A recent study found that dental anxiety was higher in women than men and that just over half of the 473 patients (58.8%) experienced this type of fear. Dental health suffers if anxious thoughts keep you from booking an appointment. So, what are ways to overcome fears relating to the dentist that many people are experiencing today?
What causes dental anxiety?
Let’s first identify why people are scared of the dentist. For many, it is being afraid of pain. For some, it’s the smell of the chemicals and for others, it could be the sound of the drill or the feeling of being stuck in the dental chair.
Even having to keep your mouth open for a long time can fill people with dread. There are so many causes of dental fear and anxiety that it is essential to find a dentist who provides you and your family with safe, gentle, and high-quality dental care.
A good dentist will understand that you may feel anxious and be sensitive to your needs. This individual and their team will make providing the best possible care for you the priority.
Why regular dental visits matter
But, why is it so important to see the dentist regularly? Well, not only will it keep your teeth and mouth healthy but by visiting the dentist regularly, you can keep your body healthy too.
Dental care is vital because it prevents tooth decay and gum disease, as well as reducing bad bacteria in your mouth that can cause bad breath. Regular visits can also help to keep teeth looking bright by preventing them from staining over time due to certain foods, drinks, and tobacco.
Not only will it help to strengthen your teeth but also give you plenty of confidence with an attractive smile. In fact, even if your teeth feel fine, visiting the dentist is still important because problems can exist without you knowing about them.
Ok, so we know that dental visits are essential. But just how do we cope with those dental fears and worries that still linger?
5 ways to overcome dental anxiety:
1. Finding the right dentist is essential
Finding the right dentist is absolutely key here. This person needs to be someone you trust, who understands your fears and worries. Ask around family and friends for recommendations.
Next, identify what it is that makes you anxious about dental visits. Is it the noise of the drill? Or, the needle used to administer anesthetic? Or, do you worry that something major is wrong because of years of neglecting your teeth?
If possible, talk through these concerns with your dentist and they may be able to reassure you that at your next appointment you won’t need the drill, for example. Knowing the source of your fears can help to start that conversation and make treatment more pleasant.
2. Bring a friend to the dentist
You may wish to consider taking someone along to your appointments with you. Check with your dentist but usually, you would be allowed a relative or friend to stay with you for moral support.
Depending on the source of your dental anxiety, distraction can work brilliantly. Perhaps this is listening to your friend telling you about something while you’re in the chair. Or, you may be able to listen to music on headphones during the appointment.
Dentists won’t think you are being rude, don’t worry! Stress balls and fidget spinners can all good distractions while having dental work, so plan to bring them along if you think they could help calm your nerves.
3. Ease into overcoming the fear
Take your time when planning a course of dental treatment too. If you’re feeling anxious, don’t book an appointment for an invasive procedure like root canal treatment straight away. Start off slowly with a checkup or hygiene visit, build a rapport with your dentist, and start feeling comfortable in the dentist’s chair.
Also choose an appointment time when you can take your time and are not under pressure to rush back to work, collect the children, or be rushed.
4. Meditation and mindfulness to overcome dental anxiety
Another suggestion is using meditation and mindfulness. Calming breathing exercises can help too. Preparation is again key with this, so look up some mindful breathing techniques prior to your visit and practice them at home.
Once at your appointment, if you begin to feel tense, start your breathing exercises to refocus. You could even have your headphones on, with a mindfulness app taking you through the exercises.
5. Open communication with the dentist
Finally, empower yourself by agreeing on hand signals to communicate with your dentist. When you feel uncomfortable, you’ll be able to then signal to your dentist that you wish for them to ease off or stop the procedure.
If you feel overwhelmed and want a break, ask the dentist for it. They won’t judge you. What’s important here is that you’re within your comfort zone.
Ultimately, the best way to combat dental fear and anxiety is good communication with your dentist. Make sure you tell them how you are feeling, and they will be able to suggest ideas and techniques that have worked for other patients.
If you still worry after employing the above techniques, there are other options. Therapies and sedatives can help, for example, if the dental phobia feels too much.