Do you feel anxious or scared when you think about going to the dentist? You're not alone.
Even though dental check-ups and treatments can help to alleviate pain and worries, many people still have some degree of irrational dental phobia – around 1 in 6 adults, according to a study by the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health. This rises to 1 in 3 for middle-aged women, but is as low as 1 in 10 for children.
Dental anxiety isn't usually a fear of pain and discomfort, since most people know that dental treatments are carried out under anaesthesia, and can actually take away toothaches and other symptoms they may be suffering from. Instead, phobias tend to be related to the overall dental experience or specific aspects such as needles, drills or touching the mouth.
There can be many different reasons for dental fear. People may have a history of dental problems or other health issues that required extensive treatment in the past. They may have issues with trust, loss of control or the invasion of personal space. Their dental anxiety may also be related to other phobias or psychological disorders, such as a fear of needles, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Dental anxiety can have harmful and negative effects if it means people are delaying or even avoiding their regular appointments. This is because getting an oral health assessment every six months gives your dentist the best chance of spotting any problems early, when they're less developed and usually easier to treat.
Avoiding your check-ups out of fear actually makes it more likely that you'll need a more complex and invasive treatment in the future, and this can reinforce dental anxiety in a vicious cycle.
Dentists understand that some people are nervous about their visits. That's why you should check with your local dental clinic to find out what services they offer to make the experience more pleasant. These can include:
Many modern dental clinics are designed with patient comfort as a priority. Soft furnishings in waiting areas, complimentary refreshments, magazines and other touches could help you to feel more at ease throughout you appointment.
From the front desk to the treatment rooms, everyone on the dental team should make you feel welcome and give you the confidence to relax. You should be encouraged to ask questions and be given all the information you need at every stage, so you can make decisions you're happy with.
If you need a little help to stay calm during a dental procedure, your dentist can discuss sedation options such as oral sedation with you.
Oral sedatives come in liquid or pill form and should be self-administered about an hour before the treatment starts. You'll feel drowsy and relaxed, but you'll still be conscious and able to respond to simple instructions from your dentist to help the treatment along, with the side-effect that you won't usually remember much about the experience after.
If you choose dental sedation, you'll need to follow your dentist's advice and take it easy until the effects wear off. You should make sure you're accompanied to the dental clinic, as you cannot drive under the influence of sedatives.
At Swish Dental in Brisbane, we're dedicated to helping nervous patients get the dental care they need.
To find out about our sedation options and other ways we can help you feel calm and relaxed during your visit, call us today on (07) 3485 0895 for Everton Park or (07) 3485 0875 for our Mitchelton clinic. You can also get in touch online.
 Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health. Dental fear and anxiety: Information for Dental Practitioners [Online] March 2016 [Accessed March 2018] Available from: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/arcpoh/dperu/special/dfa/Dental_Fear_Professional.pdf