By Dr. Greg Grillo
Dental anxiety grips, and the implications ripple throughout our practices. We work in close, intimate spaces with our patients, and their anxiety can transfer to our own emotional state. But it also leads to no-show appointments, fear-based neglect, and dental emergencies. Every step we take to decrease anxiety counters these adverse effects. Patients feel more comfortable, keep their appointments, and reduce the risk of pain and swelling. That’s a win-win for all of us.
As dentists, we prioritize patient safety and comfort. We may offer blankets, headphones, and music, or sedation. We design our offices to feel warm and inviting, and our teams share gentle words and warm face clothes. While we add small strategies along the way, we’re using many of the same comfort tools we’ve had for years.
Silver linings often show up when we look for them in the storm clouds, and COVID-19 brought a storm that wasn’t in the forecast. Commerce, communication, and service channels evolved in a flurry, and many of them will stay once the pandemic fades. The CDC recently notedover the same periods in 2019. While usage rates may flatten, with their visits, and nearly the same number expect to use telehealth services in the future.
A Perfect Anxiety Antidote
Virtual visits give us a rare opportunity to add something new to our anxiety-reduction protocol. A secure, virtual connection offers many ways to help our patients. Smile consults, post-op visits, and treatment plan reviews comprise a growing list of possibilities.
But few benefits outweigh the ability to dampen patient anxiety before they ever step in the office. And that’s a plus that’s easy to overlook. Most studies confirm that patients fear three primary things in our offices: loss of control, embarrassment, and pain. Plus, aboutabout the smell of chemicals and the sound of the drill.
Virtual visits turn the intensity dial down on patient anxiety. Here’s a scenario that combines vital tools to create stepping stones to treatment with a new patient.
Follow John’s Journey
- A Facebook or Google ad from your practice with thoughtful content offers a virtual consult for new patients. Aimed at patients who feel anxious or ashamed, the copy encourages them to enjoy an online visit.
- John hasn’t been to the dentist in a long time. That one experience as a kid shaped his perception of dentistry. In his mind, you still wear a white coat and will yell at him. But he knows he needs to go…
- He’s on Facebook and sees your ad about a virtual visit. Or he’s checking out your website for the fifth time and considers a blurb that presents teledentistry. That sounds easy: he can cautiously check you out and discuss his concerns from his living room. The risk seems low…
- John clicks on your online booking button to schedule a virtual visit. Your team has designated times set aside, and they don’t affect your production. John already feels better since he can see your office is much different than he expected.
- John sits on his couch and joins you at his appointment while you’re between clinical patients. You ask him some questions, listen to his concerns, and share a little insight into what’s different today. After a few minutes, you’ve removed a barrier in his mind and established the next step.
- John uses your tool to set up a new patient visit based on your conversation. Before he arrives, he receives a pre-visit online. He’s pleasantly surprised that you’ve asked about the amenities he’d like and his current anxiety.
- When John steps into the office, he’s still nervous. But he’s more comfortable than he imagined, and you’ve established essential rapport in the virtual visit. Your staff can start gathering records with a streamlined approach to care. Or, you can address an immediate concern you already identified together in your virtual consult.
The options are endless!
Who knows what John does next. He may restore his entire mouth or choose an “all-on-4” solution. He may become a consistent recare patient or go for Invisalign® to discover the smile he always wanted. But one action’s a pretty safe bet: John’s going to talk!
He’ll probably talk to his family, friends, and co-workers. If you send him a text or email link with, he’ll tell the world about your office. And it all started by identifying opportunity in the eye of the storm. Open a virtual door with a low barrier to entry for anxious patients, and it’s like adding another wing to your practice.
Teledental services give us an untapped opportunity to expand our patient base with just a few clicks. And when anxious patients experience a soft entry into our practices, they’re more trusting and easier to treat. That helps more people get the care they deserve and increases the fulfillment in our days. Discoverand open up a new market for your practice!
Ready to learn how teledental can seamlessly integrate virtual visits into a secure and user-friendly interface? Join me for an on-demand webinar,, where I discuss how my practice has used this technology.