Whether it’s a routine exam or treating an existing acute dental issue, dental professionals often have a difficult time conveying the importance of routine and timely dental care. Despite the plethora of studies connecting dental health to overall health and well-being and all the cutting edge dental technology advances that have been made over the last few decades, many people continue to avoid attending to their dental health. This begs the question of what can be done to motivate the general public into visiting a dentist more often.
As with anything, motivation is all about education and ease. People must first know why they need something, and then they must feel comfortable receiving it. Let’s look at two simple ways to use these facets to get people into dental offices more often and timely.
- Give Them Meaningful, Immediate Application Knowledge
A report by the Health Policy Institute shows a breakdown of data related to the attitudes and statuses of the respondent’s oral health situations. This report is a clear example of how dental education should be geared toward the immediate, tangible aspects of delayed dental care, not just the long-term and systemic consequences.
It’s one thing for experts, studies, reports, and dentists to say that dental health impacts overall health, heart health, and causes cavities. But, what about showing people just how those impacts bleed into almost every facet of life?
Problems due to the condition of mouth and teeth reported by the respondents included:
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty chewing, biting, swallowing, and eating
- Avoiding smiling
- Decreased social activity
- Missed work
- Difficulty speaking and communicating
- Difficulty participating in day-todayactivities
- Difficulty interviewing for a job.
To most, it causes few red flags of urgency when they’re told teeth and heart heath are connected unless they actually have a known heart condition. However, if they’re told that they may face a plethora of immediate and tangible interpersonal, financial, and emotional consequences, their knowledge becomes more broad, moving, powerful, and actionable. Most are thus more inclined to take immediate and routine action to correct and prevent dental issues.
Aim education efforts at not only long-term, systemic consequences of poor dental health, but also at the immediate and more tangible effects of poor dental health. Community health fairs, pop-up booths, marketing efforts, social media posts, blogging, and retailer-sponsored screening tables are excellent opportunities to educate people on the importance of dental health and how it can touch their overall well-being within the common problems listed above.
- Improve Motivation With Ease And Comfort
Affordability causing people to skip out on dental exams and dental anxiety are the most commonly cited reason for avoiding dental care. Let’s look at motivational tools for both affordability and anxiety.
When it comes to affordability issues, studies have shown that 40 percent of Americans skip dental care and 80% feel they have some dental issue but are choosing to ignore it. Another study by Aspen Dental found two in five Americans avoid the dentist for financial reasons. Consider joining a campaign that offers a periodic day of free or reduced pricing dental care. Most important to motivation, however, will be to create a ‘no shame zone’ for new patients that often feel ashamed and fearful of ridicule because they’ve been financially unable to attend to their dental needs.
Strategies to help manage dental phobias and anxiety go a long way in motivating people to seek dental exams and care.
It’s critical that dentists first efficiently identify dentally anxious individuals and then utilize strategies to quell fears and positively motivate short-term and long-term dental care compliance. Such strategies include behavior and cognitive psychotherapeutic interventions and pharmacological interventions.
This requires dental practitioners to be perceptive since not all people will self-report dental anxiety and phobias on a form or questionnaire. How does the person respond to touch, being laid back in the chair, visual sensory triggers, and initial questions? Being aware of such assessment tools and using the tell, touch, do approach will help both dentist and patient manage anxiety.
It’s also important to address ease from the start, that is creating a calming ambience in the dental facility, minimizing wait times, and utilizing receptionists skilled at conversing with clients calmly, positively, unhurriedly, and effectively.
Even the smell of a dental office effects motivation. Smell is strongly connected to emotional reactions. Studies have shown that introduction of pleasant odors to the dental environment can trigger positive physiological or pharmacological effects. In fact, the Snoezelen environment approach goes a step further to address all the senses within the dental environment as a way to motivate patient ease and compliance.
In conclusion, dental facilities utilizing just these two approaches can help people be more inclined to make and keep dental appointments and return for follow-up care after gaining meaningful knowledge and positive experiences.