You relax as the chair warms and massages your back. Soothing colors surround you, and calming music fills your ears. No one can interrupt this 30 minutes just for you. No phone calls, no demands, no guilt about just being still and doing nothing—with your mouth wide open.
For many busy people today, a trip to the dentist can mean a half-hour of blissful ‘me-time.’ It’s one of the few excuses we have to lay in a comfy recliner and chill out while other people wait on us. Yet, there still are some individuals who don’t consider a dental appointment to be quite so spa-like.
“I would say that most dental-phobics develop early in childhood, and a lot of it has been passed down by fearful parents,” says Dr. John Boain of Boain Dental Care. “Sound is another issue. People tend to hate the sound of the drill, or any grinding or crunching sound.”
Bring in the headphones. Noise-canceling headphones that play music or TV audio are available in many dental practices. Other recent accoutrements include massaging, heated procedure chairs and offices designed with relaxation in mind.
Dr. Albert Mina recently relocated his dental practice to new offices on South New Ballas Road and intentionally created a calming environment. “The office environment needs to be soothing and relaxing,” he says. “We’ve taken a lot of care with our decorating and paint colors and so forth. A lot of patients tell us this office is very soothing, and we feel good about providing this environment for our patients.” Mina also emphasizes the warmth and soothing welcome offered by his staff. “When patients come in, we greet them with a smile and let them know we’re here to serve them.”
Patients who are getting braces are among the most nervous, so Dr. Peter Crump of Webster Groves Orthodontics focuses on pre-procedure communication to help quell anxiety. “I speak in great detail to patients and parents about treatment and what to expect, and I encourage our patients to ask any and all questions that they may have regarding their treatment at any specific appointment,” he says.
Dr. Humaira Rosinski of Creve Coeur Dental also emphasizes the importance of establishing a good relationship with the patient. “When a person first walks into the office as a patient and the doctor sees that patient for the first time, I think it’s very imperative that they form a relationship where they can each trust each other and are comfortable about talking and recognizing the core pieces that cause that person to be anxious,” she says. “Once you establish that relationship with a patient, you knock off at least 50 percent of their anxiety right away.”
For those who simply can’t get past their anxiety, sedation is an option. Nitrous oxide, known as ‘laughing gas,’ still is used to help panicky patients relax, and stronger forms of sedation or anesthesia may be available depending on the situation. “Sedation dentistry is always an option, but I truly feel that it is rarely needed if all other efforts are made,” Boain says.
So sit back, relax and enjoy that half hour just for you.