Overcoming Dental Anxiety
Are you a little apprehensive about visiting a dentist? Perhaps you find it difficult to pluck up the courage to make an appointment, or do you leave it until you feel discomfort, possibly even pain? If so you are not alone. It is quite common to feel at least a little bit of apprehension about visiting a dentist, and an estimated three quarters of the population feel slightly anxious about visiting their dental surgery.
However 10-15% of the population feel such anxiety over dental visits they actively avoid seeking treatment, and would rather put up with infections and toothache than seek help. The problem is that dental fear can negatively impact far more than just the mouth. People in poor dental health can feel embarrassment about the way their teeth look, and may actively avoid social situations, especially those that include eating. Being in dental pain can mean limiting a diet to soft foods that are easy to eat, making it more difficult to achieve balanced nutrition. The link between oral health and general health is well-known, and poor dental health has been linked to numerous serious health issues. The reasons for overcoming dental fears are compelling.
Why are People Afraid of Visiting the Dentist?
Fear of dental visits is a learned behaviour. It is something that can be passed on from parent to child; imagine a small child seeing the parent they think is invincible being afraid of visiting the dentist. It can also be due to previous bad experiences in the dental chair. Sometimes this fear can result from a feeling of not being in control while in the dental chair, of being unable to speak up, or not really knowing what is happening. One negative experience can create feelings of anxiety and fear that can build over subsequent visits, eventually leading to an avoidance of dental care.
If you have a deep seated fear of the dentist you may have been told you are being irrational, but dental anxiety can be so deeply seated it is subconscious and is not something you can easily control. If you have a deep seated fear of the dentist you may have been told you are being irrational, but dental anxiety can be so deeply seated it is subconscious and is not something you can easily control. This is what is called an 'automatic fear response'. Some people might experience it as a sick feeling in the pit of their stomach when they think about dental care, while others may literally break out into a cold sweat. People may think they are being helpful by putting forward logical reasons not to be afraid of the dentist, but this can make things even worse. You begin to imagine there must be something must be wrong with you if you cannot conquer your fear.
Having dental anxiety doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you, it is simply a subconscious response, but you don't have to put up with feeling this way. It is possible to break this pattern of negative reinforcement and fear, and to replace it with new, more positive experiences. We'd love to help you find the way back to great oral health, and to put the sparkle back into your smile.
Reducing Dental Fear and Anxiety
Even people who suffer extreme anxiety and fear at the prospect of visiting the dentist can learn to overcome these feelings, so they feel safe and in control while receiving dental care. The concept of overcoming dental fear is really quite straightforward, and a major part is simply replacing negative experiences and feelings with good experiences. The more often you are able to have a positive experience at our dental surgery, the more comfortable you should feel.
Practical Steps at a Pace You're Comfortable With
The first step to overcoming dental fears is to make an appointment to simply talk to a member of our dental team at Sparkle, Perth. We know this can be a huge first step for many people, and we'll take the time to discuss your dental fears with you, to listen to your concerns, and understand how you feel. We don't judge anyone, as we simply want to help you conquer your anxiety.
We won't discuss any dental procedures or treatments with you until you are confident we understand your feelings, and until you know we are committed to working with you to overcome your fears. Our approach to reducing fear and anxiety will differ from patient to patient, as obviously everybody has different needs. One of the things we find most helpful is reassuring a patient they are in control at all times. This means working with you at a pace you are comfortable with, ensuring every visit to our dental surgery is positive. We won't ush you into any procedure you don't feel comfortable with.
When you feel comfortable enough to let us examine your mouth, then we'll work out a treatment plan with you, and can plan appointments at a pace you are happy with. You are in control the whole time. This control will also extend to while you are in the dental chair, especially if you have been given just a local anaesthetic, or are only lightly sedated and more aware of what is happening.
You'll be free to stop the treatment at any stage, through using a prearranged signal, such as raising your hand. We can schedule lots of breaks, and will check up on you at frequent intervals. Some people feel happier using an MP3 player to help them relax during treatment, while others prefer to know exactly what is going on; the choice is yours to make. Our aim is to help you achieve good oral health, and to be able to maintain dental health without suffering excessive anxiety in an environment you feel comfortable in.
A Little Extra Help with Sedation Dentistry
While some patients may feel they can cope with just a local anaesthetic, we recognise this isn't sufficient for everyone with dental fears. When the time comes to have dental treatment, then sedation dentistry can help tremendously. It can allow people who would otherwise be unable to face any sort of treatment, to receive much needed dental care more quickly than would otherwise be possible.
We have three different options which are nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, intravenous sedation or a general anaesthetic. Sparkle has a specially trained sedation dentistry team, and you will be general anaesthetic. Sparkle has a specially trained sedation dentistry team, and you will be continuously monitored during the whole process. We'll discuss all three options with you during your initial consultation, before selecting the method you will be most comfortable with.
If you would like to know more about how we can help you overcome your dental fears, or are interested in learning more about sedation dentistry, then please contact Sparkle Dental during office hours or submit an enquiry online.
In this video Dr Alex discussed dental phobia and sedation dentistry: