One out of three Americans admits to being nervous about seeing their dentist, and nearly half consider dental visits a “necessary evil,” according to the results of an online survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of OPT-In Dental Advantage released Feb. 3. The survey found that misconceptions about dental visits persist among a significant portion of Americans.
The survey of more than 2,000 adults also revealed that older patients tend to have more negative perceptions of dental visits than their younger counterparts, and nearly one in five of those polled lack certainty about their personal dental health. Only a meager 18% said they actually “look forward” to time in the dental chair.
“Despite considerable advancements in preventive care and technology, making dentistry easier and more comfortable than ever before, dental patients still have real concerns about dental visits,” said Dr. Dean Mersky, OPT-In Dental Advantage founder and president.
How can dentists work to change this misconception, which in turn will help their patients relax, and hopefully encourage them to visit their dentist more often?
“As dentists, we tend to focus on the science, the technical and the art of delivering dental care,” Dr. Mersky explained. “We sometimes forget the human side of what we do, the part that cares for our patients’ emotions. There are generally three emotions driving apprehension—the unknown, past experiences, and the natural tendency to avoid perceived danger near our heads. The best thing we dentists can do to help alleviate these emotions is to take the time to understand which are at play, to what extent, and why.”
To help with this effort, OPT-In is launching a dental education campaign, Speaking The Tooth, focused on dispelling patients’ fears by sharing free and accessible information about everything from the reality of how dental insurance works to what patients should ask their dentist at every check-up. Dentists are encouraged to share this information with their patients, empowering both patients and dentists to communicate more openly and effectively, a primary goal of OPT-In.
“Patients are constantly assessing, trying to determine whether they like us and want to return,” Dr. Mersky said. “If they like us, they might refer others. We need to help our patients notice and understand the positives in our offices. We need to make them feel welcome and comfortable in the office environment. Then we need to provide them with focused, quality time to ask questions without interruption. During those discussions, we can allay misgivings and help them understand the advantages of the care we provide. Taking the time to show real interest in patients is the surest way to bridge gaps and build trust.”
Speaking The Tooth materials are now available on the OPT-In website at optindentaladvantage.com/blog.