Does the thought of going to the dentist scare you? Are you afraid of going to the dentist because you think it will be painful? Have you made an appointment only to cancel it a few days before you are due? Well, you are not alone!
According to the British Dental Association, almost 25% of the British population suffers from some form of anxiety before visiting a dentist. Dentophobia is an extremely common affliction affecting around 12% of people so seriously that it can often prevent them from going to the dentists at all!
For many people it can be a fear of the pain caused by dental treatments, whereas with others it is actually the fear of needles used during procedures that can be the trigger. Even being in the presence of needles and dental tools can cause stress levels to rise, even when a patient is only going for a check-up and not actually having any treatments performed.
A lot of the stresses and anxiety that trigger a fear of dentists can start early on in childhood. A bad experience at a child’s first dental examination can lay the foundation for a lifelong fear that can be extremely hard to shake off. It may have been something as simple as a slight prick or scrape of the gums by accident, or the uncomfortable experience of a first cavity being drilled and filled that can put children off.
Many adults actually don’t like going because they feel a loss of control. Laying back in the dentists chair with a practical stranger having their hands in your mouth can leave you feeling very vulnerable and insecure. So bad is the anxiety that often adults will ignore or put up with pain from toothache, gum disease, or a cracked or broken tooth for years rather than visit a dentist.
Tips to Overcome Your Fear of the Dentist
First of all, take some time to talk to your dentist about your fears. You will be surprised at how common these fears and anxieties are amongst dental patients. Your dental surgery staff will be very used to dealing with people suffering from phobias, anxiety and fears. Unless you tell them about your concerns, they will not know that you need some help.
Many dentist will go out of their way to make you feel more comfortable and in control. From explaining every move before they make it to showing you how the dental equipment works, they can adjust their treatment of you to make you feel much more comfortable.
You can establish a ‘stop signal’ that could be a simple raise of the hand to indicate to your dentist that you are in distress. Pushing yourself to be brave is one thing, but if you know you cannot make it through a whole procedure without taking a break, doing some deep breathing or meditation, then a stop signal will give you the control you need to work through your dental treatment.
If you are scared of needles or dental tools, then you can ask your dentist to have these instruments discreetly hidden away from view. Many dentists can position a wheeled tool cabinet close by with draws to hide away equipment until you are safely in the treatment chair and looking the other way.
Visit your dentist more often
Now this may seem like very odd advice to offer someone with a fear of dentists. But actually booking yourself in for 3 monthly check-ups where you will not be experiencing any major treatments can help to boost your self-confidence about going. Booking a quick check up every three months will give you a chance to really get to know and trust your dentist and you should take the opportunity to ask lots of questions while you are there to build your knowledge, trust and understanding.
Quite soon a visit to the dentist will just seem like part of your normal routine and you will know there will be nothing to worry about.