How To Manage Dental Patients Dealing With Poor Mental Health

by Dr. Ben Lynch

The last year has been chaotic for a myriad of reasons, and there can’t be many people around who haven’t suffered as a result. The most common damage, of course, is psychological. People have lost loved ones, been left in professional limbo or outright unemployed, and had to remain stuck at home for long stretches of time. All of these things are tremendously wearing.

For someone running a dentistry practice, this is a complicating factor. Dealing with someone during times of such strict safety requirements is challenging enough before you add in the prospect of needing to navigate mental health concerns. In this piece, we are going to look at some tips for managing dental patients who are dealing with poor mental health during this pandemic-riddled time. Let’s begin.

Make some general health recommendations

Different medical professionals have a distinct set of skills, so it obviously isn’t your place to diagnose problems outside the purview of dentistry, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make some valuable suggestions about vital things like diet and exercise habits. These things markedly impact mental health, of course, so improving them can be life changing.

Are they getting exercise whenever they can? It’s easy to become idle when global circumstances are so difficult, but it’s important to fight against that tendency by getting regular walks or taking up yoga. Are they getting all the nutrients they need? Supplements can really help with this, and they can buy vitamins online if they don’t have any suitable pharmacies or health stores near them.

And if they talk about bigger health issues, be sure to make appropriate recommendations. People struggling with mental health don’t always make the best decisions, so they might not have spoken to doctors about their problems. Gently nudge them to seek out the help they need. You can’t force them, obviously, but you can be there to support them.

Try to accommodate sudden rescheduling

Anxiety and panic attacks are far from uncommon at this point (Medical News Today has a good piece on this). Factor in the fear of COVID-19 and the lack of comfort with close interactions and you have a recipe for dental appointments being quite nerve-wracking. Due to this, dental patients dealing with poor mental health might well need to cancel their appointments at the last minute or need to reschedule them.

This is going to be annoying for you, and you shouldn’t be positive about it (it’s not a habit to encourage), but you also shouldn’t get too critical of the patients. It isn’t malicious or even thoughtless: it’s simply the product of a difficult situation. So be kind and accommodate them to whatever extent you can. They will surely appreciate it.

Ask them beforehand how you can help

In the event that you book an appointment with someone who comes across as particularly nervous (or outright expresses concerns), it’s a good idea to ask them how you should approach that appointment. Is there anything you can do to make it more comfortable for them? Perhaps you can put on some music they like or keep the noise level down.

They might want you to be very talkative to keep them calm, asking about their life and offering details about yours. Alternatively, they may want to keep quiet and not be subjected to intrusive questions. Everyone is different, so learning about a patient’s preferences before their appointment can make things much easier.

About the Author

Dr. Ben Lynch, author and naturopathic doctor, has a passion for researching and empowering others to take charge of their own health. This passion led him on the path of epigenetics, environmental medicine and nutrigenomics. Today he researches, writes, and teaches on the topic of ‘dirty genes’ – which is based off his best-selling book, Dirty Genes and his popular podcast, Dirty Genes Podcast.

Dr. Lynch is also the President of Seeking Health. He formulates all their supplements and provides high-level education for both health professionals and the public.