A new report is suggesting universal hand signals for anxious patients to use to communicate with their dentists.
The US paper from Harvard Medical School claims the use of the hand signals will reduce dental anxiety if the dentist and patient agree on a 'stop' signal to take time-out from the procedure.
For some patients, the fear of visiting a dentist outweighs the pain of a toothache.
But putting off that visit almost invariably leads to more advanced oral health problems and lengthier, more complex procedures.
What many people don't realise is that they can work with their dentists to learn about and implement anxiety-relieving strategies, according to the report Dental Health for Adults: A Guide to Protecting Your Teeth and Gums.
It describes standard and novel treatments available for pain management, such as local and general anaesthesia, anti-anxiety medications, and conscious sedation.
The paper also includes a lengthy discussion of alternative approaches to dealing with dental anxiety.
In the States, a system of sign language between patient and dentist has already been developed.
DentiSign is the brainchild of Raymond Cadden, who explains the reasons behind his innovation: 'I had several veneer procedures and during one of the sessions I asked the dentist if she would entertain my use of some simple hand signals throughout the procedure.