This is a guest post from Sharon Williams of Koch Orthodontics in Loganville, GA.
Anxiety before a dental appointment happens to the bravest of patients. Fortunately many patients find themselves soothed and relaxed by adult orthodontists or dentists who help reduce their anxiety and get through the procedure. But some of your patients may suffer from higher levels of anxiety and the mere sight of a waiting room can push them into panic overdrive.
The worst of such phobias can result in angry outbursts and complete refusal to comply with what you say which can lead to more severe attacks of anxiety.
Even though empathy and sedation dentistry are helpful in a lot of cases, you should also think of what type of atmosphere you are providing your patients with.
Here are 5 factors that you should consider:
1. Does Your Reception Area Feel Like a Waiting Room?
All of us have waited in depressing waiting rooms where everything is usually white and drab, right? Then all of you will agree that it is not a pleasant or enjoyable experience, right? Admittedly your waiting room may not be as bad as described above but there is no doubt that you could do some things that could make it even more pleasant and welcoming for your patients to wait in such as:
- Decorating: Putting up some art to adorn your walls is a great way to make your reception area feel more soothing and calm.
- Furniture: Adding furniture like comfy cushions and arm rests is a great way to increase the appeal of your office waiting area. You can further add a couch or sofa to give your waiting room a more homely feel. Adding a few wooden coffee tables can give your waiting room a more comfortable vibe as well.
- Lighting: Don’t depend on all the lighting to be done from above. You can subdue your overhead ceiling lighting and make it adjustable as well. You can also add lamps on the tables at the end to give a natural, soft light to your waiting room.
- Soothing Color: Applying a new coat of paint to your walls can make your patients feel a lot more comfortable. Pink or peach pastels and light shades of blue can make your room feel uplifting and warm. Different colors of beige are also known to be soothing if you want to go with something more traditional.
2. Make Broad Opening Statements
Making broad opening statements allows your patients to set the tone and direction of the conversation and gives them the chance to express themselves. Making a broad opening statement signifies that you are interested in your patients and their problems. After understanding that your patient needs help, you can make a broad opening statement to start off the discussion while letting your patient decide on what to discuss. After which you can simply follow his lead and encourage him to speak further on his problems with questions.
Reflecting throughout all or just part of your patient’s statement continuously is important to reassure them to keep going. Reflecting allows your patients to hear everything they stated through indirect repetition and questioning which further gives them the chance to expand further on what they said.
4. Share Your Observations
You can share your observations with your patients about their behavior as they may be a bit hesitant about verbally letting the source of their distress be known. But the anxiety caused by this leads to some sort of reactive behavior which may be harmful to your patient’s body such as nail biting or hand clenching among other things. By sharing your observations with your patients, you are indirectly inviting them to further elaborate on their actions and explain themselves.
The truth is that your perceptions will probably be correct most of the time but your interpretations of these perceptions may not be. Comment on this in a tentative manner which simply observes the patients behavior rather than questions it.
5. Acknowledge Your Patient’s Feelings
Help your patients by understanding and accepting their feelings and keep encouraging them to express themselves. Acknowledging your patient’s feelings and conveying acceptance without disagreeing or agreeing with them gives them a sense of not being judged which will give them the will to continue with treatment.
6. Provide Information
Research indicates that a major part of discomfort and anxiety in patients is due to lack of information, hospital and treatment routines. Your patients want some information so that they can make some realistic conclusions on their own. Providing your customers with this kind of information creates an atmosphere of trust and helpfulness in your relationship with your patients.
You will know that your patients needs have been met completely after he validates your questions and queries about whether the treatment is satisfactory. Don’t assume that you have been successful in meeting your patient’s needs until they have been validated by your patients. Validation allows your patients to make any other additional needs known.
It is important that there should always be a positive relationship between you and your patients during orthodontic treatment which can be achieved with the help of an anxiety-reducing atmosphere.
If you want more tips for creating an incredible patient experience, check out our free checklist.