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4 Relaxation Techniques to Improve Dental Visits for Nervous Patients

Jul 07, 2017

Author: Susanna Scherer RDH

Managing nervous patients can be very challenging for dental hygienists. Incorporating relaxation techniques into your practice may allow you to provide better care for these patients. Here are four ideas to help you create a calm environment that may make dental appointments more comfortable for your patients.

1. Set the Stage

Creating a warm, comfortable waiting room may help patients begin to relax before you even interact with them. Play soft music to help patients unwind as they wait for their appointment. Keep the waiting area free of clutter as a chaotic environment may increase stress for a nervous patient. Dentistry Today recommends decorating walls with "cheerful artwork" and painting walls a soothing color like blue or green. Comfortable seating may make the medical space more approachable and less like a sterile clinical waiting room. Also, burning candles at the front desk may not be safe, so consider plugging in lightly fragranced dispensers to mask the smell of disinfectants.

2. Eliminate Noise

In addition to all the sounds that come with a dental office, such as the drill or ultrasonic scaler, nervous patients may have a hard time relaxing if there is a lot of hustle and bustle. There are a couple things you can do to help a patient who may have difficulty relaxing when there is a lot of noise in the office. First, offer that patient an appointment at a time of day that is less busy, for example, first thing in the morning before the office gets going or at the very end of the day when things are winding down. Second, suggest that patients listen to music. They can pop on their headphones to block out the surrounding office noise. Your office may even choose to provide music for patients.

3. Get to Know Patients

If you know a patient struggles with some form of dental anxiety, giving him/her extra appointment time will benefit both of you. When patients feels rushed, it may contribute to their uneasiness. Allowing extra time will give patients the time they need to ask any and all questions they have. Then, you have the time to pose questions that go beyond oral health and get to know patients on a more personal level. That way, you can chat about subjects patients enjoy to take their minds off their appointments.

4. Provide Sensitivity Relief

Ask your patients if they experience sensitivity during a cleaning. If they say yes, offer some options for relief. Dental phobias may originate from the fear that a cleaning may be painful. Although nitrous oxide and local anesthetics may be used to manage sensitivity during treatment, it is no longer necessary to go to such extremes for most patients during a routine cleaning. Topical pastes can be applied before the cleaning to plug and seal open dentin tubules with fast and easy application with a rotary cup.


  • Create a warm, comfortable waiting room to help patients relax as soon as they enter the office.
  • Lengthen appointment times to avoid making patients feel rushed.
  • Ask your patients personal questions to keep their minds off their appointment.

Why It's Valuable

Dental hygienists want to provide the very best care for all patients. Getting to know your patients helps you understand what makes them nervous about visiting the office. Then, once you know what triggers their anxiety, you can offer relaxation techniques to help calm them from the moment they enter the office, to their time in the chair, to when you say goodbye.

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