A nervous patienht being examined

Education, anaesthetics and DVD goggles – a dentist talks about some of the ways of helping nervous patients

Actress Jennifer Aniston has been in the news recently, talking about how her dentist plays guitar to put patients at ease.

Of course, not every dentist can play guitar to take their patients mind off their worries – it’s a very difficult instrument to master while you are studying for your dental qualifications!

But there are lots of other techniques dentists can use to help people sit more easily beneath the bright lights in that daunting surgery room chair.

Talking about and allaying patients’ fears are an essential part of good dental care. Dentist in London Ethicare acknowledges this by offering a nervous patient program.

I spoke to Dr. Glafcos Tombolis, who runs Ethicare, with his wife Klaudia, to find out more about nervous patients’ needs.

Question: According to the British Dental Association, around 12 per cent of the UK population suffers from extreme dental anxiety and one in four suffers from some sort of anxiety. Are these figures mirrored by your experiences as a dentist?

Glafcos Tombolis: Yes, I’d say about one in ten of the patients I see could be classed as a nervous patient. About 99 per cent of these can be managed ‘normally’ by explaining the procedure they are about to undergo. About one per cent requires extra management and help.

Q: Why do you think people are so nervous about going to the dentist?

GT: Well, school dentists have a lot to answer for! Our early experiences of the dentist’s surgery can make a big impression and often explains adults’ reluctance to seek professional dental help. Understandably, issues can also develop if a patient receives painful treatment without a local anaesthetic or if the dentist doesn’t allow enough time for the anaesthetic to work. But, an understanding approach and good dental treatment can help break the pattern.

Q: How do you identify a nervous patient?

GT: Sometimes you can tell through a patient’s body language. Often a patient will volunteer the information, simply by saying: “I’m really nervous about visiting the dentist.” There’s no shame in it.

Q: What do you say to a nervous patient?

GT: Firstly, you try and talk to them to gauge how much information they want. Some patients don’t like to know too much detail. But, often, patients are scared because they don’t have enough information; they want to know exactly what work you will be carrying out in their mouth and why.  Explaining why the treatment will benefit them, how long it will take and how painful it will be – often it will be pain-free! – can take away that scary fear of the unknown.

Q: How else can a dentist help a nervous patient?

GT: By helping them relax. Here at Ethicare, we have TVs in the surgery and even have DVD goggles available for patients to put on in the chair. Bringing in listening devices is welcomed and encouraged too. We always ensure that cartridges containing anaesthetics are warmed up to body temperature before being applied – this ensures the best-possible pain management. For very nervous patients there is also the option of using an intravenous sedation injection or nitrous oxide laughing gas.

Q: What would you say to someone who is scared of going for a dental check-up and who feels no need to do so as they have no pain in their teeth or mouth?

GT: I would not advise using pain as the sole barometer of your dental health. Problems can occur even without pain, so skipping a 6-month or 12-month check-up is not a good idea. I would say that there should be no pain involved in a check-up; so do keep visiting your surgery.

As with so many things in life, it’s the first hurdle – seeking treatment – which is the hardest step.

Having an open and honest dialogue with your dentist about what treatment involves can take the edge off your fears.

It’s good to talk!

Putney Bridge

Visit us

Our beautiful new practice is located at:
250 Upper Richmond Road, Putney, London, SW15 6TG

Areas we serve: Putney, Wandsworth and surrounding areas

Get directions

Opening times

Monday08:45 – 18:00
Tuesday08:45 – 21:00
Wednesday08:45 – 18:00
Thursday08:45 – 18:00
Friday08:15 – 17:00
Saturday09:00 – 14:30

Latest news

Discover news, updates and information from our practice.