Converting reluctant patients
Its staggering to think that approximately half of Brits don’t make regular visits to the dentist. Many people find excuses like “I don’t like going” or “I haven’t got time” and quite a few believe that they simply don’t need to go! Seriously, despite the alarming headlines we have seen lately, as well as oral health campaigns and initiatives, it appears that a high proportion of people still do not understand the concept of preventive dentistry.
Obviously, preventive dentistry is the modern way of helping patients to achieve and maintain good oral health in the long-term. It involves education and care from professionals along with oral hygiene and life practices to keep the teeth and gums healthy and prevent oral disease. The objective is to identify any signs of oral disease at the earliest, most treatable stages and to take steps to slow or stop its progression. Naturally, minimally invasive, preventive therapy at the early stages has the potential to save patients from the pain, expense and distress of more complex or invasive treatments further down the line. Conversely, those that do not attend routine dental checks are not exposed to oral health messages or education and therefore cannot benefit from them. But most importantly, they may be unaware of a developing condition until it causes significant damage, and at this stage it could be too late.
We are all familiar with those people who only appear at the clinic when they are in excruciating pain. Every dental practice has had their fair share of them. It literally takes a dire emergency to get them through the doors. Whatever is troubling them, whether it’s a raging toothache or a nasty abscess, these patients are only interested in getting rid of the pain. They come in reluctantly and want fast treatment so that they can slip away again, pain-free. Despite your advice, they can have little or no intention of making their dental visits regular. And because of this, there is little chance of seeing them again until they encounter another major problem.
It is common for people to feel afraid if they are uncertain or don’t know what to expect. However, some individuals feel helpless, embarrassed and even ashamed when they go to the dentist. The physical closeness of the practitioner to their face can be a problem for certain patients, and the sights, smells and sounds of the practice can also be a trigger for anxiety. The sound of the drill, the sight of instruments, especially needles, can be particularly disturbing and the fear of pain is one of the most common reasons for avoiding the dentist.
It is common knowledge that a great many people associate dentistry with distress. Dental fear may stem from a previous unpleasant dental experience or it may be inherited from anxious family members. Nevertheless, if patients only attend in emergency situations, they are likely to have severe symptoms and pain. This often means that invasive or traumatic procedures are required which reinforces their fear. This leads to continued avoidance and consequently, the patient endures poorer oral health with lower levels of both confidence and overall quality of life.3
Naturally, dental professionals are experts at managing dental anxiety. Indeed, despite what some people believe, the majority of dental practices aim to create a welcoming, calm environment and deliver a gentle, caring approach. Also, modern advancements and developments mean that most dental procedures are now considerably less traumatic and some are even completely pain-free.
When a patient eventually summons up the courage to visit the dental practice, it should be seen not just as an opportunity to help them, but a chance to change their attitude towards dental care too. Certainly, if a patient finds a dental practice that they like with a team that they feel comfortable with, they are more likely to continue visiting for regular check-ups and ongoing dental health care. Using effective communication dental professionals can establish a friendly rapport. This builds trust and confidence and helps the patient to dispel their fears. Similarly, by delivering patient centred education it is possible to increase the patient’s oral health understanding and introduce them to the benefits of preventive dentistry. By demonstrating a commitment to minimally invasive dentistry, practitioners can explain they don’t want to drill and fill teeth – they want to help patients to experience the long-term benefits of good oral health and to avoid the pain and distress of dental problems in the future.
By using the CALCIVIS® imaging system dental professionals can communicate and educate patients in a completely unique and fascinating way. This technology uses bioluminescence to generate a glowing map of active demineralisation on the surfaces of the teeth. This enables dental professionals to identify the very early signs of enamel decay or erosion in time to start preventive strategies to slow or even arrest disease progression. Additionally, the glowing CALCIVIS® images engage and enlighten patients. They can see exactly what is happening to their teeth, which increases their understanding and empowers them to improve their oral health.
Studies indicate that patients who attend routine dental examinations have better than average oral health, lower levels of decayed, missing or filled teeth and better oral health outcomes. Also, regular exposure to the dental care environment and oral health messages positively impacts patient’s self-care behaviour. With the help of the innovation, dental professionals can deliver high quality preventive dentistry along with inspirational patient education. Indeed, there is the potential to convert reluctant patients into enthusiastic regulars – something that should be championed by all dental care professionals in order to improve oral health across the nation.
To find out more about CALCIVIS®, email [email protected] or call 0131 658 5152
 NHS Dental Statistics for England 2018-19 Annual Report. August 2019. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/nhs-dental-statistics/2018-19-annual-report-pas [Accessed 11th September 2019]
 NHS England. Summary of Dental Results from the GP Patient Survey – January to March 2018. https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/08/GP-Survey-Dental-Results-Summary-PDF-842KB-1.pdf
 Appukuttan DP. Strategies to manage patients with dental anxiety and dental phobia: literature review. Clin Cosmet Investig Dent. 2016; 8: 35–50. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4790493/ [Accessed [Accessed 11th September 2019]
 Thomson W.M. et al. Long-term dental visiting patterns and adult oral health. J Dent Res. 2010 Mar; 89(3): 307–311. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2821461/ [Accessed 11th September 2019]