Three Ways Technology Can Help Dental Patients in Reducing Anxiety
Fear of going to the dentist is a problem that people all over the world face. A recent global survey of 18,000 people found that nearly 61 percent of respondents suffer from dental anxiety and fear. Most of the time, this anxiety manifests itself later in life as dental avoidance, leading to oral health complications.
Anxious patients in a dental office are more irritable, less cooperative, and have a higher pain threshold than their composed counterparts. These responses are not only problematic for the patient but also for dental professionals.
To avoid negative patient experiences and ensure quality care, dentists and their teams must practice effective ways to help patients with dental anxiety address and overcome their fears. Technology has emerged as an effective tool for reducing anxiety in dental patients. Please continue reading to find out how it’s accomplishing this!
According to WHO, dentists are still the most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 due to aerosol exposure during dental treatment. For patients during a global pandemic, the prospect of visiting a dentist for an oral health checkup can be even more intimidating.
With the coronavirus measures loosening and dentists considering resuming operations, a slew of new questions have arisen, including:
- How do dental professionals protect themselves and their patients?
- How can the dental profession avoid becoming a vertical industry hotspot for new COVID-19 outbreaks?
Teledentistry is the solution.
Patients can now seek dental consultations from the comfort of their own homes, as mobile phones, tablets, and laptops are now equipped with high-precision cameras that produce ultra-high-definition images.
Making yourself available to patients outside of office hours for general consultations, dental emergencies, and post-operative follow-up appointments can result in a more loyal patient base and a better patient experience.
New patients no longer have to waste time in a waiting room with teledentistry because consultations are conducted via video. Similarly, dental assistants are not required to put on and take off personal protective equipment (PPE) for each new patient onboarding encounter.
When it comes to periodic patient check-ins to monitor their homecare or the healing of a newly placed implant, you can also provide an extra level of convenience and safety. There is no need for a waiting room, travel, or PPE. All of these safety precautions are critical in assuring your patients that they are in good hands. This dramatically reduces their anxiety, regardless of whether or not a pandemic is in effect.
2) Virtual Reality
One of the most challenging aspects of dental anxiety that practitioners face today is a patient’s fear of experiencing too much pain during the procedure. Despite advancements in treatment techniques and technologies, most people continue to postpone or even avoid dental care due to pain phobia. In the past, analgesics were the standard method of pain relief. Medication, however, is not the only option.
Our perception of pain is heavily reliant on a solid psychological component – conscious attention. Not surprisingly, distraction has been found to divert a patient’s attention away from pain. The amount of attention paid to pain often determines the level of distress and the level of pain reported. By encouraging a patient to focus their attention on something other than the pain, less attention is available for the pain.
Virtual reality (VR) uses advanced technologies to create virtual environments (VE) that immerse patients in an interactive, simulated world. These advanced systems interact with the VE on many levels, stimulating sights, sounds, and motion to encourage immersion in the virtual world and enhance pain distraction.
Involving the patient in a VE has been shown in studies to reduce their reported pain levels during medical procedures such as chemotherapy, physical therapy, burn wound changes, and surgery.
Another clinical study found that dental patients undergoing periodontal treatment experienced significant pain reduction when using VR compared to participants who watched a movie and participants who did not have any distraction. Shortly, virtual reality is expected to become a viable form of anxiety and fear control for dental treatments.
3) Technology-enabled Anesthetic Administration
So there is a term for fear of surgery — homophobia? That’s pretty close!
Some patients are concerned that they will not wake up from surgery or wake up during surgery, which is an infrequent occurrence.
However, patients undergoing surgery frequently experience a generalized fear of the unknown. You are about to lose control over something over which you previously had power. With cutting-edge technology, local anesthetic administration can quickly alleviate anxiety caused by homophobia in dental patients.
Electronic dental anesthesia is a technique that uses the principle of transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation to produce dental anesthesia. Based on the gate-control theory of pain, the electric flow from the stimulation unit is converted into an ionic current flow in the living tissue via electrodes, and anesthesia is produced, providing pain control without needles.
Extraoral or intraorally placed electrodes can be used. Cotton-roll electrodes, clamp electrodes, and adhesive electrodes are the intraoral electrodes. The most common type of electrode is an adhesive electrode. Because these electrodes are thin and flexible, they can easily conform to the oral mucosa. The technique is non-invasive, safe, and widely accepted by patients.
Some of the benefits of using electronic dental anesthesia include the following:
- Soft-tissue anesthesia with a limit,
- The analgesic effect lasts for several hours.
- It is appropriate for those who are afraid of needles.
- At the end of the procedure, there is no residual anesthetic effect.
Dentists must remember that, while technology can help alleviate anxiety in various ways, the best way to do so is to build rapport with your patients and earn their trust over time. This is critical to improve patient satisfaction and build a loyal customer base for your practice.
It would be best to strike a balance so that technology serves as a facilitator rather than a replacement for the human touch.