How Dentistry.One is Using Technology to Alleviate Patient Anxiety in the Dental Chair

The current state of dental health is trending in frowns, and if recent reports are to be believed, it’s all due to the rising cost of care and increasing barriers to access. But recent access and cost solutions—mobile dental, free clinics— are no match for dental anxiety, which may discourage up to three-quarters of adults from seeking care each year. That’s where recent dental health tech innovations are poised to make the greatest difference.

Is dental healthcare, or lack thereof, an epidemic of fear?

In the US alone more than a quarter of adults have untreated cavities and nearly half show signs of gum disease. Despite the declining state of their mouths, most people aren’t even attempting to go to the dentist. A recent American Dental Association survey found that while 77% of adults say they’re going to the dentist, only about 37% carry through. 

While cost is a notable consideration for many would-be dental patients, it turns out that fear is the leading cause of dental care avoidance. Nearly 75% of American adults have anxiety or nervousness about going to the dentist, and it is the fourth most common fear in the world, coming in only behind snakes, heights, and physical injury. An estimated 5-to-10% of people suffer from a much more severe and debilitating form of this fear called dental phobia. And, it does indeed physically prevent patients from seeking dental care, even when they have a severe dental problem.

“Dental anxiety is the fear of going to see a dentist and obtaining dental treatment. Some of the primary reasons reported for dental fear include pain, negative past experiences, and feelings of helplessness or embarrassment during dental procedures,” said Schelli Stedke, MDH, CHC, the Patient Relations Lead at Dentistry.One, a virtual-first dental care company that is working to remove barriers like fear and anxiety, lack of access, and lack of time and transportation from the dental health landscape. “This level of fear can lead individuals to completely avoid dental care, risking their oral and overall health.” 

Dental care avoidance can impact your overall health

Most people don’t realize that their oral health is connected to, and can significantly impact, their general wellbeing. According to Stedke there are over 60 oral systemic health conditions that can impact a person’s oral health including diabetes, cancer, and even pregnancy. Some oral diseases, like periodontitis, have observable connections to inflammation caused by systemic diseases. For those who aren’t going to the dentist these connections can be missed, preventing patients from achieving optimal health. 

“With the proven connection between oral health and overall health, making dental care a priority has never been more important,” said Stedke. “Providing individuals, children, and families an opportunity to get the care they need, when they need it, and helping to eliminate barriers to this care is paramount.”

How technology could change the way we treat our teeth

As a result, eliminating barriers to dental care through technology has become a primary focus for Dentistry.One, which allows patients to consult with a dentist from its nationwide network anytime, from anywhere. Individuals can make an appointment to speak with a Dentistry.One dentist from their own home, where they have the privacy to discuss concerns and questions without the stressors that typically come with care— traveling to an office, sharing a waiting room with strangers, dealing with childcare or time off from work, long wait times, or experiencing the sounds, visuals, and smells of a dental office. 

According to Stedke, the goal is to remove all— or at least most— access barriers to care by finding ways to make as many parts of dentistry available from the comfort and safety of home as possible. “Consultations accessible from the comfort of the patient’s home range from emergency care to help avoid long hours spent in emergency waiting rooms, pre-op and post-op support, pain management with non-narcotic prescriptions, second opinions, caries risk assessment, sleep apnea screening, oral hygiene instruction, product recommendations, and much more,” Stedke said, adding there are additional options for people who have a fear of even talking face-to-face with the dentist. “If an individual is anxious about speaking with a dentist, Dentistry.One offers the opportunity to take photos of the areas within their mouth that are concerning and upload the images for a dentist to review.” 

Although there will always be reasons to visit the dentist in person— cavities that need to be filled, abscesses, and other concerns— Dentistry.One’s innovative approach could entice three-quarters of anxious adults to make time, or find courage, for the dentist. And the platform could have further-reaching impacts. Nearly 60 million Americans live in rural areas, where provider shortages are common and other access barriers like distance, time, and cost play on like a broken record, and where patients often don’t have the know-how to navigate these problems alone.

“Dentistry.One embraces patients throughout the life of their dental care journey regardless of location, insurance coverage, or nature of dental concern with expert consultation and help to find a local dentist for in-person care whenever needed,” said Stedke. “Helping to close the gap in access to dental care is a key priority. The effective application of telehealth can extend dental care to the greatest number of people and help them to… maintain oral health and achieve better overall health outcomes.” 

Whether distance, time, cost, or the sounds and smells of a dental office, technology continues to eliminate barriers to access and care one by one, making the whole world smile a bit brighter and healthier. And while the state of dental health still has a long way to go, continued innovation in dental health tech could soon turn that frown upside down.

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