Does the thought of visiting a dentist make you feel sick? According to the University of Adelaide, one in six Australian adults and one in 10 children have an inherent fear of the dentist. Common fears relate to:
- the expectation of pain or discomfort during treatment
- feeling ashamed of current oral health routine
- lack of control during a procedure or not knowing what the procedure involves.
Many of these fears are understandable but, according to The Australian Dental Association, fear turns to phobia when patients experience excessive or unreasonable distress. This can interfere with your social role or functioning and may lead to avoidance of almost any dental treatment, no matter how simple or painless.
Regardless of fear or phobia, prolonging a visit to the dentist could mean underlying dental problems such as cavities and gum disease could worsen over time. And, if poor dental health persists, you may need more extensive treatment when the fateful visit to the dentist arrives. So how do you break the cycle, identify, and manage your fear?
Know the signs
Symptoms of dental fear or anxiety include:
- increased body temperature and excessive sweating
- heightened heart rate or heart palpitations
- visible stress such as fidgeting, shaking, startled reactions or pacing
- talking quickly, loudly or losing breath whilst trying to hold conversations.
Overcome your fear of the dentist
Luckily, there are several ways that you can better manage your anxiety around the dentist.
Get involved and take control
You might find that your fear of the dentist derives from fear of the unknown. Before you recline in the dentist’s chair, ask them about the treatment. For example, ‘what are the steps of the procedure that I should be aware of?’ or ‘what instruments will you be using?’, ‘how long does the treatment usually take?’. This will help you feel more in control because you’ll become familiar with the treatment that you’re having. Talk to your dentist about non-verbal cues like a raise of the hand to keep you in control of the pain or discomfort and stop treatment for breaks when you need them.
Often, it’s the noise of the dentist’s tools that sets our senses into overdrive. Evidence shows that listening to music or your favourite podcast may cause distraction from treatment. Take a pair of headphones to your next appointment to distract your mind from focusing on your dental treatment. Combined with paced breathing techniques or meditation to calm the nerves, you may find these distractions can allow you to overcome the fear of the procedure.
Experiment with hypnosis
Research has found that experiencing an altered level of consciousness, similar to that of daydreaming, can focus concentration away from the dental procedure taking place. However, not all patients find hypnosis successful due to attitudes or willingness to be placed in a hypnotic state.
Try twilight sedation
If your fear has become a phobia and a coping mechanism doesn’t ease your concerns, try twilight sedation. Otherwise known as conscious sedation, twilight sedation is a combination of a sedative to help you relax and an anaesthetic to ease the pain. The level of sedation, either minimal, moderate or deep, will depend on the type of treatment you require, your age and your medical history. Whilst the effect of any type of twilight sedation won’t render you unconscious during your procedure, the most common sensations experienced are drowsiness, relaxation, and complete relief from stress.
Talk to Gosford Family Dentist
Whilst avoiding the dentist may seem like a good short-term solution, don’t let fear compromise your oral health in the long-term. Contact our team at Gosford Family Dentist – our dentists take the time to understand your concerns and take the appropriate measures to provide a stress-free environment for your visit. With the option to consult with a Principal Sedationist, you may find twilight sedation is the answer to achieving your peak oral health. Enquire here.