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Study Attempts to Understand Dental Office Fear

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That?s why Water Street Health Ministries, Lancaster General Health, St. Joseph Health Ministries, Franklin & Marshall College and the local Lancaster dental community announced a study to develop a new way to treat individuals who avoid the dentist because of past events, whether it be trauma such as sexual abuse or domestic violence or a paralyzing fear of being having dental work done. 

The program, called Restore, is a $100,000 funded study examining 150 lower-income individuals who will face 1 of 3 dental models aimed at reducing anxiety: environmental, interpersonal, and relaxation-oriented.

?Phobia of dentists is really common,? Colleen Elmer, executive director of Water Street Health Services said. ?This [study] will impact the dental community at large.?

According to Lancaster Online, ?The interpersonal one involves a preappointment meeting and tour of Water Street?s dental clinic, staff introductions and an explanation of the visit and treatment. The patient is also taught a ?stop signal? that can be used at any time during the visit.?

?The relaxation model includes progressive muscle relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing and extra appointment time. After the press conference, officials offered a tour of the third model, an environmental, spa-like setting with special lighting, soothing music, a blanket and neck pillow, the sound of running water and the scent of lavender. The dental chair also faces the door and windows, and dental staff don?t wear those clinical-looking white coats.?

Referencing the third option, the environmental spa-like setting, dental hygienists Tina Nissly said, ?Instead of having to give medications, we have the sound of the water falling, the feel of the lighting, no overhead lighting.?

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