Dental anxiety

bad breathMany people are apprehensive about visiting the dentist. This is known as dental anxiety.

Memories of bad dental experiences in the past, “white coat” syndrome, childhood visits to the “murder house”, or even just embarrassment can make people feel anxious about seeing a dentist. Unfortunately if this delays or even stops them for going then problems can become quite complicated and expensive. The old saying of “a stitch in time” holds true.

I’ve found that the most important way we as dentists can help is by creating a relaxing, friendly environment and by developing good trust and rapport.

Some people find it helpful to know step by step what will be done during their appointment; others prefer to be oblivious and turn up the volume on our headphones and watch the TV on the ceiling.

Sometimes bringing a friend or partner can help. Typically though, just a calm, gentle approach is all that is needed.

More severe stress and anxiety can be managed by prescribing calming medications. Advances such as micro abrasion and dental lasers mean that some procedures don’t even need the “needle”. It’s also very helpful to find a dentist that you feel comfortable with and confident in their abilities. The better the rapport and greater the trust, the easier it is to relax.

I find that it’s also best to help patients overcome their fears even if only a little at a time. One nice fellow I remember used to hyperventilate and shake even when we were just looking at a check up. Overtime he used to fall asleep within 10 minutes in the chair every time.

While you may not always look forward to a dental visit with huge enthusiasm, it can become stress free for anyone. Talk to a dentist you are very comfortable with, share any concerns you have and work together with them to get the best from their team.