What Is Emotional Dentistry?
Or ostensibly, it could be the follow-up dentistry of emotional eating. Which sounds like, but has nothing at all to do with emotional hunger; there’s no food involved in that.
‘Hangry’ is food and emotion wrapped in one – but not the kind you can shove down your gullet when you’re feeling that way.
It’s so confusing. To work out all this emotional stuff needs some emotional intelligence; the concept of having the capacity of perspective.
To be able to observe and process rather than simply react is not new.
“Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power, that is not easy” is from The Art of Rhetoric, written by Aristotle more than 2000 years ago.
Emotions drive us. Humans are, first and foremost, emotional creatures. Psycho-evolutionary structural theory defines emotion as “an inferred complex sequence of reactions to a stimulus, that includes cognitive evaluations, subjective changes, autonomic and neural arousal, impulses to action, and behaviour designed to have an effect as a result of the initial stimulus.” (In case you needed a bit of logic amid this overwhelm of emotion.)
In simple terms, there is a basal quartet of them: happiness, sadness, fear and anger. They are the fundamental building blocks of the more complex ones that form part of the definition of being human.
‘Surprise’ and ‘disgust’ are sometimes added to that core set, and a recent study from The Greater Good Science Center that suggests there are at least 27 distinct sensations that are intimately connected with each other.
And if that doesn’t seem like nearly enough because you have the series streaming history to prove it, American psychologist Dr Robert Plutchik (1927-2006) distinguished 34,000 of them.
Stereotypically, science and medicine are diametrically opposed to emotion. One is factual and unsympathetic; the other imprecise and nebulous.
The term ‘Emotional Dentistry’ is claimed to have been developed some years ago by Massachusetts’ dentist David D Gianino, DDS. It is the result of his own childhood journey with Tetracycline stained, crooked teeth. The profound emotional effect it had on his self-esteem, confidence and identity was the catalyst for his decision to become a dentist.
By its very nature, the direct and constant contact between a dentist and their patient requires technical abilities in combination with good communication skills. For anyone in any type of profession or job that deals with people there is ‘emotional labour’ involved. Hospitals, airports, shops, classrooms, call centres, offices – all these workplaces have people willingly or begrudgingly, exceptionally or poorly, expend emotional labour. And consciously or subconsciously, with that labour comes management. The middle-class dealing with the elite manages envy. The A&E receptionist manages panic. Emotional dentistry manages the heart and mind of the process of change.
The fact is, all of us feel more satisfied when we can be open and honest, and not feel judged. Emotional dentistry is the transforming conduit between psychological barriers and professional artistry.
There is focus on a deep, respectful reciprocal communication between dentist and patient. Physical issues are clinically assessed. The emotional impact on the patient is explored and identified. More than contemporary dentistry, emotional dentistry considers and analyses the entire face of the patient. Using Digital Smile Design (DSD), this state-of-the-art treatment planning protocol combines videography and digital facial and dental structure imagery, so that the result of the treatment undertaken looks completely natural.
Understanding the influence of patient self-perception, thoughts and fears on dental decisions also better navigates the psychological mechanism of treatment compliance, therefore cultivating better outcomes. It allows the patient to be more authentic with how they really feel, rather than idealising how they should feel.
Emotional dentistry is a holistic approach to dentistry. It is proactive empathy and active attentiveness, because a smile is much more heart than mouth.
Note: All content and media on the Sunbury Dental House website and social media channels are created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.
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