In fact, Columbia University say that 40 million Americans have some form of worry about going to the dentist.
There are two kinds of fear: dental anxiety and dental phobia. These are not the same thing. Dental anxiety makes you uncomfortable before your appointment, but dental phobia takes that fear to a whole different level, preventing you from taking any dental treatments at all. This could lead to advanced periodontal disease and eventually tooth loss.
Dealing with dental anxiety
Dealing with dental phobia requires the same treatment as dealing with any other phobia. Professional help may be required. You can deal with dental anxiety with a little bit of effort, however, by implementing a few techniques.
What is it that makes you anxious?
● The fear of pain following dental treatment is a predominant fear.
● The fear of dental instruments is a genuine fear. Many people avoid the dentist as they are terrified of the screeching sounds that they associate with dental treatment.
● Some people also worry that their problems will be ignored by the dentist. Many people fear health professionals in general and think that their problems will not be considered or treated adequately.
● Negative memories from previous experiences can cause fear. This is why it is extremely important that you introduce your child to a good child dentist. Once a child has a positive dental experience, he or she will grow up to be more conscious of maintaining good oral health. Taking a child to a good dentist and trying to ensure a non-traumatic visit prevents a lifetime of dental anxiety or phobia.
● A general feeling of discomfort at the dental office. Sometimes dental offices or clinics can be claustrophobic. Before choosing a clinic, do your homework and find a dental clinic with an environment that suits you.
Why you need to get over the anxiety
Dental check-ups should be a regular part of your oral health routine. Brushing and flossing alone are not enough. Any pain or discomfort in the mouth should be checked and if fear prevents it, then it could lead to a situation where more treatment may be needed. And more treatment means more visits and extra costs. Prevention is far better than cure.
Anxiety spoils the dental experience. We spend so much time going to salons to look good or invest in haircuts. We shop for clothes and invest heavily in creating an attractive wardrobe. We exercise to stay fit and undergo many stressful physical exercise regimens to stay fit and look good. So why not invest some time at the dental centre? It’s just as important to your appearance as going to the hairdresser.
How to overcome stress
Dental anxiety can be overcome. The most important thing is to believe that the stress can be countered. If you know that you can deal with anxiety, you will look for ways to handle stress. Here are seven methods you could consider:
Learn how to communicate with your dentist. Ask all the right questions regarding the pain, potential nerve damage, kind of anaesthesia to be used, post-extraction care, etc. Be frank about your fears. Once you are aware of the situation, a lot of the stress disappears. Even for minor treatments, getting the dentist to explain what they are doing can help to calm any concerns.
Deep breathing is an effective tool to deal with anxiety in all situations, even in the dental clinic. When you are nervous, your breath becomes short and this reduces the oxygen supply. Focusing on the in breath and out breath helps to calm you down. Relax your shoulders and release your hands from whatever they are clutching.
Listen to music
Ask your dentist if you can use earphones. It’s been medically proven that listening to music lowers stress. Play your favourite song list so that you don’t have to worry about the dental instruments. Many times, it’s the sounds in the clinic that trigger anxiety.
Eat calming foods
Caffeine and sugar tend to make you edgy. Caffeine increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Avoid sugary and caffeine-filled drinks and food before a visit. Instead, eat healthy high protein foods to calm you down.
Make hand signals
You don’t have to worry about your dentist continuing treatment when your mouth is open and you can’t communicate. Signal any discomfort by raising your hand and the dentist will stop and assist you.
Prepare yourself for an appointment
It’s best to visit the dentist when you’re not in a rush. When you make an appointment, plan plenty of time for yourself and go at a time that means you’re not running late.
Know your dentist
The best thing you can do is have a great rapport with your dentist. When choosing your dentist, take your time and choose one based on recommendations. Have an initial visit and assess if you’re comfortable with them. That gives you the confidence to visit the dentist and prevent extra stress.
Follow these steps and rid yourself of dental anxiety. To find out more, or book an appointment in the North Shore of Auckland, click here.