Many people feel nervous about visiting the dentist. This is sometimes related to negative experiences in the past, or to specific phobias such as needles, but even someone whose experiences have been positive can experience dental anxiety.
Giving in to fear and skipping or delaying your dental visits means there's a greater chance of needing corrective treatments later on, as your dentist won't have the chance to spot problems before they develop. That's why it's important to find ways to manage your fears.
To deal with your dental anxiety, you first need to know what exactly you're worried about.
For some people, this anxiety may cover the entire dental experience or concern being looked at or touched, which can't be avoided.
However, if you're nervous about a specific aspect of dentistry – such as needles, drills, pain or sedation – these may be avoided or managed.
Don't be embarrassed about talking to your dentist about your anxiety. They will be familiar with common fears and may be able to suggest ways to help you feel more calm.
It's important to choose a dentist you feel comfortable with and who takes the time to listen to and understand what you're saying. Children can benefit from seeing a paediatric dentist.
Bringing a friend or family member along could help you to feel at ease, whether they're just keeping you company or having their own check-up and clean at the same time you are.
Ask your dentist if they provide a TV screen and entertainment such as films, TV shows and music channels that you can use as a distraction while you're having your treatment. You may also be allowed to wear headphones and listen to your own music.
Some people with dental anxiety find comfort in meditation, breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation. These should be practised at home, beginning at least a few days or weeks before your dental visit to be effective.
If you want to treat the root cause of your anxiety or phobia, you should consider talking to a professional. Your dentist may be able to recommend therapists near you.
If you've done everything you can, but you still feel some anxiety about your treatment, your dentist may offer dental sedation such as oral inhalation sedation. You will still be awake and able to follow your dentist's instructions, but you will feel more relaxed and may not remember the experience afterwards.
Sedation is only offered if other techniques have not been effective, as sedatives can have side-effects that will affect your recovery period. Your dentist will make sure you are aware of these so you can decide what's right for you.
At Swish Dental clinics in Everton Park and Mitchelton, our friendly team understands dental anxiety and can offer personalised advice and treatments to help you get the care you need.
Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health. Dental fear and anxiety: Information for Dental Practitioners [Online] 2016 [Accessed May 2019] Available from: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/arcpoh/dperu/special/dfa/Dental_Fear_Professional.pdf