There aren’t many people (if any) who actually enjoy going to the dentist – but at least one in 10 are absolutely terrified of the experience.
These people suffer from extreme dental anxiety – which is more common in women than men – and the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) says they’re often particularly frightened of having a tooth drilled (30%) or a local anaesthetic injection (28%).
But the BDHF stresses that you’re not born with a fear of the dentist, you develop it –
which means you can overcome it.
Here are 10 ways to deal with your dental fears:
1. Find an understanding cosmetic dentist. Ask friends and family if they can recommend one or look for someone who advertises themselves as an expert with anxious patients. You can search for your local dentists on the NHS’s online directory.
2. Relaxation methods including breathing techniques, muscle relaxation, self-hypnosis and visualisation can help.
3. Taking a friend and listening to music might help you relax.
4. Tell your dentist about your fears, and before treatment begins, agree a signal with him/her that means ‘stop’ in case you need a break.
5. The dental wand (a computer-driven injection system) is great for anyone with a needle phobia. A numbing gel can also be used to numb your gums before an injection.
6. If you’re extremely nervous, ask your dentist to refer you to an NHS sedation clinic. Some people find inhalation sedation helpful, but truly terrified patients may prefer intravenous sedation (through an injection), which won’t knock you out – you’ll be awake and able to talk – but will deeply calm and relax you.
7. Take a squashy object to hold and squeeze during treatment.
8. Concentrate on the external sounds in the dental surgery and things like the weight of your body on the chair, the texture of the armrest, etc. The idea is to focus outwardly to help you relax.
9. Ask the dentist to leave the chair upright if possible – some people feel more vulnerable lying down, which can increase anxiety.
Image by Flickr user Holly Lay used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.