There is no arguing that going to the dentists can be anxiety inducing. Especially if there is a traumatic experience or unfamiliarity involved. That is why dentists, orthodontists, and by extension, doctors do their best to help their patients calm down. This not only makes the experience better for the patient, but it makes the environment easier for the doctors to work in.
But not all people respond to various techniques the same way. Sometimes, conversation, sedation, or other basic methods of patient bedside manner may not work for various reasons. That is where dentists in Austin, TX and abroad try unorthodox methods to keep their patients calm before, during, or after the procedure.
Service Animals Interacting with Patients
One of the most recently creative ways to help patients with their own anxiety is the employment of a service animal. That is the case for Bluegrass Dental in Kentucky. Dr Stamper, a dentist, noticed that his patients were getting anxious both before or after the procedure. He also noticed that his new 6-year-old adopted black lab, Turbo, not only enjoyed training but also enjoyed visiting people.
So, he trained his rescue to be a service dog. The results spoke for themselves. It went without a hitch and has garnered positive results for both dentists and patients. They are mindful of people who don’t like dogs, or have allergies. However, there has been nothing but positivity from the experience.
“He seemed to comfort patients and sort of break down those walls and allow them to open up, so I can provide the best dental care possible,” said Dr. Stamper.
Benefits of Service Dogs
So, how does this work? What is it about service animals that makes patients respond so positively to them? And how do they seem to know what we need before we do?
For starters, it has been an evolutionary trait for dogs to both read the expressions of humans and use eye contact to communicate. According to animal behaviorist, Takefumi Kikusui, “Our data suggest that owner-dog bonding is comparable to human parent-infant bonding, that is, oxytocin-mediated eye-gaze bonding,” Kikusui said. “And this is surprising to us because there is not a reproductive relationship between human and dogs, but both of them have acquired similar skills.”
Naturally occuring oxytocin through bonding with another animal, increases our level of happiness, decreases our heart rate and our blood pressure, which is very useful in times of high anxiety. So, it is a viable solution for patient anxiety. The dogs get the same feeling too, so it is a win-win situation for both human and animal.
Music Therapy for Dental Patients
Another unorthodox way to keep calm about any upcoming procedures is adjusting your music. People have strong attachments to music because we attribute them to an emotional state. It is how we can gain the context for a scene of a movie. It is also a way of communication that predates human speech. Also, it speaks to us on a fundamental level, before we are even born.
For the last 5 years, at the Northwest Medical Center in Vancouver, Wa, the NICU area has seen benefits from music therapy. Premature and sick babies are in a delicate stage of life and require all the encouragement they need to recover. Music therapist, Susan Bakuros, would sing, play guitar, and hum to the rythym of a mother’s heartbeat, simulating a feeling of comfort of a mother’s womb.
This rythm can help slow down a baby’s respritory rate, and keep them from overworking themselves while feeding or getting too anxious.
But what is it about music that moves us so much?
Our Brains on Music
The interesting thing about music is that we react to it. Philosopher and composer Leonard Meyer suggested that emotion in music is all about what we expect, and whether or not we get it.
“Meyer drew on earlier psychological theories of emotion, which proposed that it arises when we’re unable to satisfy some desire. That, as you might imagine, creates frustration or anger – but if we then find what we’re looking for, be it love or a cigarette, the payoff is all the sweeter.”
Because the music creates a series of patterns based off a predictable ‘call’ and ‘response’. When we start to predict these patterns successfully, our brains reward us with dopamine. Dopanime is a feel good chemical that are associated with pleasureable things, or rewards like good food.
This means that there if you utilize the right kind of music, you might increase the chances of your patients being able to relax.
Dentists in Austin, TX can use these techniques and more to keep patients calm and more likely to relax. Because we should be able to have many tools at our disposal for better patient care.