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 tend to avoid dentists. Unfortunately, putting off regular checkups 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.
One study showed that dental anxiety occurs at a rate of 10% within the general population and attributed six factors as causes …
- pre-existing unfavourable attitudes towards dentists
- infrequent checkups
- dissatisfaction with one’s own mouth
- small numbers of filled surfaces
- being female
- and having a lower income.
Unfortunately, these infrequent checkups 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 he or 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?
They feel more comfortable. They feel less stress. Most importantly, their dental health gets better. Being comfortable with visiting a dentist means they don’t avoid regular checkups, and benefit 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 like 5% to 8% of Americans who avoid going to the dentist due to fear? The first thing you can do is pick a good dentist. A big part of good dentistry is putting the patient at ease. Pick a dentist who you like.
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 you can leave each visit with a beautiful, healthy smile.
If you are having trouble with your current midtown 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.
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. Be honest about your thoughts, feelings, and concerns with your dental health team and your dentist. 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 … 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 it can be.
If you’re looking for a professional, trustworthy midtown dentist in Toronto or need an emergency dental clinic, don’t hesitate to call Dr. Judy Sturm & Associates for an appointment or consultation.
Yours in excellent dental health,
Dr. Judy Sturm, your midtown dentist