Dental anxiety is one of the most common phobias in the world with nearly a third of all adults disliking the dentist and 1 in 10 of us having a phobia so strong that we actually avoid making visits to the dentist.
What Causes Dental Phobia and Anxiety?
There are many reasons why some people have a dental phobia and suffer from anxiety. Some of the most common reasons include:
Fear of pain. Fear of pain is a very common reason for avoiding the dentist. This fear usually stems from an early dental experience that was unpleasant or painful or from dental “horror” stories told by others. Thanks to the many advances in dentistry made over the years, most of today’s dental procedures are considerably less painful or even pain-free.
Fear of injections or fear the injection won’t work. Many people are terrified of needles, especially when inserted into their mouth. Beyond this fear, others fear that the anaesthesia hasn’t yet taken effect or wasn’t a large enough dose to eliminate any pain before the dental procedure begins.
Fear of anaesthetic side effects. Some people fear the potential side effects of anaesthesia such as dizziness, feeling faint, or nausea. Others don’t like the numbness or “fat lip” associated with local anaesthetic.
Feelings of helplessness and loss of control. It’s common for people to feel these emotions considering the situation – sitting in a dental chair with your mouth wide open, unable to see what’s going on.
Embarrassment and loss of personal space. Many people feel uncomfortable about the physical closeness of the dentist or hygienist to their face. Others may feel self-conscious about the appearance of their teeth or possible mouth odours.
Here are some strategies and techniques you can use to overcome dental anxiety.
Overcoming Mild Dental Anxiety
Mild dental anxiety is discomfort and nervousness at the dentist (as opposed to terror and panic). It can be treated in a number of ways.
Find a dentist you trust
Why not ask if you can visit the dental practice, have a tour and meet the staff/dentist prior to having your dental health examination. We are happy to do this if you would like, just give us a call to arrange.
Talking to your dental team
Make sure to discuss your anxiety with the dental team and help them to understand your exact fears, tell the dental team what you like and don’t like during your visits, meaning they can work with you to make your appointment as relaxed as possible for you.
Book an appointment at a time you are comfortable with, such as first thing in the morning, so that you are not worrying all day.
Agree on a signal to give the dental team to let them know you would like to stop for a minute.
Practicing breathing techniques
Controlled breathing relaxes your body and shifts your focus to other things in order to preoccupy your mind. This is fantastic when you are at the dentist as you can avoid a lot of discomfort and anxiety. The easiest breathing techniques simply involve inhaling and exhaling through your nose for a slow count of three – so, three seconds breathing in followed by three seconds breathing out. This technique is particularly useful as it also overcomes the breathing issues many of us feel when things are in our mouth.
Using relaxation techniques
There are a number of relaxation techniques that may work for you. You could bring music into your appointment with you, use meditation or just have the nurse chatting to you about something. Different relaxation and distraction techniques work for different people so try and find something that will work well for you.
Overcoming Severe Dental Anxiety
Severe dental anxiety often cannot be treated by the steps above – though all of these techniques can and should be used to try and put you at ease.
When it comes to severe dental anxiety we are dealing more with a psychological phobia that is less due to nerves and more due to fears. We can potentially overcome severe dental anxiety in a few ways.
You can receive counselling for your phobia. This will aim to look at the root causes of your phobia and will try to work through it so that you can move beyond it.
Though not a preferred treatment option for severe sufferers of dental anxiety, sedation may prove one of the best solutions to the problem, giving you a better chance of visiting the dentist again!
There are different types of sedation available. The simplest is oral sedation, which is a tablet that you swallow an hour before the start of dental treatment. You will still be awake and aware of what is happening around you, but you will also be drowsy and more relaxed.
If that isn’t enough, you could also opt for intravenous sedation, which we would need to refer out as we do not offer this service at Hilton Dental Practice. This is an injection which is often administered into the back of the hand. Again you will still be awake, however you will be in a deeply relaxed state and you may not remember what happened afterwards.
If you feel you need more support you can contact www.dentalphobia.co.uk