Dr Emma Molamphy excels in the treatment of nervous patients and is a firm believer in pain free dentistry. Here she tells us how she developed a skill for this and how she can help you.
How did you learn to treat nervous patients Emma?
As a new graduate I certainly didn’t understand the complexities of working with anxious patients – they don’t teach you a thing about it at dental school. Over the years I have come to love dealing with these people and the gratitude that comes with it. Mostly, nervous patients really want to have good teeth and genuinely care about their oral health but the barriers to attending are just too great for them.
Why are people afraid of the dentist do you think?
The fears come from a variety of sources but commonly from a bad personal experience. Patients who have been traumatised as a child tend to have an increased level of stress when it comes to dentists and these patients are more likely to have proper phobias. In these patients there is a deep psychological trauma, and sometimes the only way of treating them are with sedation or general anesthesia. Most individuals however can be treated in the practice without these aids.
Talk us through how you deal with a nervous patient
Every person is unique and so are their anxieties. Therefore, their treatment and the way it is carried out will be unique to them. I normally get a fairly good feel for someone in the first few appointments and we can then tailor a treatment plan that suits them.
The first thing that I do when an anxious patient is in the chair is to just sit and have a conversation with them face to face. I find out about their past dental experiences and from this conversation I generally gain an understanding of what scares them the most. A lot of people have a fear of choking. Others have a fear of needles. Mostly, people are scared that there will be pain involved, and that if there is we won’t do anything to rectify that. So even before I have looked in their mouths I have listened to their fears, and have been able to reassure them.
I try and keep the first appointment very simple if I can. But normally with anxious patients it’s only when they are in extreme pain do they come to see you. As the pain is a driving factor for treatment we can normally get through these appointments in a calm, pain free environment. The patient then is rewarded with the fact that the next appointment will be easier.
You have a lot of loyal patients. Why do you think they keep coming back to you?
I think the one thing that allows me to carry out work year after year on these patients is trust. And this takes time and patience to achieve. You can’t rush the treatment of a nervous patient, which is a big problem with the ever increasing costs of running a dental practice. Time is money but you have to put all of that to the back of your mind if you want the treatment to run smoothly.
There are always patients that don’t return immediately, but when they do, even if its 10 years down the line, they will always come back to you. The person that made it that little bit easier for them.
Treating people who are nervous of the dentist can be both challenging and rewarding but a good, friendly, non-judgemental environment and lots of anaesthetic are always a good way to start!