By ERNIE WRIGHT
Dental phobia remains unsolved for patients and dentists – one in seven adults have extreme dental anxiety and dentist appointments are ranked the number one activity for inducing nerves.
Which means a paper published in the Lancet probably has more significance for dentists than for its intended audience, doctors. And it might just be a way to make your practice stand out for its exceptional patient journey.
Scientists at Queen Mary University of London found listening to music before, during and after an operation can help reduce pain – the paper’s lead author, Dr Catherine Meads, tried it herself and said Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album helped soothe her pain three hours after hip surgery in April.
Her team reviewed 70 trials involving 7,000 patients around the time of surgery, comparing music with four other options: undisturbed bed rest, headphones with no music, white noise and routine care.
The study, which was endorsed by the Department of Health, found patients who listen to music, even under general anaesthetic, are less anxious after their surgery and need less pain relief.
Dr Meads wants hospitals to suggest in NHS information leaflets that patients bring music devices and playlists into hospital with them. Hmm, I’m not sure how effective that would be – does anyone actually read those leaflets?
The answer is much easier for dentists in private practice – simply advise all your new patients, whether they admit to being nervous or not, that music reduces stress and pain, and encourage them to have headphones and a playlist handy on their smartphone for appointments in case they start to feel anxious in the waiting room. Remind them to double check they’ve got their music for surgical procedures.
And in case they forget, allocate an mp3 player and headphones to each surgery with an eclectic mix of playlists labeled by genre for patients to browse.
Of course, you’ll need to introduce some basic hand signals so you can still communicate with the patient easily – agree on a signal for them to take a headphone out of one ear (in-ear headphones rather than over-ear ones are preferable as it’s easier to take them off).
If you would like some direction in making your patient journey exceptional, let me know.