It’s fairly normal to be apprehensive before undergoing any dental procedure. It could be treatment, surgery, implant placement or even a regular check up. What is more worrisome is if you become so anxious that your oral health is also affected and you begin to dread any dentist’s appointment. It means that you either have dental phobia, dental fear or dental anxiety.
A recent survey showed that in America alone, almost 10% of the population are scared of visiting the dentist. Staggeringly, only 20% seek dental care when they have no choice, which is all because of their anxiety. However, it’s important to note that there are some factors, experiences or events that trigger these emotions.
Embarrassment is one such factor. There are patients who are either shy or feel awkward having someone look into their mouth. They feel uncomfortable and this is likely to make them stay away from dental care entirely. Others are scared of pain – perhaps as they have little threshold for what comes with having their teeth pulled out or enduring the aftermath of surgery.
There are those who may have had a bad experience and never want to visit a dentist again. There are cases where past treatments might have caused them unbearable pain or further complications. It makes them dread dental care altogether. There’s a fraction of people who feel overwhelmed being in the care of another person. They probably just don’t want anyone ‘invading their space’, as it makes them feel vulnerable or trapped.
Whatever group you fall under, here are five secrets to help you manage the anxiety that comes with undergoing dental procedure.
Accept that you’re actually anxious
Before you can make any headway, you need to accept that you’re anxious. Recognising how you feel helps address the situation properly. Think about what you’re scared of and write it down. You can easily discuss this with a close friend or your dentist. It will even assist them in figuring out the exact causes of those fears that lead to anxiety and offer you ways to deal with it.
Choose a dentist and a health care centre you’re comfortable with
If you’re in the category of people who are embarrassed or vulnerable, it’s advisable that you only visit a dentist you’re comfortable with. One of the best ways to find the right place and personnel is by asking for recommendations. Talk to family and friends, then you can determine which dentist can handle anxious patients. You could also look on the internet to see if you can locate one close to you.
When you have shortlisted three to five dentists, give them a call or pay them a visit before the day you would prefer to undergo any examination or treatment. Observe how they react to your questions, their staff and other patients. Are they friendly or just not interested? If they sound very receptive, then you can book an appointment for real.
You also need to know if you’re comfortable with the environment where the dental clinic is located. If you’re a shy person, you wouldn’t want to be in an open space, where there are a lot of people who you fell might be prying into your personal business.
Their choice of words is also important. Any dentist that tells you “Don’t worry about the anxiety, you’ll be fine” probably doesn’t intend to do anything about how you feel. Look out for those who can provide assurance and proffer ways to help calm you down.
Keep in mind that you have to be open and honest with the dentist you decide on. Tell them exactly how you feel, as open communication will make it easy for them to relate to your feelings. This also helps them plan towards making any provisions to reduce your fear. If you want breaks in-between treatment or you even your favourite song playing in the background, they will more than likely arrange for that.
Go with someone you’re familiar with
If you’re a shy person, you might well have a problem with a ‘stranger’ examining your mouth. Perhaps you need to be accompanied by someone you know very well – a family member, your wife, boyfriend or best friend for example. This helps assure you that you’re not alone. However, make sure the person is someone who doesn’t share the same fear, phobia or anxiety as you.
Your friend will not only be a source of assurance, but also a distraction. Being distracted can help take your mind off any experience you might have had that is making you anxious. Your friend can tell you a story while you’re there or even massage your fingers during treatment. Find other sources of distraction as well, as it helps keep your mind at rest.
Talk to the dentist about sedatives
Sedatives are substances given to a patient to help them relax and stay calm during medical procedures. They range from Nitrous Oxide to local anesthetic. It could be administered orally or injected. You can learn more about sedation dentistry or find out from the dentist which of them is right for you.
Besides sedation, there are exercises that can help you relax when you’re undergoing a dental procedure. Breathing slowly and deeply has a way of relaxing the muscles and slowing down your heart beat. This in turn keeps you calm.
This is how it works: you can decide to see the treatment as some sort of milestone. Plan to buy yourself something fancy – a pair of shoes, a wrist watch, your favorite toy or anything of choice. Alternatively, take yourself out to a nice place (a restaurant for example) for a treat. These thoughts will help keep you calm during the entire process.
Finally, always remember that your oral hygiene is very important and visiting the dentist isn’t a bad thing to do. Just endeavour to reduce the anxiety you feel by following these simple tips.