Overcoming dental phobia
A survey by the British Dental Association shows us that 25% of people suffer from anxiety before visiting the dentist. This means then, that 25% of the British population must either try their best to cope with their dental phobia, or risk their oral health by not visiting the dentist at all, which could lead to long term serious health problems and result in lengthy and expensive surgery.
The first thing to remember when you confront your fear of the dentist is that dentists themselves are medical professionals and specifically trained to deal with patients who are anxious. It also worth bearing in mind that your dentist will have seen countless patients who are nervous during their treatment, and that you be far from the worst case that they have ever dealt with.
Thankfully there are some simple things that you can do to try to overcome your dental phobia and feel positive about your visit to the dentist. These include:
- Distraction techniques. There are many ways that you can distract yourself away from the surgery during treatment. Many surgeries play soothing music to relax their patients anyway, but you could take a personal music player to play whatever you wish to take your mind off the treatment. You could also try to concentrate on relaxing each body part in turn and try to focus your mind on other things, such as something in the future which you are looking forward to.
- Hypnotherapy. Although hypnotherapy is more effective for some people than others, it can be a great way to treat dental anxiety. You are safe in the knowledge that you cannot be made to do anything against your wishes whilst hypnotised, and you can relax knowing that this technique does not involve taking any medication.
- Therapy and counselling. These both include sitting down and talking to somebody face to face about your fear. You could try to talk about why you have this fear, perhaps events in the past that have triggered it, and learn to accept your fear and face it gradually, to try and see things in a more positive light. Many patients may be put off by what they see as a social taboo against counselling, but this is far from the truth. Counselling helps people from all over the world overcome all sorts of different fears, and is proven to be a very effective way of overcoming a phobia.
- Make sure you visit a supportive dentist. Make sure your dentist knows before the treatment how you feel. Visit beforehand and ask any questions that you wish, they will be more than happy to help. Make sure that you get a detailed step by step guide of exactly what the procedure involves from your dentist, so that you can mentally prepare yourself beforehand and do not get any nasty surprises during the treatment.
- Stay in control. One of the hardest things for sufferers of dental phobia is the lack of control that they have during their dental treatment. Make sure that you ask your dentist to go at your pace and not theirs. It may be that you spread the treatment out over a number of visits. To help build your confidence and overcome your fear, during the first visit you may just want to sit in the dental chair to experience to take in your surroundings and to get a feel for the situation. This way you can overcome your fear step by step and overcome each hurdle one at a time before going on to the next, slightly more difficult one. It is important that you do not undergo any treatment that you are not completely comfortable with, and talk beforehand with your dentist about your signal to stop if you feel that it is getting too much.
- Establish a healthy relationship with your dentist beforehand. It is likely that you will feel much more comfortable during your treatment if you have visited your dentist and got to know them before your treatment. To ease your fears during these pre-visits, the dentist might carry out some pain free procedures on you such as tooth cleaning to try to build your confidence up. Make sure that you are completely open with your dentist about your anxiety and discuss your medical past with them. Building a trusting relationship is vital, your dentist will be more than happy to help. Do not suffer in silence!
Fear of visiting the dentist is a completely understandable human emotion, and affects many people in varying degrees around the world. Often the best way to overcome this fear is to think about where it originated from and to confront it. Some people suffer because of a previous bad and painful experience at the dentist, and are anxious about repeating the experience. Many others may have heard horror stories from friends or colleagues or fear the lack of control that they will have during their treatment, and are put off because of this. But it is absolutely vital to remember that you are not alone, dental phobia is extremely common across all kinds of people, male or female, young or old.
There are many options available to you to try and overcome this as best you can, and many people that you can talk to who have had the same experience as you and know what you are going through. It is crucial to talk to your dentist beforehand and explain exactly how you feel, they are trained to deal with nervous patients and will be more than happy to help you. Please, please whatever you do, do not let dental phobia stop you from visiting the dentist. There are so many avenues open to you, stopping visiting the dentist will result in your oral health suffering, and could result in much more lengthy and painful treatment than you avoided in the first place.