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Be Your Own Health Advocate And Speak Up to Your Dentist

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Have you ever left a dental appointment feeling like you didn’t understand everything that was said? That all your questions weren't answered? This experience is much more common than you might think. Luckily, being your own health advocate is the perfect solution to these concerns. We’ve got some top tips on how to speak up for yourself and have a positive dental experience.

Why Advocate for Yourself?

Learning to advocate for your own needs at a dental practice is an incredibly useful skill that will empower your confidence with healthcare providers and beyond. Your relationship with a dental professional is one in which you are the client, and they are the providers of care. This type of relationship requires a special amount of trust, making it important to speak up for your needs.

While it can be tempting to sit back and let the professionals handle everything, it’s good to keep in mind that relationships are a two-way street. Dental professionals want to do their best to help but will do their job best if you communicate your needs honestly.

Everyone brings a unique background with them to the table, and you’re no different. Each patient has their own cultural experience, financial limitations, and quirks important to their care. It’s your job as your own health advocate to effectively communicate all these one-of-a-kind aspects of yourself so that you receive care appropriate for your situation.

Some potential benefits of advocating for yourself:

  • Decreased anxiety leading up to your dental appointments
  • Strengthened confidence to address your concerns
  • Thorough understanding of your oral care needs
  • Enhanced comfort in asking questions to clarify your treatment options
  • Increased ability to communicate your medical background honestly
  • Positive relationships with dental professionals

If you find that your dental professional is rude or dismissive of your needs, you can likely find another dental practice to visit. If you receive care at a hospital or school, reach out to the patient advocate to communicate any dissatisfaction.

Prepare for Your Visit

Even though it can be stressful leading up to a dental appointment, it’s the perfect time to prepare and ensure a hiccup-free experience. You’re doing a great job of exactly that by informing yourself how to be your own health advocate.

Top tips to prepare for your dental appointment:

  • Gather any insurance information, paperwork, or identification you’ll need so you won’t have to rush before your visit.
  • Ensure you have the information available to provide an accurate medical history. If you need to transfer any records, request them before the day of your appointment.
  • Follow any pre-visit instructions provided by your dental professional.
  • If you have questions about your appointment, call for clarification.
  • Destress and treat yourself to a relaxing activity, meal, or treat.
  • Write down a list of questions or concerns, so you don’t forget them during the visit (or email them ahead of time!).

Speak Up and Ask Questions

Having the confidence to speak up and ask questions might be the most important part of becoming an effective self-advocate. This simple tip allows you to address any confusion you may have on your treatment or diagnosis and ensures that you and the pros are on the same page.

It’s common for some to feel that it’s not your place to question a professional. If you relate to this, rest easy knowing that dental professionals fully expect and appreciate patients voicing their concerns. They want to provide you with the best experience possible, and a huge part of that is making sure you understand your treatment and feel comfortable.

Questions to consider asking your dental professional:

  • Why do you recommend this treatment? What are my other options?
  • How many visits will this treatment take, and what will it cost with my insurance?
  • Are there any risks or side-effects to this treatment?
  • What is the recovery time for this treatment?
  • Could you please clarify what you’re planning to do again?
  • Do you mind using different words to explain? I don’t understand.
  • What steps can I take to better care for my oral health?

Helpful tip: It’s a good idea to bring a notepad and writing utensil so that you can jot down the responses to your questions or takes notes to refer to later.

Tackling Dental Anxiety

The first part of addressing any stress you feel about dental appointments is knowing that you’re not alone. According to the American Dental Association,100 million Americans a year don’t visit a dentist. The next step is to read up to familiarize yourself with the dental process. You’re already nailing this part by reading this article!

It can be helpful to remember that dental practices are filled with professionals, each expert at their specialized roles. Dental hygienists and dentists have received training to provide research-backed treatment and offer proper communication to consider your needs.

If you feel anxious, let them know! They’ll be able to accommodate your needs and help you relax. You’re doing them a favor by telling them how they can better put you at ease.

Top tips for confronting dental anxiety:

  • Rest easy knowing that you’re under the care of trained professionals with your best interests in mind.
  • Practice relaxation techniques before your appointment. This could be whatever helps you calm down, whether it’s a hot bath, long walk, music, or any other activity.
  • If you become overwhelmed, ask the dentist (or raise your hand) for a break to calm down.
  • Communicate any questions or concerns that arise to the dental professional.
  • Believe in yourself. You’ve done a great job preparing, and you can do it!

By reading this article, you’ve made a powerful step to confront any stress you have around dental appointments. You can feel confident speaking up about your questions or concerns and comfortable advocating for your needs. You’ve empowered yourself with the knowledge to prepare yourself for a seamless dental appointment.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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