While the percentage of young people with dental cavities in the United States dropped from 50% in 2012 to just over 43% in 2016, dental cavities are still the most...
You’re sitting in the dental chair, and what feels like approximately 20 dental instruments are resting in your mouth. Yet your dentist continues to try to engage you in conversation. How are you supposed to answer questions about your kids’ school when you can barely move your tongue?
This universal phenomenon has a simpler genesis than you think. Your dentist is a person, too – and they genuinely enjoy learning about their patients’ lives. It’s lonely to spend all day inside mouths, and the people attached to the teeth are a whole lot more interesting.
But there’s more to say about why dentists talk to their patients during their exams – and we’ll admit that there’s one reason why doing so actually helps patients, whether they realize it or not (and no matter how annoying the talking might seem).
Why Your Dentist Chats With You
Like we mentioned, dentists are people just like the rest of us (although they can seem a little intimidating when you first meet them, especially if you have dental anxiety). Your dentist builds a relationship with you over the years that you work together – when you consider all the time that you spend together with twice-yearly exams, it’s actually kind of surprising. You see your dentist more often than any other healthcare professional for routine exams, and you learn about each other’s lives. Dr. Baudean loves catching up with patients and learning about what they’ve been up to.
At the same time, a dentist’s schedule is typically pretty packed. There’s just not enough time at the end of an exam for you to have a full conversation – at least, not one that covers your life outside of your oral health. Your dentist wants to make sure that you understand exactly what’s going on in your mouth and whether you have a cavity, gingivitis or other dental concerns to discuss. So the end of your exam (when you can speak freely) is usually spent discussing your dental health, rather than acting as a time to catch up.
Instead, the time during your exam serves as the best time to talk – and talk dentists do!
How Talking During Exams Reduces Dental Anxiety
Your dental exam takes time – and for an anxious patient, the appointment can seem to stretch on forever. Having to wait quietly can increase a sense of nervousness for patients who are counting the seconds until the exam is over. Having someone to carry on a pleasant conversation with can actually help relieve that anxiety, and distract you from the exam at hand.
This is similar to the tactic some doctors use for children with fears of needles – they talk to them throughout the injection while carrying it out as quickly as possible. Not making a big deal about these preventive health measures helps patients feel at ease. There’s nothing to fear from the dental chair.
You should feel comfortable with your dentist, and if you don’t, it’s time to find a new office with a provider that you enjoy working with. If you’d rather be quiet during exams, you should also feel comfortable telling your dentist “Would it be ok if I didn’t talk during the exam?” You’ll never offend us or hurt our feelings by politely asking if you can just sit back and relax.
If you’re anxious about dental care and hoping to find a way to calm down during your exam, you can also ask your dentist if it’s alright if you bring headphones and listen to music on your phone during your appointment. As long as the music isn’t too loud and they can still communicate with you when necessary, this should be fine and will help you have a positive experience during your appointment.
How to Communicate with Your Dentist – Even During Your Exam
If you find it tough to talk to your dentist while you’re having your teeth cleaned, try a little nonverbal communication. A thumbs up or a grunt of acknowledgement go a long way. If you’re ever in pain or want your dentist to stop, put your hand up and they will immediately understand. Dentists are experts in this kind of patient communication and they will keep a close eye on you to make sure that you are comfortable.
Talking is a human gift, and allows us to form relationships with one another. Small talk might not seem important, but it can actually inform so much of your experience with your dental care. Like we mentioned earlier, if you’re not feeling good while in your dentist’s office, looking for a new team might be the answer. Check out patient reviews for providers in your area to get a feel for what the atmosphere might be like, and select a practice that seems like it might be a good fit.