Around 31 million adults in the UK are afraid of the dentist, with 12% of these suffering from extreme dental anxiety. At its most extreme, dental anxiety, dental phobias and fears of visiting the dentist can mean people put off, or even avoid altogether, vitally important routine dental care.
Dental anxiety can affect children and teenagers, too, with more than half of the children studied at aged 12 and 15 years old reporting ‘moderate anxiety’ about visiting the dentist. Girls were also likely to report suffering from extreme dental anxiety across both age groups.
“Dental anxiety varies from person to person. It can be a general apprehension, or patients can fear a specific procedure, such as injections, or having their tooth drilled”, dentist Dr Toby Gilmore explained. “In some cases, older people put off going to the dentist for years, perhaps because they had a bad experience as a child”.
Thankfully, modern dental practices have improved significantly and today’s dentists tend to be much more sympathetic to patients with dental anxiety.
Dental surgeries are far more welcoming than they used to be, and technology has advanced so many of the tools and equipment is better and quieter than ever before.
“If I have an anxious patient, it is my job to reassure them”, explains Dr Gilmore, who says helping patients overcome their fears is a rewarding aspect of the dentist’s work. “Quite often, a patient will put off visiting the dentist for months, or even years, but then may be forced to come for emergency treatment because they’ve neglected their teeth for so long.”
“If we can break that cycle, patients are more likely to come back again, and keep on top of their oral health routine”.
Tips for managing dental anxiety
Tell your dentist
It’s really important to tell your dentist that you are worried or anxious about your dental treatment. He or she will be able to make a plan which should help you manage your fears. Dentists are used to dealing with nervous patients, and will have strategies to help you feel at ease. The key thing is to find a method which works for you.
Take a friend
Assuming there’s room, most dental practices will usually have no objections to a friend accompanying you into the surgery. Having someone with you can often be reassuring, and lighten the mood. Other people might opt for joint appointments with their children – an added incentive to keep your anxieties under control.
Put yourself in control
Sometimes, anxiety comes from fear of the unknown, or expecting and anticipating pain and discomfort. Discuss a strategy with your dentist beforehand which works for you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure. Most dentists will ask you to raise your hand during the treatment if you want to pause at any time. You may find that, once you feel in control, you can better manage your anxiety levels.
Listen to music
It’s well-known that listening to music can relax and calm you. Ask your dental practice beforehand whether you can take headphones and music to help occupy your mind.
Practice relaxation techniques
Do consider mindfulness routines, counting exercises and breathing exercises if these types of relaxation techniques help you. If you tell your dentist beforehand, they will do their utmost to accommodate any requests.
Contact us today
Remember, your dentist will want to do everything he or she can to make sure your experience is a positive one. If you would like to talk to one of our practice staff about how we can help you manage your dental anxiety, contact us today.