Reducing patient anxiety in your dental clinic

For many patients, the dental clinic is not a relaxing environment.

People frequently report that specific elements of dentistry trigger their worst fears. These typically include the sounds of drilling or the smells of distinctive dental chemicals. Coupled with the discomfort of the dental work taking place, the clinical environment itself can make for a stressful experience for many patients.

On top of that, dental clinics around the world faced unprecedented challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In many places, they were initially forced to close entirely, and then when they were allowed to reopen it was often under heavily restricted conditions. Staff needed to wear cumbersome personal protective equipment – such as additional gowns and face coverings – and enhanced cleaning regimes were required between each patient. That meant regular sanitising of surfaces, airing of rooms, and deep cleaning of entire dental surgeries.

These extra demands came along with a restricted appointment diary – to allow time for cleaning between treatments – that stretched resources further.

Equally, patients were more anxious about the potential health risks of having dental treatment in enclosed indoor spaces.

Unsurprisingly, these changes put a huge strain on business owners, staff, and patients alike that largely still continues. The need to provide a safe, relaxing environment for dental work has never been greater.

So how are dental practices continuing to juggle these challenges today? And how can you address them in your surgery?

The effects of the pandemic continue to hit

Much of the disruption caused by the pandemic was related to uncertainty. As one operator explained, when UK dentists were suddenly given just 10 days' notice of being able to reopen, “We didn't know if we were going to be busy – we had protocols in place to reopen but we weren’t sure how that was actually going to work in terms of how many patients we could see but also in terms of whether we were still going to be profitable.”

As rules have relaxed globally, however, patient volumes have surged once more, and dental practices are under pressure to cater for the demand. In the second quarter of 2021-22, 5.8 million courses of treatment were delivered by NHS dentists in the UK – an increase of 3.05 million compared with the same quarter in 2020-21*1.

In the UK, the authorities initially imposed a wait time of 45 minutes between an aerosol-generating treatment and cleaning of the room, which massively restricted surgery capacity. This meant far fewer patients could be treated each day, and heightened cleaning regimes continue to stretch already packed diaries.

Not only are patients fighting over appointments, but health, safety, and hygiene are unsurprisingly at the forefront of their minds. Even in normal times, it’s not uncommon for patients to feel anxious or afraid of a dental appointment and the work that may be required on their teeth. As one operator put it, “We know people would rather be doing something else than sitting in your chair.”

During dental work, however, patients are also at increased risk of viral infection. With these types of diseases typically entering the body through the nose or mouth, a dental appointment is clearly a more dangerous environment.

With this combination of long-standing anxieties and pandemic-based fears, it’s clearly never been more important to find ways of putting your patients at ease.

Patient comfort is more sensitive – and important – than ever, making your environment key

Keeping your patients comfortable during their visit to your surgery is therefore at the heart of running a successful and well-reviewed clinic.

Public anxiety around viruses and bacteria remains high, and it’s important that any healthcare operation demonstrates a commitment to protecting them through thorough cleaning, distancing, and masking measures.

As a result, it’s important that you address some of the biggest triggers of patient unease and discomfort in your clinic.

Focus on air quality

Depending on where in the world your clinic is based, temperature control may be a more or less significant concern. However, during the height of the pandemic, many dentists reported increased discomfort from having to wear additional layers of gowns and face coverings that could sometimes lead to overheating. As one dental director reported, “We’re working in closed surgeries, the majority of surgeries don’t have natural or forced ventilation. On top of wearing additional masks and visors, that was making operating even more uncomfortable.”

Equally, with outdated air-conditioning systems being switched off to avoid spreading the virus, conditions in clinics could at times become unbearable.

Patients are now far more cautious about the quality of the air they breathe. The air around us contains millions of virus, bacteria, and mould particles, as well as allergens and hazardous substances contained in fine particulate matter (PM 2.5).

Dealing with these is particularly important in the context of dental work. As one operator explained, “What Covid has done is brought up concerns about an aerosol that we produce when we use high-speed instruments, and also some of the syringes that we use with the water and air coming out.” Dental surgeries are expected to have measures in place to sufficiently address this risk – ideally without extended waiting periods between treatments to allow rooms to clear.

Tip – Improve your air

Dental surgeries typically lack natural ventilation, so owners need to find ways of cleaning and purifying their air to reduce the prevalence of viruses and bacteria. Ideally, you want to be making 10 air changes every hour in each room that you use.

Additionally, bad odours can be very triggering for nervous patients. With your staff likely accustomed to most dental smells, and therefore unable to notice them, it’s important to get these under control for your patients’ sake.

With temperature control also a desirable aspect of creating a comfortable environment, it’s no surprise that many surgeries are turning to combined solutions that offer air purification, deodorisation, and air conditioning.

Introducing nanoe™ X technology: For quality air and a healthier environment

Groundbreaking technology like nanoe™ X inhibits the viruses, bacteria, mould, allergens and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) that exist in the air around us.

By spreading nature-derived hydroxyl radicals, an air-conditioning system with integrated nanoe™ X improves the comfort and hygiene of your environment. It’s also highly effective against odours – both those in the air and on fabrics – and can be operated over a wifi connection for 24-hour deodorisation.

Mould*2

nanoe™ X inhibits activity of
adhered moraxella osloensis
by 99.4% in 8 hours.

Damp odour*3

nanoe™ X reduced
damp odour intensity to
a hardly noticeable level in 1 hour.

By installing an air purification system you’ll demonstrate just how seriously you take your patients’ health and comfort. It reduces odours that increase their anxiety and also provides reassurance to both patients and inspectors that you’ve gone as far as possible to mitigate the risks of respiratory infections and other diseases.

With staff under enough strain as it is, it’s also a cost-effective and space-saving method of reducing staff’s cleaning workload. Additionally, by reducing the need to allow time between treatments, it increases your clinic’s capacity, so that you can fit more appointments in each day.

Your environment is key

Clearly, it’s a challenging time to run a dental clinic. With patient demands on the up and restrictions continuing to impact your staff’s day-to-day, everyone’s feeling the strain.

But that means it’s never been more important to find ways of reducing workloads, increasing efficiency, and giving customers a more comfortable and reassuring experience. By cleaning the air, controlling temperature, and reducing odours, nanoe™ X is here to help.

Dental Clinic Case Study

*1 Statistic taken from NHS Dental Statistics for England, 2021-22, Biannual Report, published Feburary 24, 2022
*2 Testing organisation: Japan Food Research Laboratories. Test subject: Adhered moraxella osloensis. Test volume: Approx. 24 m³ laboratory (2.73×3.64×2.4m). Test result: Inhibited 99.4% in 8 hours. Report No.: 18084378001-0101
*3 Testing organisation: Panasonic Product Analysis Center. Testing method: Verified using the six-level odour intensity indication method in an approximately 23㎥-sized test chamber. Deodorisation method: nanoe™ released. Target substance: Surface-adhered damp odour. Test result: Odour intensity reduced by 1.7 levels in 0.5 hours. (Y16RA002)

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