something can help you feel better. Friends and family can also offer the support you need to build confidence and get over your fear of dentists.
Finally, you have to commit to solve the problem. Don’t give up on yourself. Overcoming a fear is challenging, but enough determination and the right attitude you can overcome anything. Tell your friends and family you are trying to overcome your fear and they will support you on your journey to self improvement.
By reading this article, you are already taking your first steps towards improving your relationship with your dentist and overcoming your personal fears. Stick with your plan and you will find going to the dentist to be a breeze. Maybe you’ll even enjoy it. That feeling of clean teeth when you leave does feel amazing.
Finding a dentist who you like, trust, and feel comfortable with, makes it far easier to overcome your anxiety. A dentist can be another person you look to for help and support. They are committed to providing better oral health care and making sure each visit, whether regular or emergency dental work, you can leave each visit with a beautiful, healthy smile.
Aside from improving yourself to get a better relationship, you can also change your dentist, clinic, or your dental health care.
If you are having trouble with your current dentist, or with their practice, start by talking to them about it. After all, they are there to help you. If you have a problem with any aspect of your dental health team, bring it up politely the next time you go for an appointment. If you approach this conversation with the right attitude, you will find it easier for everyone and to mutual advantage.
If there’s something your dentist can do specifically to help you or make you feel more comfortable, they will probably be happy to do it, within reason. Bring it up next time you see your dentist, and they will most likely accommodate you. After all, your happiness is their success. They want you to be happy, healthy, and have a great smile.
Always be upfront about having a dental phobia, whether you have just switched to a new dentist or have never told your current dentist. They need to know so they can properly address the problem and potentially help you overcome it.
If it is difficult for you to talk to your dentist alone, bring a friend or family member for support. It’s always ok to ask for help.
Above all, the most important thing to do is to communicate. Here are a few tips for great communication with your dental health team and your dentist.
Be honest. Talking to your dentist isn’t helpful if you aren’t honest. Being honest doesn’t mean you have to be rude, but means that you are open about your feelings. If something scares you, you should let them know. If you are uncomfortable laying back in the chair, let them know. If you have a good dentist, they will do all they can to help you without sacrificing the quality of your dental care.
Before you start a conversation with your dentist about your specific needs, it’s good to know where you stand. The easiest way to tell if you have dental anxiety is to find out where you stand on the Dental Anxiety Scale. You can find more information on the Dental Anxiety Scale here and take a test to determine where you lie.
Another way to have good communication is to listen. You should trust your dentist and respect what they tell you. Listening carefully to their suggestions can make the experience better for both of you. Always keep in mind that they are there to help you and will do all they can to make your experience the best possible.
If you follow the tips in this article you will find going to the dentist much easier. You will have greater control over your health and will know how to get healthy and stay healthy.
If you’re looking for a professional, trustworthy dentist in Toronto or need an emergency dental clinic, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Judy Sturm for an appointment or consultation.Learn More
Dr. Sturm builds long-lasting, trusting relationships with her patients. Her warm personality and expertise put even the most anxious patients at ease.Book a Consultation
Get the most out of your office visits and keep your teeth healthy for life with good oral hygiene and regular visits.Book your next checkup
Brighten your smile with Boost. State of the art whitening processes are great for discoloured, stained or aging teeth, and you’ll see dramatic results in as little as an hour! At-home whitening is also available.Learn More
Just let us know the best way to reach you, and we’ll give you a call to set up your appointment.