Overcoming Dental Anxiety
Dental anxiety is a fear or anxiety associated with going to the dentist. And although many of us would prefer to spend our time elsewhere, the truth is that having a healthy mouth is a vital part of maintaining your overall health.
If you suffer with dental anxiety, you are not alone. Some people have generalised anxiety or a fear over loss of control, whilst others may fear the cost, the unknown or have a phobia about needles or pain.
Whatever the cause, understanding your individual needs and tailoring your dental care to your particular needs is the key to successfully overcoming anxiety. It’s worth developing a plan with your dentist to help you feel more comfortable. Their help will support you to manage your anxiety and reduce the likelihood of delayed visits.
So what can you do if you feel anxious about going to the dentist?
Tips to managing your dental visit anxiety
- Naming the fear is often one of the best first steps as well as trying not to hide from it. Let the centre know when you book your appointment that you are feeling worried. Remember, they genuinely want to help you.
- If possible, ask the centre to make an appointment for a quieter time. Avoid sitting for long periods in the waiting room. Ask the receptionist to let you know if your appointment is likely to be delayed, which will help you to manage your anxiety while waiting.
- Speak to your dentist and be up front about how you’re feeling. Being open could be helpful in identifying your individual triggers and working out a treatment plan you’re comfortable with. Organise a stop or pause signal with your dentist for use during treatment so they know when you need a break.
- It may help to make your first appointment a simple ‘get to know you’ meeting with your dentist, which doesn’t involve an examination. This will help to build trust and allow you to highlight any areas of concern.
- If you’ve had a bad dental experience in the past which is the source of your anxiety, let your dentist know. Open up ways of communicating with your dentist where you feel comfortable and transparent. Practice before your appointment so you feel confident doing these.
- Talk to your dentist about sedation options which may be available for you. These can be useful when other distraction and relaxation strategies are not effective. Bring some relaxation music or guided meditation and listen through your headphones while you wait for your appointment. Deep breathing, distraction and guided imagery can all be helpful.1
- Make your next appointment before you leave the surgery or book an appointment online. Plan this for a time not too far into the future so you can build on the skills you’ve already developed.
- Plan for something fun and enjoyable after your appointment and bring someone you trust with you to the appointment. Reward yourself for facing your anxiety.
Remember – regular dental checks can help to identify problems in the early stages. Delaying appointments and treatment often leads to more extensive dental problems.