Dental anxiety (fear of visiting the dentist) is common in Australia, affecting as many as one in six adults and one in ten children. Around five percent of the population has more serious dental phobia, which can lead to them avoiding the dentist altogether.
Not visiting the dentist for your regular check-ups or when you notice symptoms of a possible problem can make serious problems more likely to develop in the long term, and this may require more intensive treatments to correct. That's why it's important for your oral health to find ways to feel more comfortable.
Here are five steps that could help to lower your dental anxiety or leave it behind altogether.
If you've had a bad experience with a dentist or clinic in the past, it's important to realise that not all dentists are the same.
Asking friends and family for recommendations, reading patient testimonials online and visiting a few clinics for yourself could help you to find a clinic where you feel comfortable, with friendly and caring staff who are happy to answer your questions and a dentist who puts you at ease.
You don't have to suffer in silence. Most dentists are used to having patients who feel nervous and they may have suggestions to help you feel more comfortable.
This could include talking you step-by-step through the treatment so you know what to expect, helping you to become familiar with the instruments and systems used and discussing sedation options to help you relax.
If you have anxiety about a specific aspect of the dental experience, such as needles or the sound of drills, they may be able to modify your treatment to avoid these.
A friendly face could help you to feel more at ease or more confident during your dental visit. If you want to bring a friend or family member along, you should check whether they're available and arrange your appointment at a time that suits them.
Ask your dentist if you can bring earplugs or listen to music on your phone if that helps you to feel calm and distracted from what's happening around you. You can also check whether the clinic offers a choice of entertainment such as TV programs, films or music channels to watch while your treatment is underway.
Most dental treatments are carried out using local anaesthesia to help numb pain in the area of the mouth being treated. Your dentist may also offer dental sedation to help you feel calm and relaxed, although this may affect your recovery time following the treatment.
At Swish Dental, we offer oral inhalation sedation to help anxious patients feel calm during their appointments. We'll let you know if you're eligible for dental sedation and can answer any questions you have during your consultation at your local Brisbane clinic.
 Armfield JM. The extent and nature of dental fear and phobia in Australia. Aust Dent J
 Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health. Dental fear and anxiety: Information for Dental Practitioners [Online] March 2016 [Accessed August 2018] Available from: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/arcpoh/dperu/special/dfa/Dental_Fear_Professional.pdf