Dental anxiety refers to the stress, fear and anxiety people may experience when going to the dentist. It can lead to avoiding regular checkups, holding off on necessary treatment or just not seeking dental health care in general or ever. Dental anxiety can affect anyone at any age, and is relatively common.
A Superior Smiles, we get it. We experience patients with fear and anxiety surrounding the dentist all the time. It’s common, it’s normal, it can be overcome and we are here to help. Here are a few things that we have found can ease an anxious mind at the dentist:
Meet Your Dentist Beforehand
For the most part, we only know our dentist as a person behind a mask who pokes around in our mouth once or twice a year (or let’s be honest, even less than that). But behind that mask is a person – a professional, knowledgeable and probably very understanding person.
Spending some time to meet your dentist face to face can truly put an anxious mind at ease. It can be as simple as using the first 10 minutes of your appointment, or setting up a short appointment to simply have a chat to ask questions, discuss your treatment and gather an understanding of what to expect on your official visit.
Be Upfront – Tell Your Dentist
At Superior Smiles, we know that some people struggle with fear and anxiety when it comes to visiting the dentist. We also know that we want to do everything that we possibly can to ease that fear and make your experience as pleasant as possible. All good dentists will be open taking some extra steps to make you feel more comfortable, these may include:
- Thoroughly explaining what is going to happen during the appointment before beginning
- Talking to you throughout the process
- Showing you the tools and instruments that are being used
- Establishing a signaling system, so you are in control of when they stop and start
- If the dentist understands how you’re feeling, they will be able to take those fears into consideration during your appointment. So be upfront, tell your dentist!
Bring a Friend or Family Member
As adults, it’s fairly common for us to go to our dentist appointments alone. But if you’re dealing with fear and anxiety, it can be helpful to bring along a close friend or family member who understands how you’re feeling. Having a familiar face around can be comforting in a situation that is stressful for you. At our practice we have a space for family members to stay in the treatment room to help ensure that you feel as comfortable as possible.
Some practices don’t have the space for companions in the procedure rooms and they may have to wait in the waiting area, so it’s worth double checking. But even if they can’t be right by your side, they’ll still be nearby and ready to provide the comfort you need.
Know Your Options
Dental visits don’t have to be a one size fits all situation. You have options to make things more suited to your personal needs, so talk to your dentist and know those options!
If your fears a more severe, here are a few things you may want to consider:
- General Anesthesia – sleep dental treatment
- Anxiety relief medications – oral anxiolytic tablets
- Conscious sedation – IV sedation
- Relative analgesia (happy gas)
- Penthrox Inhaler
- Another option we have at our clinic is the Penthrox inhaler. This is a green whistle that allows the patient to control the happy gas.
- Please note, not all clinics will have the facilities to offer these options. Some will need to be performed at a hospital.
Quick Tips to Make Your Next Dental Visit More Pleasant
Develop a plan
Go into your appointment as prepared as possible. Take some time to plan out how your appointment is going to go. Know what you are going to do leading up to, during and after your visit. A prepared mind is an at ease mind!
It’s worth researching and practicing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing and muscle relaxation. Practicing some meditation before your visit might be a helpful way to put you into a relaxed mindset in preparation.
A common point of anxiety for people at the dentist is not being able to breathe easily. With hands and tools in your mouth, we usually have to breathe with our nose – something we’re not all used to. Applying a nasal strip can help open up your nasal airways and make it feel that bit easier to breathe.
For some people, it’s better for them to not be thinking about what’s happening during their appointment. Something as simple as bringing along some earphones to listen to music, podcast or audio books can help distract your mind from racing. At Superior Smiles we have a TV on to play your favourite shows or music and to help ensure that you stay as comfortable and relaxed as possible.
At Superior Smiles we are here to help with any anxiety or fear you may be facing about going to the dentist. Contact us to find out more about the different options we offer.