Five tips for best practice in dentist waiting rooms, creating a calm and welcoming environment to reduce patient anxiety

21 April 2022
2 min read

Waiting rooms can be an anxious place for many people and as it’s the first thing your patients see when they enter your practice, it’s important to make it as welcoming and calming as possible. The experts at music licensing company PPL PRS have shared some key tips to achieve this.

  1. Put yourself in your patients’ shoes

A good place to start is to view your waiting area as if you have never been there before and take it in based on your first impressions. What is the first thing people see when they walk in? 

If it’s a blank wall, consider making it more homely by hanging a picture or some art – a more personal and less clinical space can ease those patient jitters. What do people hear when they walk in? A very simple way to make any space more welcoming is to play music. Whether it’s a playlist that is designed to be soothing and relaxing or simply putting on a popular radio station that patients are likely to be familiar with, having music playing is a great distraction and can be a highly effective stress buster.

  1. Cater to the kids

Having a dedicated area with something to entertain kids whilst in the waiting room can be a godsend to parents who are taking their little ones in for a check-up, or if they are the ones visiting for an appointment. It can take the pressure off when either the child or their parent is anxious by providing a distraction and showing that you’ve thought of patients of all ages. ​

  1. Aquarium therapy

It may sound surprising, but adding a fish tank to your waiting area can work wonders for the wellbeing of patients. Studies have shown that watching fish swim in an aquarium has a hugely beneficial and soothing effect. Just a few minutes in front of a tank lowers blood pressure, stress levels, anxiety, and muscle tension, whilst increasing feelings of relaxation and calm.

It’s also a novel way to keep smaller patients entertained as they are mesmerised by the colourful swimmers. Tanks don’t have to be particularly large or high maintenance – goldfish and some greenery can be just as effective as a full-blown coral reef.

  1. Provide reading materials

Giving your patients magazines to browse during their time in the waiting room can prove a welcome distraction and boredom buster. Ensure that they are kept reasonably up to date and in good condition and place them throughout your waiting area, so they are within easy reach for everyone using the room.

Don’t forget to also have printed information about services you offer or common concerns your patients might have. This can help alleviate some anxiety and even help with upselling. Perhaps a patient visiting for a regular check-up will end up enquiring about teeth whitening after browsing a waiting room leaflet.

  1. Maximise Comfort

Row upon row of hard plastic chairs is not the most welcoming prospect in a waiting room, so consider how comfortable your seating is and if you find it lacking, replace it. The more physically comfortable your patients are, the more psychologically calm they are likely to be, reducing their stress levels. They are also less likely to be bothered by extended waiting times if they’re in a comfy position. ​