Why are some dental patients calm and compliant – while others challenge everything you and your team do?
Looking through the lens of brain science, it is easier to understand and have compassion for the people who are your biggest challenge – and your greatest opportunity.
Here are three things to keep in mind about anxious patients:
- They are not alone. In the U.S. alone more than 60 million people avoid dental care altogether – the majority due to fear. of the people who seek regular dental care, 82% experience some level of anxiety. 55% of people say fear is the #1 reason they don’t get the dental care they want or need.
- It’s not their fault. When faced with a threatening or stressful situation, our nervous system is hard-wired to protect us. Commonly known as the fight or flight response, a series of cascading events is triggered by the amygdala and hypothalamus in the mid-brain. This area, also known as the ‘ancient’ or ‘reptilian’ brain, operates beyond logic – and is responsible for keeping us safe in threatening situations – whether they are real or imagined. It accomplishes this through biochemical signaling from the HPA (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal) Axis for the release of adrenaline and glucocorticoids to prepare the body for fight or flight. It is literally our survival mechanism – whether it is triggered by the sight of a needle, the sound of a drill, or a memory of a past traumatic event. However…
- There is a better way. Once the stress response has been triggered by the mid-brain, dental professionals have had a limited number of choices:
- Sedate the central nervous system with nitrous, oral conscious, or IV sedation,
- Distract the patient with music, video, or trying to talk them through it
- Tough it out and just get through it
Thanks to neuroscience, now there is a better way: Turn OFF the stress response at its source in the mid-brain.