Lots of us have experienced at least a little apprehension once or twice before heading to a dentist’s appointment. However, when dental anxiety becomes more serious, it can prevent you from seeking out treatment that is crucial to your dental and overall health.
According to Australian research, up to 19 percent of Australian adults are scared of going to the dentist.
The Australian Dental Association recommends regular dental visits for preventive care, which can help ensure that any potential problems are addressed before they become more serious.2 But for people with dental anxiety, having regular dental visits may be stressful, leading them to skip appointments altogether. You may even postpone a dental appointment when you’re experiencing pain or other symptoms of an oral health issue.
So, what are some signs of dental anxiety and what can we do to help you manage it?
Signs and symptoms
A more severe version of dental anxiety, dental phobia, represents a terror toward certain dental treatments or even just visiting a dentist.
Symptoms of dental phobia can include not being able to sleep before the appointment, intense feelings of fear while waiting in the lobby, experiencing nausea and crying before appointments, and being distressed by the idea of dental instruments in one’s mouth.
But where does extreme dental phobia come from? Sometimes, the phobia is derived from a fear of the pain that may occur during a dental treatment. This fear might be a result of a previous painful dental experience or from hearing stories of others’ bad experiences.
Treatment in adults
Depending on the severity and reasons behind the dental anxiety, there are a variety of methods that can be used to treat the issue. The first step is to have an open conversation with your dentist. For instance, our team frequently have conversations with people who are nervous, anxious, or outright terrified of getting dental treatment. Understanding that you have these fears are our first step toward being able to help!
If you’re feeling uncomfortable with a perceived lack of control, your dentist can provide methods to help you feel more in control. This could include your dentist periodically asking for permission to continue, explaining what is happening at every stage, and giving you the option to stop whenever you like. Sometimes we establish a system of gestures; for example, you might wave to your dentist when you’re ready for them to pause what they’re doing.
Other approaches can include bringing along a friend or family member, watching TV or listening to headphones during your treatment, trying relaxation therapies and even asking the dentist about sedation options.
At our clinics, we have experience in helping patients who experience dental anxiety. We can talk to you about what bothers you and come up with a plan for managing it.
Treatment in children
New, noisy, or confusing experience can all be frightening for some children, especially those who generally thrive on routine. Sometimes this means that a dental appointment is a very scary event! To allay these fears, parents and dentists can work together to provide the child with as much information possible about the procedure beforehand.
Relaxation techniques such as deep-breathing and even blowing bubbles with a wand can be useful for calming and distracting children from their fears. Distraction during the procedure can be very effective and can take the form of small toys, visualisation and even television or movies. Finally, small prizes can be given at the end of the appointment to reward children for their bravery and to associate the dentist with something positive.
To learn more, contact us today.
1 JM Armfield, AJ Spencer, and JF Stewart, Dental fear in Australia: who’s afraid of the dentist? (Australian Dental Journal, 2006), 6-7.
2 Australian Dental Association, Why is dental visiting important?