October 26, 2020
by Dr. Sam Muslin, Face Lift Dentistry®
COVID-19 has upended our world in ways we never anticipated. From a science point-of-view, it’s fascinating to see how we have responded and the interplay between the winners and losers in the changing global economy.
The reality is that no part of our lives is untouched by the pandemic, including routine dental treatments. That puts the onus on the dentistry industry to adapt in ways that ensure the safety of both staff and patients. Of course, sanitation is always on the front burner. However, now, it’s in overdrive.
Making patients comfortable in the exam room is of paramount importance because it brings them there in the first place. Fears often get in the way of vital dental care. It’s even more crucial with COVID-19 clouding our judgment.
The dental industry has responded well to patient concerns. Many of these adaptations are even more appropriate and welcome during these trying times. Some dentists have taken valuable clues from the spa market to create a relaxing environment. These options work just as well during the pandemic and for patients with fears and phobias about going to the dentist.
Aromatherapy offers many benefits for both you and your clients. Lavender essential oil, for example, can create a relaxing atmosphere to help quell the anxiety some individuals may feel when getting into the dentist’s chair. It benefits the practitioner too because you have a more cooperative patient that makes your job easier.
Ambient music has a similar effect. It’s a simple change that has profound impacts. The breathing rhythm of patients will often mirror the sound. It can reduce the anxiety that can make your work more exacerbating. It’s an excellent way to calm individuals without resorting to drugs or anesthesia. It’s often the thing that tips the scale in your favor for a minimalistic approach.
People are well-aware of the fact that they need to mask up, wash their hands, and use sanitizer often. Make it a visible part of your private treatment room to reassure patients that you have their safety in mind. Also, instruct your staff to check the supplies often. Nothing says carelessness more than a sanitary station that is empty. It undermines everything that making it accessible offers.
We also suggest making disposable masks available. It seems odd that you’d have to remind anyone about this simple precaution. Unfortunately, some people need a reminder. However, they may enter a dentist’s office and private treatment room, thinking that it’s unnecessary.
It is, no matter what the situation. We recommend enforcing these rules, too. It shows that you care and that you’re on board with the current medical advice. However, don’t take a dogmatic approach. People get it, even if they’re not compliant. It’s all about how you frame the reminder to avoid coming across as the nanny.
It’s one thing to have sanitizer available at the front desk. It’s another thing if the procedure between patients is thorough in covering everything that a person may touch. That includes doorknobs, armrests, headrests, and anything else they may handle, including any trays. We’d also suggest posting signage that explains your procedure to reassure patients.
Let’s face it. People don’t come into the exam room willingly. They do it because they know it’s necessary for good health. Therefore, it’s imperative to remove any barrier that COVID-19 may impose on a person’s comfort level. Taking care of your teeth doesn’t fall to the wayside, even in light of a pandemic.
Remember that everything you do to ensure your patients’ safety are ways for them to prioritize dental health even with social-distancing restrictions.
If you work with children, you’re probably well aware of the balance that you must walk between safety and a safe environment. Approaching kids in a full hazmat suit with gloves and mask is off-putting, no matter how much they’ve been exposed to this protocol.
Make it safe without it being scary.
The same precaution applies to adult patients who have fears and phobias about going to the dentist. Always keep their comfort level in mind. It’ll make those psychology classes you took in college handy.
The essential thing to remember is that someone with dental health conditions is likely faced with other well-being issues. Bad teeth are more than an aesthetic problem. They also deal with embarrassment and low self-esteem because of their perception of their appearance.
The patient walking into your private treatment room probably has other things affecting their quality of life that go beyond dental health.
Communication is your best tool for finding out what concerns your patient has to modify your treatment room setting and procedures to make them comfortable. It’s also a way to build rapport and trust.
Think of it as an opportunity.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, we’ve learned to pause and reflect. Instead of breezing through our days without a thought about the why, we are thinking about everything we do, even the most mundane of things. It’s a formidable enemy that requires a novel response.
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on all our lives. However, it has also taught us to innovate and think out of the box. It applies to everyday life and treatments in the exam room. While patient comfort has soared to the forefront, the pandemic has made addressing their concerns—and ours—even more critical. Remember that the measures you take are just as essential for you as the clients who trust you.
About the Author
Dr. Sam Muslin is a Doctor of Dental Surgery and his dental practice, Face Lift Dentistry®, focuses on specialized techniques which create an improved bite, maximized oral health and a youthful rejuvenated and proportionally balanced look for the entire face.
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