Dr. Nadia Uwera Linganwa
Dentist at Dr. Poncz Lajos Kft
Graduated from the University of Szeged, Hungary.
Skilled in conservative and endodontic dentistry, prosthodontics, and periodontal and oral surgery.
Ensures patient comfort during dental treatments.
Monor, KossuthLajos u. 83, 2200 Hungary
In Conversation with Dr. Nadia Uwera Linganwa
Dental anxiety is a common problem that most dentists have to face. Generally speaking, studies have shown that over 25% of all patients experience anxiety during dental treatments. Dentists must develop tools to cope with their patient’s anxiety because it can severely affect the treatment’s success and the patient’s treatment experience. Patients are more likely to return to dentists who make them feel comfortable during the dental treatment.
Dr. Nadia Uwera Linganwa, the general dentist at Dr. Poncz Lajos Kft, Hungary, has developed numerous tools to help her patients overcome dental anxiety. Our team at Zircon Medical recently hosted Dr. Linganwa on our podcast series to discuss tips and techniques to help patients feel more comfortable.
Introducing Dr. Nadia Uwera Linganwa, the general dentist at Dr. Poncz Lajos Kft
Dr. Nadia Uwera Linganwa is a general dentist at Dr. Poncz Lajos Kft in Hungary. She graduated from the University of Szeged, Hungary, and currently practices general dentistry. She specializes in conservative and endodontic dentistry, prosthodontics, and periodontal and oral surgery. Besides being a dentist, Dr. Linganwa believes all dentists must stay in touch with their humanity to ensure their patients feel comfortable during dental treatment.
When asked why she decided to become a dentist, Dr. Linganwa says she didn’t always intend to become a dentist. She believed she would follow in her father’s footsteps and become an orthopedic surgeon. However, her desire to become a dentist was conceived after a botched orthodontic treatment as a child. Her dentist had informed her that she’d need to wear braces for a year to address simple misalignment issues.
However, after the year, her dentition was completely ruined because of a botched orthodontic treatment. Her misalignment was worsened, and she needed to wear a set of braces for another year to fix the problems caused by her dentist. She later discovered that her dentist didn’t specialize in orthodontics — he was a general dentist. That’s when her mother encouraged her to become a dentist and make up for the gap in skills amongst the dentists in Rwanda.
That bad experience propelled Dr. Linganwa to become a dentist.
Identifying and addressing the root cause of the patient’s dental fears and anxieties
The mouth is an intimate area, the first thing that most people notice when they meet you, so dental treatments can cause considerable anxiety. However, Dr. Linganwa says patients experience dental fears and anxieties for numerous reasons. Some have had previous negative experiences, some are scared of needles, some hate the sound of drilling, and some are afraid they won’t be able to breathe.
Dr. Linganwa has come up with unique methods to address her patients’ specific dental anxieties and fears.
If the patient is scared of needles…
Dr. Linganwa says some patients are afraid of needles, including anesthetic needles. If she deals with one such patient, she applies a cotton pad with cold spray on the targeted area before giving the injection. The cold spray is generally used for diagnostic purposes to identify potential infections and hyper-sensitivity. But it can also be repurposed to numb the region and deliver injections without pain or discomfort
If the patient hates the sound of drilling…
Dr. Linganwa cites the example of a young patient of hers who is incredibly scared of the sound of drilling. She had to perform numerous fillings, but she couldn’t get any of it done because the patient would start crying the moment the drilling sound came on. The patient’s mother would comfort her, but that only helped temporarily — she’d start crying the moment the drilling sound came back on.
Dr. Linganwa asked the patient about her favorite music (Justin Bieber) and asked her to wear earphones and listen to music. That trick worked instantly. The patient stopped crying, and Dr. Linganwa could complete all the fillings without any disturbance. Whenever she’d need to communicate with the patient, she’d tap her lightly on the shoulders to get her attention and speak to her..
Besides completing the entire session easily, Dr. Linganwa says this had another unforeseen but welcome impact. The patient started coming to the dental clinic without any fuss. The mother no longer had to drag her into the dental clinic. Something as simple as listening to music during the dental treatment (to block the drilling sound) helped the patient overcome her anxieties.
If the patient is generally anxious or nervous…
Dr. Linganwa says patients generally get increasingly anxious or nervous if they wait for long periods in the waiting room. She minimizes the gap between one treatment and the next session to minimize the waiting period. She always ensures that she’s prepared at least five minutes before she must see the patient — this prevents them from getting in their heads during the wait.
Tips to improve the patient’s experience
#1. Reduce waiting time
The waiting time depends on the dentist. In some cases, you may expect to do a simple treatment, but it takes longer, and you can’t control it. If you can’t help but take up some of the next patient’s time, you can at least say “thanks for your time” to acknowledge the delay. However, in most cases, dentists must make a concerted effort to reduce their patients’ waiting times.
#2. Smile openly and don’t wear masks
Wearing a face mask is essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, until the pandemic struck, Dr. Linganwa says she never work masks while talking to patients. She would remove the mask and smile openly when talking to her patients to make them feel comfortable. She would only wear the mask while treating them — a smile can go a long way.
#3. Involve the patient in the decisions
Dr. Linganwa says you have to involve the patient in the treatment decision. She never says, “I have decided to…” Instead, she asks the patient which teeth they’d like to start with and help them feel in control of the situation. Most people like feeling like they have control over their lives. To that end, Dr. Linganwa always involves her patients in the decision-making process.
#4. Explain everything to the patient
Dr. Linganwa always explains everything to the patient. She takes them through the x-ray to explain everything in detail. This helps them understand what went wrong, and it helps them avoid future problems. She also informs them about potential warning signs to look out for, which, in turn, enables them to seek treatment at the early stage of caries and other problems. This approach has also reduced the number of patients who visit her for root canals.
#5. Treat the lower teeth first
Dr. Linganwa says she always prioritizes the lower teeth rather than the upper teeth. That’s because patients can see the work done in the lower teeth but not in the upper teeth. As such, working on the lower teeth acts like an advertisement for Dr. Linganwa’s services. When patients see that their blackened teeth look white, they’re instantly motivated to treat all the other teeth as well..
When asked about her goals for the future, Dr. Linganwa said she wants to create opportunities for patients to receive affordable dental care regardless of their financial situation. As it now stands, private dental care in Hungary is incredibly expensive, and patients have negative (often misguided) perceptions of public clinics. Dr. Linganwa wants to help patients access high-quality and affordable dental care.
You can find Dr. Nadia Linganwa on LinkedIn. You can also listen to her in our Zircon Medical podcast or continue reading for a detailed article on treating patients with dental anxiety.
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How to treat patients with dental anxiety?
An independent article by the Zircon Medical Team
Dental anxiety is a common problem that most dentists must deal with at some point. Most patients experience dental anxiety to various degrees. In some cases, patients may power through the anxiety without a fuss, but the lingering fear might still keep them from seeking timely treatments. On the other extreme, patients may experience immense fears that make them lose sleep before the appointment or avoid going to the dentist altogether.
The source of dental anxieties can be traced to negative past experiences, fear of pain, the fear of helplessness, the embarrassment of showing their mouths, and more. People with dental phobia or dental anxieties often delay dental treatments and ignore the early signs of dental problems, thereby severely affecting their dental health. As such, dentists must help patients overcome their dental anxieties and seek timely treatments.
This article highlights a few simple tips to treat patients with dental anxiety.
#1. Assess the patient’s dental fears with a short questionnaire
The only way to address the patient’s dental fears is to understand their source and severity. You can simply talk to your patient about their dental fears or provide a questionnaire after the treatment. In the questionnaire, you can ask the patient if they were relaxed, slightly frightened, moderately frightened, or severely frightened. You can also ask them about the root cause of their concern — were they scared that the treatment would be difficult, painful, unsuccessful, or something else?
#2. Pre-treatment appointment for counseling
If the patient’s dental treatment isn’t urgent and they have the time, you can also offer a pre-treatment appointment for counseling. During this appointment, you can simply inform the patient about their procedure details, including what they can expect. One of the best ways to alleviate anxiety is to walk the patient through every stage of dental treatment. Once they know what to expect, they’re less likely to be frightened.
#3. Mask the dental clinic’s scent and sounds
Patients generally associate dental clinics with specific sounds and scents that can trigger anxieties. Most dental clinics have an antiseptic and clinical scent that patients find discomfiting. And patients are often terrified of the sound of the drill. You can mask the scent and sound with essential oils and calming music. If the patient is extremely scared of the drilling sound, you can also ask them to wear earplugs or earphones with music.
#4. Empathize with your patients and alleviate anxiety through communication
Communication goes a long way in helping patients feel calm and relaxed. If you’re dismissive of your patients’ concerns and fears, they’re likely to feel even more anxious and develop a negative perception of your dental clinic. Alternatively, if you empathize with their discomfort, assure them that the treatment would be comfortable, and build personal trust, they’re more likely to feel comfortable. It helps to make the patient feel that you truly care about their comfort.
#5. Give your patients a sense of control over their experience
Dentists can significantly alleviate their patients’ anxieties by helping them control the details of their appointment. The appointment should be scheduled at the patient’s convenience, and you should give them options about their treatment — for example, choosing which tooth to prioritize in a filling. Some dentists also give patients control over the saliva suction, allowing them to control the expectorate. You can also inform the patient that they can take breaks when necessary.
#6. Sedation options to alleviate stress and anxiety
Sedation is an effective way to alleviate a patient’s stress and anxiety. For patients with mild to moderate anxiety, minimal sedation in the form of nitrous oxide and oxygen or oral sedatives. For patients with severe anxiety, deep sedation or general anesthesia might be more suitable. Even in this case, offering the patient options helps them feel more in control of their situation, further alleviating anxiety.