Jeremy and Elissa Silverman are combining their respective fields of expertise in their Chandler dental pratice to accommodate the anxious patient.
Jeremy is a dentist and Elissa a licensed clinical social worker – two professions that they believe will offer a more holistic approach to dentistry when put under the same roof.
The couple opened Peace of Mind Dental Studio on Chandler Boulevard a couple months ago and provide special services aimed at calming a patient’s anxiety.
Stress balls, aromatherapy, weighted blankets, and noise-canceling headphones are some of the unique amenities a patient can request if they’re dreading a root canal or some other procedure.
The Silvermans even chose drills that sound less shrill and unnerving to a patient’s sensitive ears.
“We really want people to know anxiety is really common when it comes to going to the dentist and they’re not going to be judged,” Elissa Silverman said.
The couple’s practice offers what the Silvermans call “mental health-informed dentistry,” which focuses on what’s going on inside a patient’s head in addition to their mouth.
While many dentists use medications to subdue or numb a patient’s anxiety, the Silvermans try to offer other therapeutic options that may uncover why the patient’s anxious to begin with.
“We really want to be an alternative for people who don’t want to rely on medication and possibly get to the root of their anxiety,” Elissa added.
About 19 percent of adults suffer from high rates of dental anxiety and frequently avoid seeking treatment due to their fears, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Dental Hygiene.
Before deciding to open their own practice, the Silvermans pondered how they could compete with all the dental offices spread out across the Valley.
“We were trying to think of what could make us different,” Elissa added.
Nobody else in dentistry was offering an in-house therapist who could help patients feel more comfortable and assist them in confronting their trauma, she noted.
Elissa’s background in mental health inspired her to reimagine a dental office with a less intimidating and foreboding atmosphere.
She guided her husband through creating sights, scents and sounds that could make his office feel less clinical.
”It was important to make sure the office didn’t have the traditional dental smells,” Jeremy said. “We know all the senses can be triggering for patients.”
Every new patient coming to Peace of Mind fills out a questionnaire assessing their sensitivity and anxiety toward dental care.
Depending on how they answer the questions, Silverman and his staff will take some time to address any dental-related trauma they have had in the past.
Staff is trained to coach patients through breathing exercises or they can try strapping on some vibrating wristbands designed to ease their nerves.
Elissa, who has her own office within the dental studio where she treats clients, offers a free 15-minute consultation with any of her husband’s patients who may need additional help in putting their mind at ease.
“I think a lot of patients feel like they’re not heard, so I make an effort to really sit down and understand what kind of experience they’ve had that they felt didn’t go great,” Jeremy said.
Their initial goal may be to get patients to relax in the dental office, but the Silvermans believe their services could have a deeper impact on someone’s overall health.
A person’s medical, oral, and psychological health are all interconnected, the couple said, so treating one can improve the others.
“Our hope is to help folks have an easier time at the dental office during their visit,” Jeremy said. “But that will kind of bleed over into their day-to-day life if they learn how to manage these anxieties.”
Peace of Mind is currently offering special discounts and free teeth cleanings to Chandler residents who work in the restaurant or service industry. They must show proof of employment to qualify for discounts.
The Silvermans said they wanted to specifically give back to service workers since many of them have been laid off or otherwise financially hit by the pandemic or don’t have access to dental insurance.
The pandemic has completely upended the medical and dental fields, the Silvermans added, generating a greater need for professionals equipped to handle a person’s anxiety and depression.
They hope more doctors and dentists will adopt some of the therapeutic approaches employed at Peace of Mind and possibly steer the industry in a new direction.
“Mental health has really come to the forefront,” Elissa added. “Providers need to be addressing mental health along with the physical health.”