Help I Hate the Dentist: How to Beat Dental Fear
Sleep Dentistry

Help I Hate the Dentist: How to Beat Dental Fear

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Dental anxiety and fear are common, but they don't have to stop you from receiving the care you need. Find out more with EVP Dental in East Victoria Park.

2 minute read

If you feel nervous or scared about visiting the dentist, you're not alone. According to research by the University of Adelaide, as many as 16% of adults and 10% of children in Australia experience dental anxiety.

Dental anxiety can usually be managed, but more severe dental fear can lead to people avoiding their dental check-ups and treatments altogether. This can lead to poor oral health and can make it more likely that you will need more complex and costly treatments later.

There can be many reasons for dental anxiety, which may be linked to specific experiences in the past or other concerns related to dentistry, such as a fear of needles, sounds or close contact. Understanding your dental anxiety can help you manage and even overcome your fear so you don't miss out on the care you need.

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Watch as EVP Dental's Dr Darren Cai explains his 7 tips to overcome dental fear:

 

Communication

Communication strategies to beat dental fear.jpg

Most dentists and hygienists are experienced with treating anxious patients and are usually sympathetic to how you feel. Discussing your fear with your dentist before your appointment allows them to make any preparations needed to help you feel more comfortable.

This may involve:

  • Asking your clinician any questions
  • Explaining the stages of your treatment to avoid uncertainty
  • Avoiding certain triggers if alternatives are available (booking a quiet time, or an early appointment to avoid anticipation)
  • Arranging a non-verbal signal (such as a raised hand) for when you want to take a break

 

Distraction techniques

Distraction strategies to beat dental fear

Most dental clinics offer a choice of entertainment options, such as TV, movies, music, pillows and a blanket to make use of during your appointment. These may help to calm your nerves by taking your mind off your treatment.

You may also find it helpful to occupy your hands with a stress ball or to bring someone along to your appointment for support. If you have questins about bringing along a friend for support, call us for more information.

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Relaxation exercises

Relaxation exercises to beat dental fear

Your dentist or other health professional may recommend relaxation techniques that can be practised at home before your appointment. Some simple but effective exercises include:

 

Diaphragmatic breathing

This relaxation exercise involves deep breathing using your diaphragm rather than your chest.

 

  • Sitting or lying down, place one hand on your chest and one over your diaphragm, just below your ribs.
  • Calmly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. If done correctly, the hand over your diaphragm should rise and fall while the one on your chest remains still.
  • Continue breathing like this for 5 to 10 minutes or as long as needed to feel calm.

 

Progressive muscle relaxation

This exercise involves tensing and relaxing different muscles in your body in turn. Tension should be held for around 15 seconds before slowly relaxing, working from your head down to your feet.

Areas to focus on include:

  • Forehead
  • Jaw muscles
  • Shoulders
  • Arms
  • Hands
  • Buttocks
  • Thighs
  • Calves
  • Feet

 

Sleep dentistry

Inhalation sedation (happy gas)

If you’ve tried the above techniques to help calm your anxiety and find that it’s not working for you, your dentist can explain sedation options to help you reach the comfort levels you need to feel calm. These could include:

  • Numbing gel (a needle-free alternative to local anaesthesia)
  • Oral sedation taken at the dental clinic before your appointment
  • Inhalation sedation ('happy gas') administered through a face mask
  • Intravenous (IV) sedation administered intravenously
  • General anaesthesia at Southbank Day Surgery

IV sedation is also known as sleep dentistry. This is where you sleep through the duration of your treatment until completion and then your anaesthetist slowly wakes you up. This is a common sedation option for surgical treatments like wisdom tooth removal or dental implant surgery, however sleep dentistry is also commonly used for treating anxious patients. Your dentist will explain what each sedation option involves and any side effects so you know what to expect and can decide what’s right for you.

For more information, read our 3-minute blog on Sleep Dentistry Options for Nervous Patients

Breaking the cycle of fear

Dental fear and pain are interrelated. High dental fear or anxiety can discourage you from attending routine check-ups that can help to keep your oral health on track. When you delay or avoid routine dental care, it may lead to your oral health declining, causing pain and the perceived need for more complex treatment.

Seeking out dental care when you’re experiencing a heightened sense of pain and anxiety can create a vicious cycle of fear. Any negative experience you have when you finally seek treatment, can reinforce feelings of guilt and shame for neglecting the problem, and confirm the fear that stopped you from seeking treatment in the first place.

The only way to break the cycle of dental fear, is to talk it through with a dentist you trust. You’ll often find the hardest step is booking an appointment, our team is ready to support you at each step from there on.

Break the cycle of dental fear

 

Talk to a dentist in East Victoria Park

If you’re ready to see a dentist, our team at EVP Dental are sympathetic to dental anxiety and will do everything we can to help you reach the comfort level you need to feel confident about your appointment. To find out more or to speak to one of our friendly receptionists in East Vic Park, call us now on (08) 9470 3944.

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References

  1. https://www.adelaide.edu.au/arcpoh/dperu/special/dfa/