Dental hand signals will relieve patient anxiety

A new report is suggesting universal hand signals for anxious patients to use to communicate with their dentists.

The US paper from Harvard Medical School claims the use of the hand signals will reduce dental anxiety if the dentist and patient agree on a ‘stop’ signal to take time-out from the procedure.

For some patients, the fear of visiting a dentist outweighs the pain of a toothache.

But putting off that visit almost invariably leads to more advanced oral health problems and lengthier, more complex procedures.

What many people don’t realise is that they can work with their dentists to learn about and implement anxiety-relieving strategies, according to the report Dental Health for Adults: A Guide to Protecting Your Teeth and Gums.

It describes standard and novel treatments available for pain management, such as local and general anaesthesia, anti-anxiety medications, and conscious sedation.

The paper also includes a lengthy discussion of alternative approaches to dealing with dental anxiety.

In the States, a system of sign language between patient and dentist has already been developed.

DentiSign is the brainchild of Raymond Cadden, who explains the reasons behind his innovation: ‘I had several veneer procedures and during one of the sessions I asked the dentist if she would entertain my use of some simple hand signals throughout the procedure.

‘I believe that ‘scratch my nose’ and ‘rinse my mouth out’ were the two signals that we used – every procedure after that was great.’

He said: ‘I got my dental procedures done, I got to see a movie using the video glasses, my dental procedures were shorter, and both dentist and I were less frustrated – we had become a team.’

Surprised to find that his dental apprehensions were shared by so many, he said: ‘It was really their inability to communicate their needs that was the core of their dental issues.’

‘As they could not let the dentist know what they needed, they felt pain must be on the way. It was then I knew that DentiSign had a place in the dental arena.

‘It is not only for convenience, it is a bridge-builder between patient and dentist, and strikes at the core of dental anxiety.’

Now, Raymond plans to spread the word about DentiSign using word-of-mouth, dental blogs on the internet and via his website –

‘Preventive dental work is easier and less complex than corrective dental work, yet most people postpone dental visits out of a foundless perception of fear, based at the core upon their inability to communicate with the dentist when in the dental chair.  

He added: ‘We can make easy-to-obtain advances in improving the dental experience by simply giving the patient a voice – a part to play – and fostering a patient-dentist team approach to each dental procedure.’

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