How we can overcome our dental anxiety?

I have cared for many patients who are nervous and who have had bad experiences in the past which have left a lingering effect. I was surprised however, when my daughter (who has grown up in and out of the dental chair) began objecting to her routine dental appointment. Dental anxiety had reared its head and she, like 60 percent of people, suffers from it.

So, what to do now? As a parent I can parent appropriately, but what did my colleague suggest other patients can do to combat their anxiety?

Find a Dentist and Hygienist you connect with

We as clinicians are all different. We have different backgrounds, interests and personalities. However, we all have the same training. Find a clinician who connects with you, your interests and takes the time to get to know you. Building trust happens when we build a relationship. If you don’t feel a connection, try asking friends or colleagues for someone they recommend and have had a great experience with. If you don’t feel it, try someone else.

dental anxiety
Overcoming dental anxiety

Tell the clinician you are anxious

Great communication starts with honesty and that works both ways. If you explain to the dentist you are anxious, it gives him/her an opportunity to provide a more tailored experience and perhaps give you a few pointers on relaxation.

“If a patient lets me know they are nervous, I take more time to explain what is going on and slow down the appointment so they don’t feel rushed. We can turn the music up, provide a blanket and enhance their experience”- Dr Michelle Stone of Adelaide City Dental Care advises.

Communicating exactly what it is that triggers your anxiety is really helpful to the Dentist or Hygienist. Is it the sound of the drill, the injections or the possibility something might hurt? If we know what you find most distressing, we can make sure you are well prepared and very comfortable.

Bring your I-Pod/noise cancelling headphones

“We welcome patients to bring their favourite music, noise cancelling headphones, or anything which helps them to relax”- says Dr Stone.

Music can take you away from where you are in the present moment and noise cancelling headphones are a real bonus. We receive many comments about the strange dental noises and to cancel that noise is fantastic. Some breathing exercises and even certain postures can make a more comfortable experience. Talking with your Dentist or Hygienist will help ensure your comfort.

Medication may be of assistance

If your dental anxiety is more a case of severe dental phobia, it may be easier to have medication prior to your appointment.
“Sedatives are used for some patients who might avoid appointments and treatment due to the severity of their phobia. If you are nervous about a procedure, ask your dentist in advance about sedative options”- said Dr Stone.

It may be as simple as taking a couple of “Valium” prior to an appointment to make you more at ease. “Valium” helps you relax and can be all you need to cope with the appointment.

Reward yourself

Adulting is hard sometimes, and facing a fear to ensure you have a healthy mouth is going to take some effort. Make time to relax and enjoy a treat after the appointment.

“Celebrate your achievement by doing something nice for yourself. Relax with a coffee or tea, a bit of shopping or a quiet walk. Associating your appointment with a pleasant experience helps you create new memories of dentistry”- Dr Stone recommends.

Our mind is a powerful tool, but sometimes it can make us feel like children when we are faced with a challenge we don’t particularly like. We can quiet our mind by being kind to ourselves, taking our time and communicating our needs. Tell your dentist what you need to make sure your experience is a positive one.

“Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.”- Winston Churchill.

ms kylie rowe
Kylie Rowe
Registered Dental Hygienist
Leave a reply