Being afraid of the dentist means different things to different people. For some people, it’s the thought that treatment will hurt, or that the sounds and smells bring back bad memories as a child.
Sadly, the fear of going to the dentist is not uncommon, and in the most severe cases can result in people avoiding dental treatment altogether. One in three of us suffer from moderate dental anxiety and roughly one in eight suffer from dental anxiety, known as dental phobia.
Causes of Dental Anxiety and Phobia
People develop dental anxieties and phobias for many different reasons:
- Pain– This is most common in adults 24 years and older, often because their early dental visits happened before many of the advances in “pain-free” dentistry.
- Feelings of helplessness and loss of control– many people develop phobias about situations — such as flying in an airplane — in which they feel they have no control. When they’re in the dental chair, they have to stay still. People feel anxious because they can’t see what’s going on or predict what’s going to hurt. It’s common for people to feel helpless and out of control. This can trigger anxiety.
- Embarrassment– Some people feel self-conscious about the way their teeth look. Dental treatments also require physical closeness. During a treatment, the hygienist’s or dentist’s face may be just a few inches away. People can feel ashamed or embarrassed to have a stranger looking inside their mouth. This can make people anxious and uncomfortable.
- Negative past experiences– Anyone who has had pain or discomfort during previous dental procedures is likely to be more anxious the next time around.
There are varying degrees of dental anxiety and phobia. At the extreme, a person with dental phobia may never see a dentist. Others may force themselves to go, but they may not sleep the night before. It’s not uncommon for people to feel sick — or, in some cases, to actually get sick — while they’re in the waiting room.
Some of the signs of dental phobia include:
- You feel tense or have trouble sleeping the night before a dental exam.
- You get increasingly nervous while you’re in the waiting room.
- You feel like crying when you think of going to the dentist. The sight of dental instruments, or dental staff increases your anxiety.
- The thought of a dental visit makes you feel physically ill.
- You panic or have trouble breathing when objects are placed in your mouth during a dental appointment.
KEEP CALM it’s only a DENTAL APPOINTMENT
The good news is that more and more dentists understand their patients’ fears and worries. With a combination of kindness and gentleness, they can do a lot to make dental treatment stress free and painless.
Most dental teams are very skilled and experienced in helping nervous patients so finding a suitable team should be easy if you feel anxious about visiting the dentist. It is very important to find a dentist that you trust, feel comfortable with, and who takes the time to discuss treatment options and procedures. You should not feel embarrassed to say that you are nervous. In fact, making your dentist aware that you are worried, will allow him/her to work with you, to overcome you anxiety.
If you do suffer from dental anxiety, we would recommend you talk to your dental team as your first port of call. They will be able to discuss any procedures with you and discuss what can be done to make you feel more at ease.
Don’t give your appointment the brush off, those childhood memories are a thing of the past!
The dental industry has undergone significant advances to the practice environment.
Here are 5 reasons as to why those childhood memories are a thing of the past:
- TECHNOLOGY HAS CHANGED
Treatment can now be almost completely painless. Gone are the days of medieval drills and large anesthetic needles. There are many new methods for treating dental issues such as cavities. There are drills with a button to stop when you want, or even laser methods to remove the infected area.
- DENTISTS ARE READY FOR NERVOUS PATIENTS
Many dentists offer techniques such as sedation and relaxation to help nervous patients. They can offer appointments at a time of day that suits you best. Remember to communicate with your dentist – tell them you are nervous. Agree a sign that means ‘stop’ beforehand. You can even take music or a friend along.
- PRACTICES ARE VERY WELCOMING
Modern dental surgeries are much friendlier environments. Many dentists are also making their offices less clinical and removing the typical smells often associated with dental visits.
- GAS IS GONE
The use of gas has reduced to coincide with improvements in dental health. Dental practices no longer carry out general anaesethics. Getting a first appointment in is a huge step to reducing the need for major dental treatment. Regular appointments will help to identify and treat problems at an early stage.
- THERE’S MORE THAN THE DENTIST
If you feel uncomfortable with the dentist, you can now book an appointment with the dental hygiene or dental therapist. Talk to them about where your problem lies and about your lifestyle habits.
Oral sedation dentistry is a medical procedure involving the administration of oral sedative drugs, generally to facilitate a dental procedure and reduce patients fear and anxiety related to the experience. Oral sedation is one of the available methods of conscious sedation dentistry, along with inhalation sedation (nitrous oxide) and conscious intravenous sedation.
Some people find simple inhalation sedation very helpful to relax them for dental treatment. This is a bit like gas and air given during childbirth, but instead of being delivered through a mask it comes through a nosepiece.
If you’re extremely nervous you may prefer intravenous sedation (through an injection into your hand or arm) during treatment. The drugs won’t send you to sleep – you’ll be awake and able to talk to the dentist – but they’ll calm and relax you so deeply you probably won’t remember much of what happened.
If you’re anxious about seeing the dentist, here are some tips to ease the fear:
- Do some research and find an understanding dentist. Perhaps friends and family can recommend one or look for someone who advertises themselves as an expert with anxious/nervous patients.
- Once you’ve found someone you think may be suitable, go along to the surgery and have a look around, meet the receptionist and dentist and see the environment. It is important to let the dentist know that you’re anxious, so they know beforehand.
- Choose an early morning appointment, so you have less time to dwell on it.
- The first appointment will simply be a check-up so don’t worry that you’ll be launched into having a filling, the drill or a needle. See this first visit as your chance to get to know the dentist.
- Bring a friend along with you. The dentist won’t mind if they accompany you throughout the check-up or treatment.
- Agree a sign with the dentist – to signal that you need a break and want them to stop. It can be as simple as holding your hand up. This may help you feel more in control.
- If you think it will help, start gradually with a clean and polish then build up to more extensive treatment once you’ve built up trust and rapport with your dentist.
- Take some earphones with you so you can listen to music during your visit. It will help you relax.
- Write out your specific fears. Some people may be reluctant to admit that they have a dental phobia. In order to overcome your fear of the dentist, write out a list of what is causing your anxiety at the dentist. Take this list to the dentist and discuss your fears with him/her.
- Communicate with your dentist. The foundation of any good doctor-patient relationship is effective communication. Talking to your dentist before, during, and after procedures can help minimize your fears.
Be aware that your fear of the dentist is normal. There is no reason to be embarrassed by your fear of the dentist. Many people around the world share this phobia. It shouldn’t keep you from getting proper dental care, which can have serious effects on your health and ability to socialise. Not going to the dentist regularly can lead to cavities, abscesses, broken or missing teeth, and bad breath. Some of these conditions could harm your social life.
Most guidelines suggest visiting your dentist twice a year to maintain oral health.
Perfect Smile Spa based in Hornchurch Essex is a Leading cosmetic dentistry practice and is dedicated to PAINLESS dentistry.
Call us for a free consultation on 01708 442 114 or email firstname.lastname@example.org