Dental fear is one of the most common reasons people avoid seeing the dentist. It stops many of us seeking help from a dentist when we need it.
The good news is that you aren’t alone if you find visiting the dentist causes fear or anxiety. According to research from The Oral Health Foundation, nearly 22% of the UK population finds a visit to the dentist anxiety inducing. At the same time research found that one in 7 Britons suffers from extreme dental anxiety. Extreme dental anxiety is anxiety so strong that it prevents people from seeking dental treatment.
With dental anxiety and dental phobia so common a lot of techniques and treatments have been developed to help patients overcome their anxiety. Here we will guide you through some of the most helpful techniques you can use.
For mild dental anxiety talking with a dentist prior to and during any treatment can help put you at ease. Dentists have no desire to cause pain or anxiety in their patients and if you make them aware of your difficulties they can help alleviate them. This can be done by allowing you to have breaks during your appointment and by guiding you through each step of your examination or treatment. Our dentists are all happy to talk to you and try to keep you relaxed - you can find your nearest surgery here.
Controlled breathing helps the body relax and focuses the mind away from physical or mental discomfort. The easiest technique is to inhale through the nose for a slow count of three. Then exhale through the nose for a slow count of three. The counting and the slow, controlled breathing will help your body to relax during your treatment.
Body Relaxation Techniques
Exercise helps the body to relax by releasing endorphins. It also relaxes your muscles removing tension. We wouldn’t recommend heading straight from the gym to your dental appointment but if you finish exercising half an hour before your appointment your body will be at its most relaxed. Even a gentle walk for 20 minutes before your appointment will help you to relax.
Distraction techniques work in a similar way to breathing techniques and can be used in conjunction. Distraction techniques include having someone talking to you throughout your treatment, listening to music or simply concentrating your thoughts on other things – whether it is counting sheep or writing a shopping list. These techniques help your brain focus elsewhere. If you listen to music make sure it is something nice and relaxing.
Dental anxiety is common enough that there are professional therapists who specialise in curing dental anxiety throughout the country. However, it is not necessary to see a specialist as any NHS recommend therapist can help treat anxiety and phobia. Consult your GP to discuss therapy options. Alternatively there are a number of online support networks like Dental Fear Central forum http://www.dentalfearcentral.org/forum/.
In extreme cases of dental phobia, and if these techniques don’t help alleviate your fear and anxiety, you can opt for sedation so that important oral treatments and surgeries can be completed. Oral sedation is a tablet usually taken one hour before treatment. It will make you drowsy and will help take the edge of any treatments received. Intravenous sedation is like an injection, usually administered by a dedicated anaesthetist, and has a much deeper calming effect. You will be awake but not very aware of what's going on around you. This solution is only recommended in extreme cases and you should explore other alternatives first.