If you ever get nervous just thinking about going to the dentist, you are not alone. Perhaps you are scared that the visit might hurt or unsure about what the dentist could find.
The more you procrastinate, the higher your risk of developing dental problems. Visiting your dentist regularly can actually make the entire process easier on many levels.
Richa Vats, a doctor and Geriatric Dentist shares how to deal with dental anxiety and overcome any fears:
Dental anxiety is just like any other anxiety: Choose your dentist wisely. Choose a dentist who will listen and acknowledge your fears if they can’t be empathetic when you are talking to them, it’s likely they won’t be during the treatment either. The right dental team will make sure your dental and your emotional health are taken care of.
Fear of needles: The fear of needles isn’t just restricted to dental patients make sure you talk about this to your dentist before the appointment. There are effective numbing gels that are given before injections. This means you won’t feel anything.
The drill: This instrument may sound and look scary. But it only dispenses air, water and rotates the drilling bur. When sufficiently numbed you won’t feel any pain at all. Just some vibration is felt. If the sound troubles you keep your earphones handy and listen to your favourite song
Pain: If you had a bad experience previously you may be afraid of it happening again. This can be managed by learning ways to relax, deep breathing techniques, a dentist you are comfortable with and numbing gels.
Embarrassment about bad teeth: You don’t have to be conscious of your teeth, we have seen worse. We as dentists won’t ever judge you by your tooth health. That’s the reason you are here to visit us. Keep a consultation appointment before your procedure so that you can talk to your dentist about your fears and they can make you more comfortable during the procedure.
Sedation fears: These fears can be categorised into two categories: Some feel they will not be numb enough and they will be in pain. While others fear being numb will cause them to doze off or suffocate, choke or unable to swallow. It is important to realise that the tooth in concern is the one that is being anaesthetized. Sometimes your cheek tongue may feel swollen when numbed but it won’t be. Also, anaesthesia makes you lose the sensation in these areas but not the function.
Now let’s talk about how can we help you overcome your dental fears and anxiety. Identify your fears. Once you know what exactly you are fearful about you can start working towards the solution.
Talk: You will have to speak about your dental anxiety and what caused it. It could be a past traumatic procedure with you or someone known to you, or it could be your fear of the unknown. Your dentist and the dental team would be able to cater to your needs in a better way if they know about your anxiety. You can plan your appointment in the morning when you are relaxed. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask your dentist to explain the entire procedure to you beforehand. If you experience pain even with the local anaesthetics, be vocal about it. Don’t be shy to interrupt the dentist via a signal during the procedure if you are uncomfortable.
Distract yourself: This is an effective method to reduce dental anxiety. You can wear headphones if the sound of the drill bothers you and hear your favourite music. You can also squeeze a stress ball or play with a small handheld object like a fidget spinner while you are being operated upon. Mentally you can try imagining your happy place and visualise yourself at a relaxing beach or a garden etc.
Mindful techniques: Relaxation starts in the mind so try deep breathing exercises to help relax tension in your muscles. You can also take short breaks in between the procedure. Count your breaths slowly and then exhale for the same number of counts. Concentrate on relaxing your muscles one body part at a time starting with your head and work all the down to your toe.
Take someone with you: Some patients find it comforting to take a friend along.
Ask for the perception of pain: Your dentist can tell you about the sensations you might experience, for instance, a tingle or a mosquito bite.
Seek professional help: The best course of action is to deal with the root cause of your fear and unless you do this you will always fear trips to the dentist. These fears and anxieties may affect your quality of life if they are left untreated and may prevent you from having important treatment or visiting the dentist at all.