Dental anxiety – how you can overcome it and face your fear

We all know how important it is to visit the dentist regularly, but for some people, the mere thought of the dentist sends shivers down their spine and leaves them feeling nervous and anxious. And, while you may associate a fear of dentists with children, dental anxiety affects as many as 1 in 6 adults. There are different types of anxiety but most commonly these cause people to stop visiting the dentist and delay appointments until absolutely necessary. In this article, we’ll look at some of the ways that you can help overcome your fears.

Speak to your dentist

One of the first steps you can take to addressing your dental fear is to speak to a dentist. Most anxiety stems from the unknown and the fear of what will happen if there is a problem with your teeth. Your dentist is trained to understand and empathise with you and discuss your fears. They can talk you through your visit and what to expect as well as all the steps involved if you need treatment. This helps to build trust between nervous patients and the dentist as well as addressing your fears.

Your dentist will also be able to discuss and put in place coping strategies including rest breaks, agreed signals that can be used to pause or stop and additional things that can help to get you comfortable for your treatment.

Take advantage of distractions

From TV screens to music, there are plenty of entertainment options available in modern dental practices that will help you stay relaxed. Audio and visual stimuli have been proven to help people with mild to moderate dental anxiety feel more relaxed and TV, music and video games offer the ideal way for patients to relax. Most dentists will also be happy for you to listen to your own music with headphones, particularly if this helps you to block out any noises that make you feel anxious.

Use relaxation techniques

When panic starts to set in, we often start to breath quicker and our heart rate increases, all of which can make you feel more anxious. Learning simple paced breathing exercises and muscle relaxation techniques can help you to fight the common feelings of anxiety and help you to manage your fear. Once you can control your breathing and lower your heart rate you should start to feel more relaxed and able to visit your dentist.

Sedation

Depending on the severity of your anxiety, dental sedation may be a suitable option. There are three common types of sedation which are inhalation sedation, oral sedation and intravenous sedation. All three methods are forms of conscious sedation which are designed to help people completely relax during their dental procedure. Sedation can be used for a full range of dental treatments from a simple scale and polish through to invasive dental procedures.

For those with a complete fear of dentists or a dental phobia then general anaesthesia may also be an option as you will be under deep sedation and asleep for your treatment. There are greater risks involved with general anaesthetics but for anyone with severe dental fears, this may be a suitable option.

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