Anxiety, fears, and phobias
The anxieties of being a dental patient begin before even going to the dentist: many people balk at visiting a dentist because they haven’t seen a dentist for a long time. They might be embarrassed about the condition of their teeth, the state of their gums, or the freshness of their breath. Of course, staying away won’t solve dental problems arising from neglect, so those concerns need to be addressed.
Bad memories from previous dental experiences might also keep someone for visiting a dentist, as might anxiety at the perceived prospect of pain, discomfort with the idea of loss of control, or specific fears of such things as drills or needles.
Worries about dental treatment can therefore take several forms; anxiety – a generalized feeling that something will not go well –; fear – a specific unease relating to something well defined, such as dental drilling or anaesthetic needles –; and phobias – disabling terrors that preclude any progress in dental treatment. The first two – anxieties and fears – are manageable; phobias are best resolved before a patient approaches dentistry.
Fears and anxieties can be tackled by both the patient and the dentist, each aiming to create a climate of trust to allow dentistry to proceed.
Dealing with dentistry: The patient’s role
As a nervous patient, you can do many things to make the prospect of dentistry less daunting. Before your dental appointment, you can minimize anxiety by practicing meditation techniques that are conducive to creating a feeling of calm, such as deep breathing techniques. In planning your dentistry visit, allow extra time to get to the location of the dentist’s office. Traffic difficulties are anxiety-inducing at the best of times. Consider that getting gas, parking, and finding the office all take time. On the other hand, don’t set yourself up for an overly long wait in the dentist’s waiting area: that itself can build tension.
Come prepared with things you might use for distracting yourself: music, podcasts, games, crosswords, reading materials are all possible. You might also equip yourself with “shields” — if the bright lights the dentist needs are a problem, bring sunglasses; if the noises of dentistry are disconcerting, bring earplugs or earbuds. You might even have an anti-anxiety medication that you can take in advance of your appointment.
Dealing with dentistry: The dentist’s role
Your dentist can also help, providing a calming environment, music, and perhaps distracting chat. Additionally, while at the dentist’s, you might be provided with nitrous oxide, sedation, or possibly in some circumstances, general anaesthetic.
Dealing with dentistry: Cooperation
Finally, cooperation with your dentist can provide great methods of controlling anxiety. Communication is key: if your dentist knows of your concerns, you can coordinate breaks in which to regain your composure, choose tools and techniques to allay fears, and generally make your visit to the dentist as painless, stress free, and pleasant as possible.