One of the most common fears among Australians is visiting the dentist. A 2006 study found that 16.1% of Australians have a high level of fear of the dentist and dental procedures. Adults between the ages of 40 and 64 are most likely to have dental anxiety.
While dental anxiety is common, it is also associated with a higher rate of tooth decay and loss, as people with dental fear often avoid visiting the dentist regularly. This means it is essential to learn how to get over your fear of the dentist to protect your oral and overall health.
Come to Terms with Your Dental Anxiety
The first step in learning to overcome your fear of the dentist is to come to terms with your dental anxiety. Many patients who suffer from dental anxiety are embarrassed to admit their fear.
Dental anxiety is a widespread problem. Talking to someone you trust, like a friend or family member, about your fears can help you confront them.
Another good strategy is to write down everything you fear about the dentist: you may be surprised to find that many of your concerns are unfounded. Simply identifying the problem makes your anxiety tangible – something real that you can contend with – instead of an unclear feeling of overwhelming anxiety generally directed towards visits to the dentist.
Writing down your fears can also help you identify which aspects of dentistry you are afraid of, which can help you find the root of your anxieties. This allows you to take the first steps toward managing your dental anxiety and getting the treatment you need for a healthy smile.
Find the Right Dentist for You
Perhaps the most critical step in learning how to get over a fear of the dentist is finding the right dentist for you. Discuss your fears with your dentist, and see what options they have to help alleviate them or if they have special techniques or methods that help patients with dental anxiety.
Once you are at the dentist for a scheduled visit, communicate your dental fears to your healthcare provider. This simple step can help you and your dentist develop a treatment plan that is suitable for you and addresses your concerns. Your dentist can also describe the procedure to you in simple terms and talk you through it to help alleviate your dental anxiety.
Ask for Dental Sedation
One of the most popular techniques dentists use to help manage a patient’s dental fears is IV sedation. IV sedation (also called sleep dentistry) involves administering anti-anxiety sedatives typically benzodiazepines, intravenously to help manage your dental anxiety.
IV sedation ensures you can speak to the dentist and move, but you will be in a deep state of relaxation. Your healthcare provider constantly monitors your vital signs to prevent any negative reactions. IV sedation helps reduce dental anxiety, lessens discomfort during the procedure, and helps you learn how to overcome your fear of the dentist.
Plan Future Visits in Advance
One of the leading causes of anxiety is feeling a lack of control over a situation. Planning your visits in advance can eliminate the worry of a surprise visit. This also allows you to request time off work or other responsibilities and plan your day around your visit to the dentist. Having control over the day of the visit can eliminate many of the causes of dental anxiety.
Once you make your appointments in advance, committing yourself to keep them is essential. One way to do this is by telling someone you trust, like family or a friend, and asking them to hold you accountable. Regular dental appointments can prevent your dental health from deteriorating, and avoid complex, invasive, and expensive procedures.
Use Relaxation Techniques to Cope with Dental Fear
You can use various strategies before and during the procedure to help you cope with your dental fear. One of the best calming methods is deep abdominal breathing.
Try deeply inhaling from the stomach for a count of four, holding that breath for a count of four, and deeply exhaling for a count of four. This regulates your breathing, slows the release of stress hormones like cortisol, and leads to the release of endorphins to help you feel calm.
Another simple way to calm yourself at the dentist’s practice is guided visualisation. Use a meditation app or podcast to visualise a safe space or repeat a mantra. You can also try listening to your favourite music or streaming a series to distract you from any anxious feelings.
Reward Yourself for Overcoming Your Dental Anxiety
Once you are finished with your procedure, you should reward yourself for learning how to get over your fear of the dentist. Doing so can reinforce your new positive habits. This reward can take a variety of forms, such as a special activity, meal, or rest day. Do this each time you complete a visit to the dentist, and you will begin to attach a positive emotion to visiting the dentist subconsciously.
Schedule Your Next Appointment with Lakeside Dental Studio
Lakeside Dental Studio provides compassionate dental services, catering to those with dental anxiety. Call (02) 4971 3366 to find out how Lakeside Dental Studio helps those with dental fears and schedule a consultation today.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
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