Does the thought of a dental appointment make you nervous? Do you have trouble sleeping the night before a dental exam? Or do you cancel your appointments and avoid going to the dentist altogether?
You may be surprised to hear that it’s extremely common to have a fear of going to the dentist. In a survey conducted by the Adult Dental Health Survey, it was found that almost half of adults were moderately to extremely afraid of the dentist and 75% have had some apprehension or anxiety about visiting the dentist at some point in their life.
Being afraid of the dentist can make you reluctant to get your teeth checked regularly and you miss out on having them being properly cared for. Avoiding going to the dentist can cause problems in the long-run. Some people will suffer with toothaches, infections and poor aesthetics, but wait as long as possible before making an appointment. This puts them at a higher risk of gum disease or early tooth loss.
In fact, having a fear of the dentist is so prevalent that dreams about dental treatment have been identified as one of the most common among adults. You aren’t alone.
However, if your anxiety develops into a more serious phobia, professional treatment may be necessary. Fear of the dentist is considered just as serious as any other phobia, but the good news is that it can be treated. Unless you tackle your phobia directly, it is likely to get worse over time.
So, in the interest of your mental health and dental health, it is important that you overcome your fears surrounding the dentist. But how do you start?
To begin with, you must understand where your fear stems from. Did you have a bad experience as a child? Perhaps you once had dental treatment that went wrong? If you can’t think of an obvious reason, then the matter may be resolved by seeing a mental health professional, who can help you explore your anxieties.
Once you have identified the source of your fear, you can begin to tackle it. Ensure you talk with potential dentists about your anxieties and choose one that is understanding and patient. They can help to set up a calm environment and make you feel safe. It is important to make going to the dentist a positive experience. If you work out a plan with your dentist, you’re more likely to feel in control and comfortable.
Try not to believe the common misconceptions associated with dental visits. There are exaggerated horror stories all over the media and internet which claim dental procedures are painful. If you do some research beforehand, you’ll find that for complex procedures patients are given local anaesthetic to completely numb the area.
One last helpful tip: it has been suggested by the British Dental Association that listening to music whilst having an examination or procedure can help particularly nervous patients to relax. Music releases mood-enhancing endorphins in the brain which counteract the feelings of anxiety and tension. This could subconsciously make your dental visit a more positive experience.
No one should have to feel afraid of going to the dentist, especially when good oral health is so important. Overcoming anxieties and associated fears are the first steps to a healthier mouth and a happier you.