Overcoming fear of pain with nervous patients

overcoming fear of pain in dentistry

Dental Sky explains how Dr Andrew Fennell is transforming the dental experience for nervous patients with a fear of pain.

Dr Andrew Fennell is the clinical lead at Winning Smiles. He is dedicated to transforming the dental experience, especially for nervous patients.

With a vision to bring high-quality dentistry outside central London and make it accessible to a broader audience, Andrew has led the practice in the borough of Havering on the eastern outskirts of London on a journey of growth and innovation.

He is the clinic’s full-time implant dentist, and his passion for transforming the lives of his patients is evident in his empathetic approach to care. They have often lost hope before meeting him. On the practice website, he is quick to reassure those potential patients that ‘there is always a way’.

Over the years, Winning Smiles has evolved into a vibrant and forward-thinking dental environment. It boasts a team of 25 dedicated individuals who provide orthodontic and implant solutions.

Andrew explains: ‘Our vision has always been to take Harley Street quality dentistry outside London and make it available to a wider audience. Our evolving skill set focuses on complex dental implant treatment, orthodontics and cosmetic and aesthetic dentistry. The ethos is based on high-level communication coupled with the delivery of ethical and sustainable improvements in each patient’s function, appearance and self-confidence.’

He believes that effective communication is at the heart of this, which is the cornerstone of good dentistry.

It’s a perspective that underscores the importance he places on making patients feel at home from their first visit. This involves explaining treatment options thoroughly, being transparent about fees and discussing treatment duration and what’s expected for ongoing maintenance.

Fear of pain

One of the most significant hurdles in dental care is the fear of pain. Andrew and his team acknowledge that taking steps to alleviate and address this upfront and openly is crucial to successful outcomes. So, how does he tailor this communication to help patients overcome their trepidation and build confidence in the treatment process?

‘It starts with training the reception team to listen carefully to the patients when they call in, without rushing them,’ Andrew explains. ‘Actively listening to the patient continues at the consultation stage. Once any fear triggers have been identified, we take each concern in turn and describe how we will mitigate and manage them.’

Around 60% of patients report that nervousness and fear are major barriers to them seeking dental treatment. Transforming these patients into confident ones is a routine accomplishment for the team.

He says: ‘After the initial consultation, they report feeling immediately more confident and less anxious, which is reinforced with each subsequent appointment. Every time their fears are assuaged, they feel less concerned about the next visit.’

Connecting with people

Patient embarrassment at their oral health status can also be the root of their apprehension and fear. But Andrew and his team tackle this with empathy.

He says: ‘People are aware of when they are being judged negatively for the state of their mouth. We tell them we are there to fix them, not reinforce low self-esteem. What enthuses us most is seeing the light in people’s eyes when they see the results of our work. This stuff changes lives. But first, they must be assured that there is no judgement, just a will to sort things out for them. I think that’s at the heart of true professionalism in dentistry.’

This approach fosters an environment where patients feel comfortable and motivated to address their dental concerns without fear of condemnation.

For Andrew, it’s all about connecting with people.

Many patients have had negative dental experiences in the past, leading to years of avoidance. To combat this, the Winning Smiles team promises a virtually painless experience, putting patients in control.

For the past 20 years, Winning Smiles has been using The Wand, the computer-controlled anaesthetic delivery system. This technology allows Andrew to numb his patients without causing pain, setting the stage for a comfortable and anxiety-free dental experience.

Putting patients’ minds at rest

The Wand is central to putting patients’ minds at rest regarding as the one of the most common fears – pain from dental injections.

‘It slowly delivers a controlled dose of local anaesthetic, making it painless. There is a technique to the delivery, but it is not a steep learning curve. The combination of the equipment and the technique allows me to numb up in any situation without causing injection pain.’

Andrew uses it for administering local anaesthetic for all procedures.

The Wand is critical in mitigating the fear of pain during dental injections. It ensures patients feel at ease and in control throughout treatment.

Andrew says: ‘The Wand means I can look my patients in the eye and assure them that I can numb them without causing so much as a twinge of pain (with a little attention to technique). Usually, the first part of a treatment appointment is administering the local. When we fail to provide local painlessly, we set up the whole appointment to be an anxiety cliff-hanger for many patients.

‘Using The Wand starts us on the right foot and paves the way for smooth, successful outcomes. I have been using The Wand for 20 years now, and I am still amazed that patients mostly experience local anaesthetic the old-fashioned way. It’s odd when such a reliable alternative is available.’

Andrew’s leadership establishes the benchmark for the landscape of ethical dentistry. For him and his team, patients are not just recipients of care; they need to feel engaged, respected and listened to.

Their commitment to patient-centric, ethical and empathetic dentistry goes beyond professional duty. It’s a shared personal mission.

For more information on The Wand STA, please visit dentalsky.com or call 0800 294 4700.

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