Overcoming Dental Phobia: Tips to help you get through your trip to the dentist.
As COVID-19 restrictions ease, dental services are able to conduct checkups and procedures again - meaning you have one less excuse for delaying your next dental visit!
Not many people do enjoy going to the dentist, but for hundreds of thousands of Australians, of all ages, dental phobia or dental anxiety is a crippling fear. Unfortunately this fear drives many away from regular dental checkups which can have serious ramifications not only for dental health but also your overall well being.
In not maintaining a healthy mouth, you can develop gum disease and unhealthy teeth, resulting in an inability to chew and digest food, as well as a range of other health issues. Without healthy gums and teeth, your speech can be affected as well. Poor mouth hygiene can also lead to bad breath or discoloured teeth which may lead to self confidence issues.
Oral hygiene is hugely important so it’s equally as important that you’re able to manage your fear/phobia/anxiety of visiting the dentist. Here are some tips and strategies to help you:
Dental fear can be overcome.
The first thing you can do is accept the fact your dental phobia exists, and that it’s very common and nothing to be ashamed of. From there you need to understand that your dental fear is a learned behaviour and therefore can be unlearned.
Find the right dentist and staff for you.
You must be comfortable in expressing any concerns or fears you may have, to help you understand they see you as a whole person and not just a set of teeth. In today’s age with such advances in dentistry combined with a compassionate dental team, your visit can be truly painless.
Educate yourself on dental procedures.
Build your knowledge to alleviate fear of the unknown. Speak to your dentist and get them to fully clarify any procedures, and answer any questions you have - if you’re uncertain and need an answer - ask! You can also do your own research through reading books, brochures, and websites. Another great idea is to read dental blogs where people openly talk about their positive experiences going through similar procedures. It’s worth keeping in mind that you should also have input into treatment decisions and choices.
Communicate with your dentist
You should never compromise the level of communication that you deem necessary to give you a sense of control over your situation in the dental practice. If you’re unsure of how much treatment you think you can tolerate at first, it’s best to be upfront and honest with your dentist. In doing this you’ll build confidence in yourself and your dentist which will allow for longer appointments, meaning more work can be accomplished in a single sitting.
Once in the appointment, depending on the procedure you may not be able to physically talk as you usually would, so you may want to chat with your dentist and develop a signalling system. If things are getting too much, you want to rinse your mouth, or anything else, you could simply raise your hand to let them know and you can both take a short break and reassess the situation if needed.
Relaxation and Distraction methods before, during, and after your dentist appointment
Teaching yourself specific ways to relax can help you before, during, and after your appointment. A relaxed body helps put your mind at ease. The human body cannot be physically relaxed and mentally anxious at the same time. There are a number of ways to help physically and mentally relax and distract yourself:
Before the Appointment:
- Yoga or Meditation: If you have ten minutes before you leave home to practice a bit of yoga, or meditation, this can help calm your nerves before you’ve even left the house. There are a number of websites, yoga apps, and meditation apps that can assist you with this.
- Breathing Techniques: The beauty of many breathing exercises is that they can be practiced anywhere. If you read up and practice some of these, they can be used in the waiting room, or when first getting into the dental room.
During the Appointment:
- Breathing Techniques: As mentioned above, many breathing techniques can be practiced in any given scenario - including sitting in a dental chair.
- Stress Ball: If breathing techniques aren’t for you, then feel free to bring a stress ball, or something you can squeeze, to help take your mind off things.
- Music/Podcasts: Another one if breathing exercises aren’t up your alley, you can try listening to music or podcasts with headphones to try distract you from any sounds that may be around.
- Communicate: As mentioned above, let your dentist know if you will be practising any of these techniques as it will help both of you when progressing through the appointment.
After the Appointment:
- Breathing Techniques: Depending on how you’re feeling, it could be worth practising some breathing exercises sitting in the waiting room again, or if you are still feeling anxious in the dental practice, then finish up, get back to your car, or a park bench, and sit down for a few minutes until you’ve relaxed mentally and physically and are okay to proceed with the rest of your day.
If you practice relaxation in the presence of the stimuli that normally induces your fear, i.e. the dentist, your fear diminishes over multiple exposures and you’ll gradually desensitise yourself to these fears as you build your confidence. Any bad memories you may have had will soon be replaced by more innocuous ones and this “new” less threatening dental environment, combined with your relaxation methods will help you eradicate your fears
Bring a Buddy
Facing a phobia is often easier if you’re with a close friend or family member to help face things together. Take someone with you to your dentist appointment to provide moral support and to help you relax prior to your dental procedure. Your dentist may also be willing to allow them to accompany you to the treatment room to help you cope with your anxiety.
Whilst avoiding the dentist is definitely not advised for reasons mentioned at the beginning of this blog, you can try minimise your number of dentist trips simply by maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
Reach out to the friendly team at Morrin Dental to help you through your next visit.