Does the idea of going to the dentist make you nervous? If so, you’re not alone.
A 2010 study discovered that nearly 16 per cent of Australians suffer from dental anxiety. About one in eight adults also cited dental anxiety or dislike of seeing the dentist as the primary reason for not seeking dental treatment or putting off a visit to the dentist.
Causes and Symptoms of Dental Anxiety
Dental anxiety is the fear or stress that a person experiences when visiting the dentist, even if that person knows there’s nothing to be anxious about. It can manifest itself in symptoms such as aggression, feelings of nervousness, racing heartbeat, low blood pressure and evening fainting. But what is it that causes so many of us to dislike the dentist’s office?
Some of the most common causes of dental anxiety are:
- Fear of pain. If you’ve had a past visit that was painful or scary, or have heard horror stories from friends or family about their dental visits, then you’re likely to be concerned with your upcoming visit.
- Fear of dental tools, especially needles. Few people love getting shots, especially in the mouth! Drills, needles and other dental tools can cause anxiety, especially if you’re not sure of their purpose.
- Embarrassment. Anxiety can also stem from embarrassment about the mouth, teeth and oral health, or even discomfort that is caused by close physical contact with the dentist.
- Feelings of helplessness. Some dental patients suffer from feelings of being trapped in the dental chair or clinic and are unable to relax during the experience.
- Mental health issues, such as depression. Other forms of anxiety or depression may make you more susceptible to dental anxiety.
It’s unsurprising that many people with dental anxiety don’t seek dental treatment unless they absolutely have to. However, oral hygiene is extremely important to your overall health, which means that your annual dental visits are key!
6 Tips to Overcome Dental Anxiety
Patients who experience dental anxiety should still make regular visits to the dentist. Luckily, there are many things you can do to counteract your anxiety so that you can enjoy good oral health.
- Get to know your dentist. The right dental provider can make all the difference. Find a dentist and dental team that recognise your struggles and will do their utmost to help you through them.
- Speak up. Don’t be afraid to tell your dental team that you’re anxious. Sometimes talking about why you’re nervous can help you get through an anxious situation. Additionally, your dental team will be able to provide better care if they know what you’re going through.
- Use signals. Before a procedure, agree on a hand signal that you can use if you need a break during your visit. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, simply signal the dentist to let them know.
- Distract yourself. Find a way to distract your brain from what’s going on in your mouth. Listening to your favourite music or audiobook is a great way to take your mind off of things.
- Try relaxation exercises. Deep breathing and focused relaxation is a great way to gain control over your body during an anxious experience. Try focusing on taking deep, slow breaths or relaxing individual muscles to help you calm down.
- Consider sedation. If things are unbearable, don’t be afraid to ask for sedation options. Many dentists offer safe and effective conscious sedation options to help manage patients’ fear and anxiety during treatment.
Don’t Let Dental Anxiety Control Your Health
Dealing with dental anxiety can have a huge impact on your oral health – but, luckily, you don’t have to go through this alone. With the right dental care provider and our handy list of tips and tricks, you can overcome your dental anxiety enough to make it through your next appointment. Who knows, you might even find you enjoy it!