Fear of the dentist is a very real thing. In fact, it has been suggested that dental phobia prevents between 9-20% of Americans from visiting the dentist. And, because oral health plays an important role in a person’s well-being, and overall wellness can influence workplace productivity, imagine the potential impact if 20% or even 10% of your workforce ignored dental care due to fear.
While those stats might sound scary, we’ve got good news. There are plenty of ways to help ease your enrollees’ fear, and we’ve rounded up some of the top tips to share.
- Share experiences.
With so many people having the same fear, people shouldn’t feel stigmatized. Encourage enrollees to ask others how they overcame their fear and to share positive experiences with each other. Think of it like enrollees building up an armor of positivity to protect them when they walk into a dentist’s office.
- Talk to the dentist.
Most dentists can sense a patient’s fear, and they want to help. According to Dr. Leigh Westee, a Delta Dental consultant who treated patients for 21 years, “It’s better when patients are upfront about their fears, because we can make a plan to help them relax before things even get started. We really don’t enjoy the reputation of being scary.” She suggests asking the dentist to walk the patient through every step, and to have a cue in case any discomfort is felt, such as raising a hand.
- Bring distractions and friends!
Dr. Westee also recommends patients bring something or someone to help them relax. Headphones and music are a good option because not only can a favorite song lift spirits, it can also tune out the sounds of dental tools. Another helpful idea is to bring a close friend or family member who is confident about visiting the dentist, and can be a strong calming force. Oftentimes, they can even sit with patients during a dental exam or procedure — but be sure enrollees ask the dental office first.
- Start them young and make it fun.
Because many dental fears stem from a bad experience early on, Dr. Westee points out how important it is to create positive memories when children visit the dentist. She advises that parents never use dental visits as a punishment. More often than you’d think she heard things like “the dentist is going to give you a shot if you don’t settle down.” Instead of that, encourage enrollees with children to make dental visits fun by building up the choices kids get to make — such as flavors of toothpaste and toothbrush colors.
- Exercise before visits.
Can a few miles on the treadmill before a dentist visit decrease fear? In addition to boosting overall wellness, it has recently been suggested that moderate-intensity exercise prior to a dental visit can help decrease dental anxiety.
- Seek help.
If an enrollee’s fear is so strong he or she cannot bring themselves to an appointment, it can seriously impact oral health. If this is the case, encourage those enrollees to seek help from a professional counselor right away. The longer an enrollee waits to visit the dentist, the greater the chance more dental work will be needed.
Thanks for reading!
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