One in four of us dreads a visit to the dentist, but there are ways to overcome your fear.
People who are scared of the dentist often call for help because they’re at the end of their tether. Their teeth don’t look nice any more or they’re in a lot of pain and can’t cope or they want to make the first step to seeing a dentist and getting their teeth sorted out.
Some people have such a bad dental phobia that they haven’t seen a dentist for years. It’s common for to hear from someone in their twenties or thirties or even older who hasn’t been to the dentist since childhood. These are the patients who always leave coming to the dentist until they are in absolute agony because they are so petrified at the thought of coming to the dentist.
If you haven’t seen a dentist for several years or more because of fear or anxiety, please let me reassure you that you should find the experience more bearable nowadays.
Most people who are scared of the dentist have bad memories from childhood of the smells and sounds of the surgery. Modern dental surgeries are much friendlier environments, with flowers in the waiting room, art on the walls, a pleasant reception area and polite helpful staff.
It’s altogether a much gentler experience. Of course, you’ll still have the smells and sounds of the dental surgery but these are less noticeable than they used to be with instruments hidden from sight and background music playing. Even drills aren’t as noisy as they used to be. Some patients choose to wear headphones to listen to music on their phones, as they find that this helps to distract them from the treatment being provided.
Advances in technology have also improved dentistry. Treatment can now be completely painless. The dental wand (a computerised injection system that looks like a pen and delivers the anaesthetic very slowly so it is painless) is great for anyone with a needle phobia. A numbing gel can also be used to numb your gums before an injection so you don’t feel the needle.
If you’re anxious about seeing the dentist, here are some tips to help ease the fear:
Find an understanding dentist. Ask friends and family if they can recommend one or look for someone who advertises themselves as an expert with anxious patients.
Once you’ve found someone you think may be suitable, visit the surgery to have a look around, meet the receptionist and dentist and see the environment. Tell the receptionist that you’re anxious so they know beforehand and can tell your dentist.
Pick an appointment time early in the morning so you have less time to dwell on it.
The first appointment will simply be a check-up so don’t worry that you’ll be launched into having a filling, the drill or a needle. See this first visit as your chance to get to know the dentist.
Take a friend with you to your appointment. The dentist won’t mind if they accompany you throughout the check-up or treatment.
Agree a sign with the dentist to signal that you need a break and want them to stop, such as raising your hand. This really helps to maintain the feeling of still being in control in nervous patients.
If you think it will help, start gradually with a clean and polish then work up to more extensive treatment once you’ve built up trust and rapport with your dentist.
If you’re extremely nervous and don’t think that you could cope, ask your dentist about having sedation for your treatment. Tooth Doctor offer intravenous sedation (through an injection into your hand or arm) with Midazolam. It won’t send you to sleep – you’ll still be awake and some patients are still able to talk to the dentist while sedated – but they’ll calm and relax you so deeply you probably won’t remember much of what happened during your appointment.
Here at Tooth Doctor Dental Practice we often meet people who have had a previous bad experience at a previous practice and we understand that it can be difficult coming to the dentist. We have people so anxious that even a simple check up can raise anxiety levels.
However we have a great team who are here to help. We are not judgemental about the condition of your teeth, we are just here to help you to achieve the best possible result in a comfortable friendly environment.