Communication is key during dentist visit
SUMMARY: Most dentists who have dissatisfied patients are not aware of it, according to a new study. To experience a pleasant visit, it's helpful to speak up.
Posted: April 17, 2014
Expressing your level of comfort to the dentist could be the trick to feeling satisfied with your dental treatment. That's because, according to a new study, dentists are often unaware of dissatisfied patients. So, whether going in for a simple cavity treatment or a root canal, it's best to speak up.
The research, published in the April edition of the Journal of the American Dental Association, evaluated how well patient satisfaction aligned with dentists' views. Though most patients gave a nod of approval with their dental care, dentists did not know when others were not so pleased.
In the study, 5,315 patients completed a satisfaction survey consisting of 20 items, including friendliness of the dentist, satisfaction level with the overall treatment and visit, whether the dental procedure was explained before it started, whether patients were given a choice of material to fix their tooth, and how the dentist limited pain, fear and anxiety during the procedure. Then, 197 network practitioners filled in a form about patients' visits.
Voice of the dissatisfied
A total of 86 percent of patients rated their visit satisfactory. Among the 726 patients who were dissatisfied, dentists were only aware of these feelings in 1 percent of cases.
So, if you feel anxiety about seeing the dentist, you're not alone. Thousands of people grapple with their fears of sitting in the dental chair, but not enough share their needs.
Fearful patients need to be more assertive about their needs, Peter Milgrom, director of the Dental Fears Research Clinic at the University of Washington, told WebMD. Patients should say to their dentists, "I want to talk about what can be done to make me more comfortable. I don't want someone to tell me something doesn't hurt me."
Patients seek not only technical competence but also interpersonal skills in a dentist to reduce their anxiety. Dentists can lend a helping hand with problems like teeth and gum issues and chronic halitosis. Oftentimes, fear of dentists stems not so much from the level of pain as from the lack of control they feel in the dentist's chair.
In addition, male dentists are less likely than female dentists to be aware of the patients caring about procedural information, according to the study. They added that there could be two reasons for this. One is that female providers conduct longer consultations, and the other is that patients' vary in their responses depending on the practitioners' gender.
Yet, when the treatment is all said and done, the anticipation is almost always worse than the actual procedures. Surveys of patients before and after dreaded procedures, such as root canal and even cavity treatments, found that patients anticipated much more discomfort than they actually experienced.
With this in mind, the importance of expressing any nervousness, anxiety or fear cannot be overstated. Dentists can help calm fears in patients, but only if they know about what the patient is expecting. You can ask what you should expect to feel during a treatment, and for how long. Before the operation, design a cue with your dentist so that if, for any reason you need to stop, raise your left hand. Also, have your clinician make brief time for breaks as requested.
Other tips to ease fear
Besides communicating your comfort levels to the dentist, here are other ways to overcome your fear of the dental room:
- Go to the dentist with a friend, family member or someone who has no fear of dentist. They can help walk you through it.
- Find a distraction while in the dentist's chair. Bring an iPod with a new cd and listen to it. Or, find a dentist with a TV or other distractions in the treatment room.
- Try relaxation techniques. Take a big breath, hold it and let it out slowly.