One in four people may have a fear of the dentist. Here are some of the common reasons why people have dental phobia:
- A negative experience with the dentist during childhood
- Embarrassment about bad breath
- Having self-esteem issues about how their teeth look
- Feelings of awkwardness from having the dentist so close in your personal space
- Fear the anaesthesia will not be enough or fear of needles
- Feeling helpless while being treated
- The idea of having a painful experience
Not Your Same Dental Practice
Due to the prevalence of dental phobia, there is a growing awareness of a dentist’s need for understanding how their patients might feel about going to the dentist. Now, more dentists are focused on ensuring their patients experience less stress while encountering their dental experience.
Another benefit is the technological advances that have made going to the dentist a less painful (and often completely painless) experience. A numbing gel is often used to numb your gums before the needle injections.
Strategies for Relieving Fear of the Dentist
The following tips are suggestions made by a dental professional to help you overcome your fear of the dentist:
- Get a dentist that you are comfortable connecting with. Locate a dentist who specialises in treating nervous patients, or ask people you know if they have a good recommendation for a good dentist.
- Get familiar with the environment of the dental practice prior to your appointment. This is also a good chance to let your dentist know about your fears ahead of time.
- Schedule an early morning appointment to reduce the time you have to think about it.
- Be reminded that your initial appointment is just an examination. You will not have to undergo any needles, drilling or filing treatments during this visit. This is your optimum time to establish a rapport with your dentist.
- Ease your sense of hopelessness by taking a friend or loved one along. Your dentist won’t have a problem with them supporting you during your treatment or initial check-up.
- While visiting your dentist for the first time, you could recommend having a special signal to use with the dentist to signal when you need to take a break while they are doing treatment. This helps to relieve the feeling of hopelessness, and your signal does not have to be a complicated gesture. A hand wave or pointing of a finger can be the signal you set up with your dentist.
- Some people feel more comfortable with a dentist if they start with a check-up and then a milder treatment like a cleaning or polishing.
- Having your own portable music player can also ease your fear of the dentist because it can help you unwind.
When All Else Fails: Sedation
For those who have a more severe fear of the dentist, your dentist can organise sedation. There are two types of sedation available: inhalation sedation and intravenous sedation.
Inhalation sedation is a gas and air mixture used to help people relax while getting their dental treatment. It is similar to the same gas and air mix women receive during childbirth except a nosepiece is used instead of a mask.
For the most severe cases, intravenous sedation may be the best course of treatment. This is done by using a small injection in your arm or hand. You will still be awake, but you will feel very mellow and relaxed while getting your treatment. After treatment, you won’t have much memory of what went on during the treatment.
Many people have not seen a dentist for years because of their fear of the dentist. Thanks to modern advances and more awareness of dental phobia, people can adopt the strategies mentioned above to overcome their specific type of fear of the dentist. And now, the next visit to the dentist chair can be a rewarding experience instead of a nightmare.