If you’re scared to go to the dentist, you’re not alone, 1 in 6 Australians suffer from an extreme fear of the dentist. Dental anxiety or dental phobia (odontophobia) is one of the most common anxieties and often leaves people avoiding the dentist for years. As someone who struggles with other anxieties, I understand how daunting it can be to confront your fear however, as with all phobias, the only way to overcome the problem is to face it head on. By exposing yourself to your fears, after each visit at the dentist, it becomes more manageable. The problem is if you continue to avoid the dentist to prevent being in a stressful situation there is never a chance to change the behaviour and this can lead to serious problems.
Vicious Cycle of Dental Anxiety
Most anxieties or phobias can be though about as a cycle and dental anxiety is no difference. Often a fear of the dentist can stem from a previously bad experience or an assumption about what a dentist appointment involves. This fear grows and grows the more you sit with the idea and often assumptions are made which aren’t realistic. This catastrophising prevents people from going to the dentist, leaving things unchecked of many years. This means what could have been a simple procedure 10 years ago now requires more invasive and costly treatment such as extraction.
How To Overcome Dental Anxiety?
There are a few things to consider when overcoming dental anxiety:
- There is no reason to feel shame or embarrassment. There is nothing we haven’t seen in our dental clinic and we know there is many reason people delay seeing the dentist. There is no judgement, we are just proud of you coming and happy to get your mouth healthy again.
- Know that dentistry is constantly evolving to make things more comfortable for their patients. If it has been a while since you’ve been to the dentist, I can guarantee things have changed considerable. Chairs are more comfortable, there are TV’s on the ceiling to help distract you, cleans are far gentler and procedures are less invasive.
- Talk to your dentist. Dental anxiety is common and therefore dentists are well trained and experienced in manage patients with anxiety. Being open and honest when booking will allow staff to take the time to discuss any worries you might have and plan a strategy to help you overcome your anxiety.
- Make yourself comfortable. Bring someone you trust to hold your hand through the visit, bring a comforting object to cuddle or some head phones to listen to your favourite music, whatever you need to do in order to make the experience more relaxing. You could even organise something enjoyable to do after as a reward to yourself, our dental practice is surrounded by everything Newtown has to offer: cafes, antique shops, vintage clothes stores. Treat yourself, you deserve it!
- Consider medical management. Happy gas is a safe and effective option during your appointment to help relax you. Happy gas is a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide which creates a relaxing sensation by slowing down the nervous system. Your dentist will be able to tell you if you are a good candidate for happy gas. You can also speak to your local GP for an anxiety relieving medication, just note, unlike happy gas, the effects last longer than your appointment and therefore you cannot drive under the influences of a such medication.
Breaking The Cycle
The first time visiting the dentist is always going to be the scariest, however if you are able to overcome your anxiety, each consecutive visit become less and less anxiety provoking. However, by avoiding the situation there is no opportunity to learn you can manage your anxiety. Avoiding reinforces the fears and allows you mind to continue with previously held fears and beliefs.
How We Can Help
Here at iDental Surgery we are always happy to discuss any fears or anxieties with you over the phone or in person.
We also welcome people to ask questions about their treatment and give them a tour of the practice if they feel exposer will help ease their worries.
If you require more information about dealing with dental anxiety, please call iDental Surgery on (02) 9557 7775.
Written by Emily Evans
Dental Assistant / Receptionist at iDental Surgery
Psychology Student at University of Sydney