July 22, 2022
by Dale Audrey Ungar R.D.H.
In my personal and professional journey throughout of my life, I have discovered that giving back is the ultimate sign of true success. And in today’s world, we need to remember that we are all connected, in many ways.
We are a society that makes decisions on how we feel and each individual is dealing with their particular issues and anxieties, whether it comes from childhood or a more recent experience. Our emotions are extremely important, especially in this fear-filled industry called dentistry. We need to be attentive and empathetic to those who don’t work in a dental environment and don’t understand what goes on in our world.
We are lucky that we can give back to individuals in such an important and impactful way. We truly do make an impact on every life we touch and help extend both the quality and longevity of an individual’s life, by providing excellent dental care.
Dentaophobia (dental fear) is extremely common, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Some 5–15% of adults in industrialized countries suffer from a pathologically severe fear of dental treatment (“dental fear”), to the point where they are only able to consult a dentist if they are experiencing severe pain1. About 3% avoid visiting their dentist altogether1. Those affected will experience serious dental-medical sequelae and psychosocial effects2,3. Often, patients with dental fear are identified only after years of avoidance4,5. Massive damage to the teeth is the inevitable consequence5. Studies in patients with high fear of dental treatment have shown severe impairments in terms of oral-related quality of life8,9, in addition to their obviously worse dental health6,7. Thomb et al. found a mean of eight teeth requiring treatment in patients with dental fear who had avoided visiting their dentist for many years5. Many people who fear dental treatment are ashamed of the state of their teeth10 and avoid talking or laughing in public3,10; some withdraw from social life altogether2,3. Their fear of visiting the dentist is so severe that they tolerate massive pain and delay crucially important treatment.
Therapy for dental fear has shown promising results and can be initiated quickly11. Most of the available data relates to behavioral therapeutic interventions. A meta-analysis11 showed positive changes in self-reported fear for 36 out of 38 studies. Two studies found no effect whatsoever. After four years of therapy, a mean of 77% of patients visited their dentist regularly. In more than half of the studies, dental treatment was a component of the therapy. An average of 6–10 sessions were assumed for the therapy of dental fear11.
Dentists are confronted with varying intensities of dental fear on a daily basis. According to a study of the prevalence of dental fear in standard dental practices in Germany, only 0.5% meet the criteria of a dental phobia12. Dentists often encounter such patients only during emergency sessions. At that point, the need for treatment is urgent; gentle, pain-free treatment is not always possible, and such emergency sessions often provide further confirmatory evidence in the vicious cycle of fear.
Treating patients to relieve first their anxiety has become my personal number one priority.
“Call it Karma or just common sense, for this mission, a progression of positivity will follow. The more comfortable the patient feels, the easier it is for us treat the patient; the results for the patients will be better and, ultimately, our professional reputation will be rewarded. So why not? It’s all good!”
Being lucky enough to have had experience in the hospitality industry, I was taught many pertinent lessons that I apply to my profession and my life. I think the subject of patient comfort should be taught or should be addressed at least for an hour in Dental Hygiene & Dental School.
Dental anxiety affects everyone to some extent. Until you are personally in the situation, you cannot appreciate the impact that it actually has.
I am actually looking for a new dentist for myself and my husband. It seems all the dentists I had known or worked for had retired or just stopped practicing, so I literally had to search myself to find the right one for us. That alone became a challenge. As a licensed professional, I will tell you that I feel for the public. Just that small task became a difficult one for me, realizing that most people have absolutely no connection to any dental contacts on a personal level.
Especially today, we become so wrapped up in the daily nuances that we may forget about why we are actually practicing in the first place. But really? Lets not lose sight of why we are in practice.
After letting the office know my father was a periodontist and I was a hygienist, you would think we would have a few things in common, but that did not help our situation in the least. The first connection – front desk. We all know how important that first minute walking into an office can be. When we first arrived for our appointment, we were told that we did not have one in the computer. Maybe because the receptionist was wearing all hats – she was the hygienist, assistant and front desk person – it did not end up on the schedule.
However, they did finally accommodate us and did perform our prophy’s and exam. The hygienist told my husband to come back for his teeth to be polished, as the clock approached 5:00 PM. After reminding the doctor not to forgot to call in a prescription for my husband, he left the number in the office. So calling the pharmacy with no prescription called in was a bit frustrating.
If this happens to us as dental professionals, I can only imagine how the public must feel, not knowing anything about dentistry and how the system works. I believe we must go back to basics and put ourselves in the position of our patients. Although it sounds elementary, there is just no dollar amount you can put on genuine caring for the patient.
It is invaluable – make your patient as comfortable as possible, from the minute they call to the minute they leave.
About the Author
Dale Audrey Ungar R.D.H. is the award-winning Founder and CEO,Oral Fitness Inc., Dale Audrey R.D.H. a Registered Dental Hygienist since 1983. Driven to educate people’s views about their Oral Care and its importance to your overall health. Visit her website: www.daleaudrey.com To set up a call time with Dale Audrey, please click here: https://calendly.com/daleaudrey