By Lucy Wyndham
36% of people are afraid and nervous when they visit the dentist, and 12% of people have extreme dental fear. If the waiting room experience is stressful or unpleasant, this can add to the anxiety on the day of their appointment. It is, therefore, important that you make your waiting area a relaxed place to spend time in, and ensure that it is free from clutter. It should be kept at a comfortable temperature with suitable sources of distraction that aren’t irritating. By creating a calm sanctuary in your waiting room, you can help patients who have mild levels of dental anxiety so that they come into the surgery feeling relaxed for treatment.
Lighting and air
It is important that your waiting area has a good flow of ventilation and is kept at a comfortable temperature. Research done by the World Health Organization has found that the ideal living room temperature should be between 18℃ and 21℃. It is worth investing in a Heating and Cooling Ventilation system for your waiting room (HVAC). This will be enable you to maintain a constant optimal temperature in your waiting area. You will need to measure your room to work out what size HVAC you will need. If possible, your waiting area should also have a source of natural lighting. One study done by Stephen and Rachel Kaplan of Michigan University found that bright white lights make an environment seem intimidating, and can even intensify your emotions. In your waiting area use floor lamps with a gentle light, rather than harsh fluorescent strip lighting overhead.
Waiting room entertainment
You will find now that the many adult patients spend time on their phones rather than looking through magazines in the waiting room. It would be a good idea to provide a charging station so your patients have somewhere to plug their phone in if their battery gets low. Providing free WiFi is often appreciated too. If you have a television in the waiting room, it would help to be selective with what you put on. Repetitive adverts about dental services have a tendency to be irritating. It would be best to show something family-friendly about nature, as research has found that nature has a soothing effect. Alternatively, play some relaxing rainforest or ocean sounds quietly in the background.
Space for the children
It can be stressful for parents of children in the waiting room, especially those with toddlers and young babies. It is a good idea to provide a separate space for children so that they are entertained whilst they wait to go in to see the dentist. If you are providing toys or books, make sure that they are in good condition and hardwearing. They also need to be kept clean, so make sure that you check the children’s space daily, and keep it looking pristine. You can also provide some dental activities for them to do, such as a teeth-brushing model and fun coloring games.
Have pride in your waiting area – it is important for your patients to go in to see the dentist as relaxed as they can be. The importance of making sure that patients are comfortable, calm and entertained while they wait, therefore, cannot be understated.