How to cope with a fear of the dentist

August 2, 2016

Many people find that a trip to the dentist can cause feelings of anxiety or concern. This can be for a variety of reasons. They may have had a difficult experience in the past (perhaps as a child), may be concerned that their treatment will be painful, or they may simply not like the sounds and smells that the surgery brings.

Fear of the dentist can prevent people from attending their routine check-ups meaning that by the time they do go, more treatment is needed than would have been the case if they had kept up more regular contact. However, the reality is that the experience of attending an appointment may be very different to the patient’s perception. Dental techniques, safety procedures and the tools and equipment used have hugely developed over the years. In addition attitudes of dental teams have also changed and treatment is now delivered in a much more relaxed, mindful way.

If you are concerned about visiting the dentist, there are lots of things you can do to make this easier, and to reduce your worry. However you’ll need to be upfront and honest about your nerves. The more specific information you can give about what in particular you are worried about, the better. This can be difficult at first, but will help make things much easier in the longer run.

Once you’re ready to discuss your nerves, look to find a surgery that offers special treatment or show good understanding of nervous patients. Recommendations from family or friends who are nervous patients are always helpful.

Plan your trip to the dentist by considering what is the best time of the day for you. Go at the time of day that you feel your best, and at a time when you don’t need to be worrying about anything else (such as child care arrangements, work meetings and so on). Make sure you’ve got time to get to your appointment without rushing. Being in a hurry will likely make you feel more nervous. It’s also recommended that you try and eat something before you go, so that you don’t risk feeling faint whilst your appointment is taking place.

Other things to consider:

  • Agree a sign (perhaps raising a hand) that means you need a break. If you give this sign during the treatment, your dentist will stop, and only continue when you are ready. Discuss this with your dentist before the treatment begins.
  • Do you have a friend or family member you could take with you for support? This person needs to be calm and reassuring, and not have a fear of the dentist.
  • Come to your appointment prepared with something else to think about. Perhaps you need to mentally make a shopping list, or heard a puzzle on the radio that morning that you’re trying to solve.
  • Take things at your place. After your initial check-up, breakdown any proposed treatment into steps that you can manage. Work up gradually to the aspect that you’ll find most difficult.

If you’re still feeling worried, have a conversation with your dental practice about any other support they might be able to offer you. Some practices are able to offer sedation, hypnosis and relaxation techniques. Other practices also have access to specialist counselling services to help patients to learn to cope with their fear.

Don’t let your fear of the dentist put you off taking up your regular appointments and check-ups. There is so much that can be done to make the experience of visiting the dentist much easier. Give us a call today to find out more about how we can support you.

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