Abacus Dental Care, 52 Lennon Drive, Milton Keynes, MK8 0AS

How can you overcome your dental fears?

Many people with dental phobia have held these fears since they were children, dating back to an unpleasant episode they had with a dentist in the past. Perhaps they had a tooth filled and the local anaesthetic hadn’t quite kicked in before the dentist started drilling or working, leading to a painful experience or maybe a dental hygienist accidently caught the soft tissues with their ultrasonic scaler while cleaning the teeth causing pain and discomfort. It’s easy to see why someone would be unwilling to return to the dentist after a negative experience like this. Patients develop a fear that those traumatic events will happen again so many patients choose to avoid having to go to the dentist altogether rather than to face those fears.

For many other people, an anxiety disorder that’s not even dental related may be causing their dental phobia. These patients may feel anxious about anything unknown and not knowing what to expect at their dental practice such as whether they will have cavities or may need to have a root canal which can increase those feelings of nervousness.

Some patients feel vulnerable when they are sitting in the dentist chair. They don’t like lying back and not being able to see what is going on around them. This is especially true of those who may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, as they worry about the unknown when they do not have complete control of a situation.

Sadly, a dental phobia can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. People who are scared of the dentist may be fearful of going because they worry they have cavities that will need to be drilled. However, as a result from now going to the dentist, the chances of them having a cavity or other dental complications increases. This fear ensures that when an individual finally makes it to the dentist, they will need serious treatment, which may upset them and cause them to avoid the dentist again in the future.

An interesting fact uncovered by a Norwegian researcher shows that humans have a deep desire to protect their open air passages, such as mouths and noses. The desire is an evolutionary instinct and our ancestors who protected their mouths and noses were more likely to remain alive. While we no longer face threats from the mammals that may have hunted our ancestors down, we still maintain that primal desire to protect our mouths and noses. That means our natural instinct is to resist opening our mouths in order to not become vulnerable to another person, we are biologically built to guard these areas and keep them private.

How can I overcome my dental fears?

The first step to dealing with any phobia is to acknowledge the issue. You may have been avoiding the dentist for years, or you may have only recently begun to feel uncomfortable. No matter how long you have suffered from dental phobia, you need to admit to yourself that you are scared to visit the dentist.
Try and find the cause for your anxiety. Figure out why you are feeling this way. It could be one of the reasons listed above, or it could be something more or less complex. You can’t confront your fear until you figure out what’s causing it.

Ask yourself, Do I need help? If you feel nervous and anxious about going to the dentist, you can probably overcome that on your own, with the tips below. But if your phobia is being caused by a deeper issue, such as PTSD, then you may need professional assistance.
You need to commit to overcoming your fear of dentists. It’s time to take action so that you can improve your oral health, it’s hard to achieve anything until you have a plan, and we have a lot of ideas to help you.

Here are some ways that we advise our patients to do here at Abacus Dental Care to make visiting the dentist more comfortable and perhaps even pleasant, easing the fears you have battled in the past.

Meet Your Dentist Before Getting Treated: It may be that you only know your dentist as the person behind the mask who peeks at your teeth every six months. Getting to know the person behind the mask can build a professional trusting relationship and can really help to put your mind at ease. This could be as simple as setting up a time to come in and talk for 10 minutes, asking any questions you might have about the practice or the policies.

Be Upfront About Your Dental Phobia – At Abacus Dental Care, we know people can be scared of coming to the dentist, and we want to help. We won’t judge you or dismiss your fears. We’ll work with you to help you feel more relaxed. This may include: talking to you during a cleaning, letting you see the dental instruments before they are used — you may even want to touch or hold them to help them feel familiar and explaining everything that will happen during your appointment before starting. When our hygienist or dentist knows your fears, they can be sure to take those fears into consideration during your appointment.

Bring a Family Member or Friend With You: Most adults go to dentist appointments alone. However, bringing along a friend or family member who understands your fears can be reassuring. They can help you stay calm during your appointment because even just knowing they are nearby can provide the comfort you need.

Ask About Modifications: Not every dental procedure must be the same for each person. Some patients have a sensitive gag reflex that makes them dread getting X-rays. Talk to your dentist about your concerns. Perhaps you can get panoramic X-rays instead, which are less likely to make you gag.

Use Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Many people’s dental anxiety increases significantly as soon as they hear the drill. By using noise-cancelling headphones, you can block out the often loud instruments, helping you to relax while the dentist does their work.

Talk About Your Pain Management Options: If you’re trying to overcome a fear of dentists, you may simply be scared of feeling pain during your visit. Chat with your dentist and hygienist about your fears so they understand where your anxiety is coming from. Solutions to this issue might include using a topical anaesthetic to numb the area where an injection will be made which we use as standard practice for all local anaesthetic procedures here at Abacus Dental Care.

Stay Halfway up in the Chair: If you worry about the discomfort or vulnerability of going all the way back in the dentist’s chair, this problem can be addressed in two main ways. First, you could try using pillows under the areas where you feel aches when going back in the chair. Secondly, the dentist can make an accommodation for you by putting the chair only halfway back during the checkup.

You’ve made it to the dentist once for your first appointment in a long time, the appointment was hard but you overcame your dental phobia. Here are some ways you can make the subsequent visits less scary.

Bring Earbuds as music can help relax you and allow you to zone out while your teeth are being cleaned. Use your phone or iPod to listen to your favourite tunes while the dentist works.

Meditation can calm your nerves by slowing your heart rate and forcing you to get into a rhythmic breathing. Try practising at home for a few weeks before your appointment, so you know how to Zen out when needed.

If you breathe through your mouth, you may have difficulty breathing during a dental appointment because you are not used to taking in air through your nose. By using a nasal strip across your nose, you open up the passages and get more air in. There’s a placebo effect, too — even if the strip doesn’t actually help your breathing, you’ll feel better having it there.

Use whatever means necessary to keep your mind off of what’s being done in your mouth, such as: counting to one thousand by threes, replaying a movie in your head, trying to remember something you have memorised or silently reciting the alphabet backwards, any of these techniques can help you to reduce your dental anxiety.

Before the drill comes out or the cleaning begins, talk to your dentist or hygienist about a nonverbal signal you can give if you become panicked or uncomfortable. When they see this signal, they can stop and give you a few moments to recover before continuing.

By using these tips and planning ahead for your visit, you can alleviate many of the dentist-related fears that may have been holding you back from getting regular dental care.

Dr Sukal Verma

BDS, MJDF RCS (Eng), PG Dip (Implant Dentistry)

If you would like to know more about dental treatment without anxiety in Milton Keynes then please call Abacus Dental Care on 01908 260757 to arrange your dental appointment with one of our dentists.

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