Visiting the dentist is for many people a traumatic experience that begins even before entering the clinic. The fear that many of the patients suffer is caused mainly by the memory of past experiences, which added to other factors can even become authentic phobia.
For the doctor Octavio Cristancho, maxillofacial surgeon and Medical Director of Grupo Dental Clinics in Vélez-Málaga and Nerja, "Fear of the dentist is perhaps one of the most important challenges facing a dental team". In addition to the quality of care, the doctor-patient relationship is one of the factors that people value the most when it comes to health, especially when the visit generates some unease.
Regarding how to detect the symptoms of this anxiety, Dr. Octavio assures that "it is usually easy, since it is appreciated in the patient's body language, when they do not directly say it." In this sense, it highlights the importance of detecting patients with anxiety in the initial moments of the visit to "help them face the rest of the appointment and treatment with a positive attitude."
The first visit, fear of anesthesia and surgery are the moments of the consultation in which it is more common for this type of situation to arise. In the words of Dr. Octavio, “the first visit is a moment in which they express their fear, even though they are not going to undergo any treatment. When we explain what it consists of, the methodology and technology that we have so that they do not notice any discomfort or pain, they tend to relax, and as the treatment progresses and they see that it doesn't really hurt, they gain confidence ”.
However, he assures that "It is impressive how patients who on the first visit come with a very high degree of anxiety and fear, with the passage of time they end up coming to the consultation as if they were going to visit a family member or friend”. Although each patient may have their moment of fear, for Dr. Octavio Cristancho the most common is fear of anesthesia and surgical procedures, pointing out that “many times, fear of needles has an irrational component and involves degrees very high anxiety ”.
A relaxed atmosphere, time and lots of information
In these situations, it is a difficult task for patients to be able to follow the recommendations of their dentist. According to Dr. Octavio, "creating a pleasant environment for patients is essential to generate a feeling of trust, and this is achieved from the design of the space, the type of music or the smell in the clinic." From there, he adds, “it is important to spend time with the patient, listen to them, not rush, because they notice. There are patients who seem to understand everything, but when they go to see the person in charge of giving them their budget and who finishes clarifying possible doubts, many confess that they have understood much less than we believed and, often, the fault of the nerves have it. These patients usually need a second visit to assimilate their problem and understand the treatment that we must do to them; on many occasions these are patients who have left their oral health aside as a result of fear ”.
On the other hand, it highlights that "in general terms, the more information the patient receives about their health and treatment options, the less fear. It is crucial not only the work of the dentist but of the rest of the dental team. We cannot change a bad experience at the dentist but we can change the thoughts and increase the control capacity. In this sense, it is very important that the patient perceives that the professional knows what he is talking about, has a humane treatment and transmits security when communicating ”. Therefore, “the exchange of information between the patient and the dentist must be carefully cared for. You have to let him talk, ask him questions, smile, repeat what we explain as many times as necessary to resolve any doubts that may arise ”.
Technology, at the service of the well-being of the patient
To reduce anxiety about needles, Dr. Octavio Cristancho recommends talking to the patient, trying to relax him and distract him. "Continued conversation plays a very important role in achieving this". However, technology and new methods such as conscious sedation or the application of topical anesthesia, offers professionals the possibility of causing greater well-being more quickly.
“At Grupo Dental Clinics there are many cases successfully treated with the conscious sedation technique. Several years ago this new technique was incorporated into our network of clinics, essential today for treatments such as the placement of various implants, bone grafts, sinus lift, etc., which are thus much more comfortable for the patient and for the dentist who performs it.
Also, to minimize the discomfort of one of the procedures most feared by patients, such as the administration of local anesthesia, Grupo Dental Clinics uses topical anesthesia, a gel that is applied before local anesthesia, thus reducing the pain of the injection. What would be "pre-anesthetize" the area.
According to Dr. Octavio Cristancho, “numerous investigations have shown that this anesthesia system substantially reduces the perception of pain and anxiety by patients, thus banishing the idea that going through a dental clinic it is a painful experience ”.
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