Identify and Reduce Common Causes of Dental Anxiety: Understanding Positive Patient Perception Will Help You Grow Your Practice
If you are a fan of Netflix or enjoy a night out at the movies, you’ve probably noticed that dentists aren’t often portrayed kindly in popular media.
The movie industry still clings to the cliché of dentists as villains – just look at Horrible Bosses, where Jennifer Aniston plays a crazed dental practitioner who gleefully tortures her patients and staff, or horror films like The Dentist or its sequel.
These portrayals are unfortunate because most dentists, and their team members, are actually quite amiable and likeable. Personally I can say that at the dental clinic where I receive care they routinely share little anecdotes and we have some good laughs.
Any dental practice in the know recognizes the importance of patient perception and will address and even reverse the all-too-popular assumption that the dentist’s office is a place to fear.
Dental industry experts tell us that the most common reasons given by patients for not routinely visiting the dentist are:
- Communication issues
- Failure to address concerns over the cost of dental care, and
- A lack of appreciation for patient anxiety
If you run a dental practice and you want to ensure that your patients not only return for future work, but also return for regular preventative care – and not just to deal with a crisis – you need to address these concerns.
Effective communication is essential for creating positive perceptions, and improving communication is easy – if you know what people want. Most patients appreciate a health care professional that speaks to them, not at them. By reducing your reliance on technical jargon and by presenting information clearly, you can significantly improve your patients’ overall experience. After all, the more aware they are of your administrative and clinical processes, the more comfortable they’ll be.
You can also work on improving the non-verbal communication skills of your dentists and support staff to increase patient retention. It’s a dentist’s office after all, so make sure everyone’s smiling!
Addressing Concerns about Cost
Many patients reporting negative reactions to their dental experience say the care was satisfactory but are unhappy with the cost. This is especially true in countries like Canada where many other forms of healthcare are fully or partially funded publicly.
One way to help patients understand the cost-to-benefit ratio of dental work is to explain the treatment process, the breakdown of the individual services you are providing, and the consequences of not proceeding with the required treatment. For Millennials, who tend to be more budget savvy, spend time educating them during their decision-making process to help them understand the reasoning behind your recommendations.
Dealing with Dental Anxiety
Fear of the dentist has been reported as the second most common phobia – second only to public speaking – and every dental patient experiences some degree of anxiety.
To help alleviate this anxiety, remember that comfort is key. Go the extra mile to establish an open and caring relationship with patients, especially those under the age of 12. Coloured glasses can help reduce the glare of the bright lights above the dental chair and can add a bit of fun to the experience, while having TVs spread about the office can give both kids and adults a happy distraction.
Reduce Appointment Jitters
Patients are already anxious enough about going to the dentist, and they don’t want their appointments continually cancelled or postponed. Running a dental clinic should never be viewed as chaotic, and ABELDent’s automated patient communication and other dental scheduling software can help keep you organized – which will help reduce patient anxiety, and keep them coming back for future care.
Don’t let the Hollywood media define you! Address these common patient concerns and watch your practice grow and patient satisfaction increase!