Dealing with nervous patients

According to the NHS, one in four of us dreads a visit to the dentist. The Berkeley Clinic, winner of Best Treatment of Nervous Patients at the Dentistry Scotland Awards 2014, shares some insight into dealing with nervous patients.


“Look at the world through their eyes”

There are a lot of theories and techniques relating to how we should treat nervous patients. Given the vast majority of our population have some degree of concern or hang-up regarding dental treatment, it is worth taking the time to look at your own practice to see if there are any gains to be made.

Most patients don’t like the dentist because of previous bad experiences or in some cases having had parents or siblings’ fears projected onto them. For these patients, their fears and concerns can be very real, and can cause a great deal of anxiety and stress for even the “simplest” dental



Put yourself in their shoes

Our recommendation to anyone wanting to improve or be better equipped to deal with these patients and situations is to look at the world through their eyes. Ask yourself what about the procedures or processes would make you, as a non-dental professional, stressed or worried.  Consider how you could change your body language, terminology, explain the planned treatment in more detail and how you deliver local anaesthetic.

For example, to reassure a patient, explain the procedures in a language that they can understand – avoid words such as “endodontics” or “osseointegration”. Let them know what to expect. If a patient is particularly distressed, talk to them to a separate room away from other patients to reassure them and save them from embarrassment. Remember to be sympathetic.


Power to the patient

Try giving your patient a hand gesture to signal if they want to stop the procedure at any time. Make sure they’re comfortable. Play music or the radio to distract from any “daunting” sounds, or provide a blanket to ensure they’re warm enough. Keep chatting and checking the patient is OK – great bedside manner should not be underestimated.


Be relatable

Fundamentally, nobody likes a painful injection (so work on your technique or consider a Digiject or wand), nobody likes being stressed about treatment and nobody really likes feeling that they don’t relate to their healthcare provider (work on empathetic listening and consultative communication).


In short we would recommend you take some time to reflect upon how you communicate with patients and really work on being more effective and efficient.

The rewards can be significant for both your personal career progression and your clinic.



Dental phobia in Glasgow –

Dental implants in Glasgow –


*This was originally published in Oral Health magazine.


Dr Joe Omar will be covering ‘Medical Emergencies’ at CPD Dentistry UK, a one-day seminar covering all your GDC recommended subjects on Friday 20th January 2017. Find out more >