Dental anxiety and dental phobia are quite common afflictions, affecting many people and preventing them from seeking regular dental care.
Dental phobia is an intense, unreasonable and paralysing fear of seeking dental care, so much so that a dental phobic person will often delay regular dental care for years, putting up with severe pain, gum infections and broken or unsightly teeth.
Dental phobias and fear of the dentist can arise for many different reasons. This can be due to:
- Previous negative or painful experiences
- Feelings of loss of control and a fear of the unknown when it comes to dental treatment
- Embarrassment, particularly if self-conscious of how a person’s teeth look or due to fear of criticism of their dental neglect
- Negative anecdotes of dental experiences told by family and friends
What should I do about dental phobia?
Find the right dentist
The most important thing for a dental phobic is to find a dentist with whom you are comfortable enough to express your concerns and develop a trusting relationship. Find a dentist who puts you at ease and is willing to work with you through your anxiety or phobia. By letting the dentist know why the dental experience is difficult for you, you should feel more in control during your appointments.
Education and explanation
Educate yourself about dental care and procedures and make sure to ask for explanations and clarification of any procedures you might need. You always have the right to fully understand what work is being carried out on your teeth so that you have input into treatment choices.
Talk to your dentist about your phobia or anxiety and be honest about what you think you can handle. Develop a signalling system for the clinician to stop if you need a break or are uncomfortable, so that you gain a sense of control of the situation.
Once you feel you have established trust and your fear of the dentist is under control, you can engage in various distraction techniques such as listening to music through headphones or watching TV during appointments. Core Dental practices offer all of these techniques.
Pain control and additional medication
Remember that modern dentistry has greatly improved and offers many options to help with your dental anxiety and make you feel comfortable during procedures, including topical gels and new techniques in the administration of local anaesthesia.
You can consider additional measures such as oral anti-anxiety medication, which can help you deal with your dental phobia by relaxing you and making you feel more comfortable – particularly during longer dental procedures.
Nitrous oxide, otherwise known as ‘laughing gas’, can also help to relieve anxiety and stress, as well as providing effective pain relief.
For severe dental phobics who feel they are unable to cope with dental treatment, IV sedation is an option that allows dental procedures to be completed while you are in a highly relaxed, sleep-like state through the intravenous administration of sedative medication. This is often referred to as ‘sleep dentistry’ or ‘twilight dentistry’.
We understand that a fear of the dentist can lead to emotional stress that makes dental visits more uncomfortable than they need to be.
Our dentists can help to work through your anxiety by offering a variety of measures to help put you at ease during your dental appointments.
Dr Kristina Cakarovski
Principal Dentist – Wyndham
BBiomed (Hons) (Melb), BDent (Hons) (Syd)