Research from the British Dental Foundation has identified that around 20% of us fear visiting the dentist. Of those who don’t visit the dentist regularly 36% cite fear as their main reason for not going.
Unfortunately though, not visiting the dentist can cause significant oral health problems. If you don’t have regular dental check-ups you cannot identify problems in their early stages and you can turn simple, treatable ailments into life threatening problems.
Fear can be a powerful stimulator but we can overcome our dental phobias using a few, often very simple techniques. With that in mind here are some of the best techniques to use.
Talking to a dentist
The best place to start is to talk to a dentist or a dental practice. If you can’t face actually visiting a practice then try and arrange a phone consultation.
In the consultation try and discuss your fears and let the dentist know what they can do to help relax you. Things to discuss should include;
- What causes your fears
- Whether taking regular breaks would help
- Whether having steps in treatment carefully explained would help
- Whether you like to be talked to before and during treatment
All these options can help you feel more relaxed around a dentist. They are human too and really have no desire to scare you or cause you avoidable discomfort.
Using Distraction Techniques
Distraction techniques are designed to help your mind think of other things whilst you have treatment. There are a variety of great distraction techniques you might want to consider but we’d recommend any of the following
- Taking an mp3 player with you and listening to relaxing music
- Having a friend sit in with you to talk to you
- Asking the dental nurse to talk to you
- Counting in your head
Anything that might work for you is worth considering and anything that won’t interfere with your treatment is worth trying to help you relax and be distracted.
Using Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques are incredibly helpful if you want to ease your stress before and during treatment. There are a two options here that have been shown to help patients with dental anxiety.
Gentle exercise is very good at relaxing the body. We’d rather you didn’t enter a practice straight from a ten mile run but if you exercise and then shower just before your treatment your body will be at its most relaxed. Even gentle exercise has been shown to help you relax.
2. Breathing Exercises
Practicing controlled breathing acts as both a relaxation and distraction technique and is really helpful. Breathing through your mouth can be tricky during treatment so practice timed breathing through your nose. Three deep breaths in and out slowly is a great way to bring your heart rate down and to keep your mind occupied whilst you count the slow inhales and exhales.
Therapy and Support Groups
If these techniques don’t help you to overcome your dental fears then you may want to look to support groups and therapy to cure the underlying issues that cause your fear.
Online then are a wide number of support groups, such as the one at Dental Fear Central, where you can talk to other people with similar issues and find the support and techniques to help you.
If these don’t help then therapy might be the best course of action. You can seek treatment for dental phobia on the NHS and there are actually a number of specialist dealing with dental phobias as it is a common fear for many of us.
We wish you the best of luck overcoming your dental fears and hope this helps put you on the path to safe oral hygiene.
Dove Dental Care is a Derby dentist offering gentle and caring dentistry with a range of techniques, such as dental sedation to help with dental fear and anxiety
In this blog post we are going to look at how you can begin to overcome your fear of the dentist with a variety of strategies and techniques.
First of all, whenever you make that first call let the receptionist know that you are anxious, scared or frightened of the dentist. This is essential because we can then allocate the correct amount of time to you when you come to visit.
Do you have Dental Fear, Anxiety or a Phobia?
Dental anxiety is common to many people, after all, not everyone delights in visiting the dentist all of the time. For most people this anxiety can be managed by breathing techniques, relaxing and thinking about other things. For some people however, therapies such as sedation can help enormously and we will talk about these a little later in this blog post.
Here is a great technique for overcoming dental anxiety
We all have voices in our head that talk to us telling us things… ‘you’re no good’ ‘ you’re fat’ ‘ you’re scared of the dentist’… now you know the voice we mean, don’t you.
A key strategy on overcoming fear and relaxing at the dentist is to learn to control these voices, so try this exercise now… it may seem odd, but try it as it will work brilliantly for you.
1) Say in your mind something mean about yourself.
Not anything too mean, but something that is important to you and has meaning for you, something like “You are a failure’, “You’ll never be any good at anything’… you know, the kind of thing we were told as kids and we keep with us as adults.
2) Now take that voice and remove it from your head and imagine it on your shoulder, allow it to keep saying those mean things.
Notice how it seems to have less power now that it is out of your head and on your shoulder
3) Now hold you arm out straight in front of you, put your thumb up vertically, and imagine your voice coming from the tip of your thumb.
As you do this now, notice that even though the words are the same, the power of the voice is weaker.
4) Now give that voice on the tip of your thumb a comedic voice, something really funny and stupid. Allow it to say the same mean things, but allow that voice to say them from the tip of your thumb and in a comedic and funny voice.
Notice this time how the power is completely gone from that voice. Notice how YOU have controlled that voice to take away it’s power.
Now you have realised that YOU are in control of the nagging voice in your head, each time it mentions fear, then place it at the end of your thumb, give it a comedic funny voice and the power of that negative thought has gone.
Dental Fear is worse than anxiety and may not be able to be controlled using techniques like the one above. If you have dental fear then it is always worth mentioning this to the dentist when you attend the practice, most dental practices can adjust their protocols to help with things like:
- Allocating more time to your appointment.
- Appointment times when there were no other patients around.
- Simply sitting in the chair or even in the patient waiting area.
- A brief chat with the dentist in a relaxing room, with no dental equipment around.
If the dentist knows that you are afraid then they can offer you one or more of the above options. Please do not be concerned about telling us that you are afraid of the dentist, it is extremely common and all dentists are trained in dealing with patients which have this fear.
A dental phobia is completely different to fear or anxiety. Phobias become completely debilitating and affect your everyday life, completely preventing you from doing things that you would otherwise do.
>> Further advice on Phobias from the Phobics Society
Many people are anxious about flying and some even fearful and yet they are able to get on a plane and go to their destination, albeit they might be in a state when they get there!
A person with a phobia of flying would not be able to get onto the plane, even if the implications of not doing so are severe.
A phobia of the dentist is the same, even if you were in pain with a dental problem you would not be able to come to the dentist at all if you had a phobia. If this is the case with you then there are a variety of ways we can begin to overcome it, the first thing to do is to tell your dentist. Your dentist will treat you with the utmost respect and help you to slowly overcome your fear.
Techniques to help people with dental fears
IV (Intravenous) sedation
This is sometimes known as twilight station and requires a little injection and soft cannula placed within the vein at the back of the hands or around the front from the arm in the bend from the elbow, much like getting a blood sample taken. This can overcome most people’s moderate to severe anxiety as well as help many phobics.
>> Further information about IV sedation from the NHS
So what if you don’t like don’t like needles either?
Inhalation Sedation, otherwise known as relative analgesia or RA sedation is a technique whereby you breathe in happy gas to allow you to relax.
Happy gas is a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen and it brings about the state of relaxation and sedation. During treatment you will be fully conscious and be able to understand and respond to commands but will have a reduced sense of awareness, similar to being drunk!
How is inflation sedation administered?
You will be given small mask which is placed over your nose and asked to gently breathe in and out. The dentist will explain the procedure to you and the great thing about inflation sedation is that it wears off extremely quickly. So if you decide you don’t like the effects the mask can be removed and within a couple of minutes you will feel completely back to normal.
Because the mask is extremely small and place only over your nose the dentist can carry out the work they need to unhindered.
Hypnosis for overcoming dental phobia
If you think about it, you weren’t born afraid or phobic of the dentist, it is something you have learnt to do over the years. Which is great news, if you have learnt to do something then you can learn to do something else instead!
Hypnosis will help you to learn a new behaviour and provide you with techniques to enable you to relax prior to any treatment.
>> Apps for hypnosis to help overcome fear of the dentist
How does sedation or sleep dentistry work?
Many dental practices around the UK offer sleep or twilight sedation dentistry to help patients overcome anxiety. One thing you need to know is that you are not asleep, you will be in a state of complete relaxation, away in your own world and completely unconcerned about anything that is happening around you.
This is important as we may ask you to open and close your mouth or provide other requests during the treatment, having this type of IV sedation allows you to follow our requests easily and simply.
You will also have full or partial amnesia after the treatment, so during treatment you will not have care about what is going on and after treatment you won’t be able to remember! Patients find this a really easy way to have treatment as they have no recollection of what has happened. This is why some people call it sleep dentistry because it feels as though you have been asleep, even though you haven’t.
What to do if you would like to have dental sedation
Sedation is available for most of the treatments provided. Particularly dental implants and extensive restorative work is provided with dental sedation.
All you need to do is find a dentist offers sedation then let your dentist know that you would like this provided during your treatment.