Dental Anxiety? Tips for Finding a Dentist Who Understands and Supports You

Up to 15 per cent of the population experiences severe anxiety or phobia related to their dental care. This can lead to avoidance behaviours which can cause their dental health to deteriorate and create a ‘vicious cycle’.

Fortunately, there are many ways to manage dental anxiety. Here are some tips to help you find a dentist who understands and supports you.

1. Look for a Dentist Who Understands and Supports You

Dental anxiety and dental phobia are common, but they can prevent people from getting the oral health care they need. This can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and other serious problems. If you have dental anxiety, it is important to find a dentist who understands and will work with you to overcome your fear. Here are some things to look for:

Comfortable Environment

Find a dentist who provides a calming, comfortable environment. This may include soothing decor, cozy seating and amenities like music or aromatherapy. You should also be able to access comprehensive services in one practice, which can reduce your stress by avoiding the additional effort and anxiety of visiting multiple locations.

If you have dental anxiety, it is important that you speak up to Bulleen dentist about your fears. This will help your dentist and dental hygienist better understand what you are experiencing, and they will be able to accommodate your needs. For example, if you are worried about pain, they can explain what will happen during the procedure and give you signals that indicate when it is time to stop. They can also use a topical anesthetic to minimize discomfort during the procedure.

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Empathy and Understanding

Dental anxiety have experience with dental anxiety, so they know what it feels like. They should be empathetic to your fears and concerns, and they should be committed to your comfort throughout the treatment process. They should also be able to communicate clearly and be receptive to your questions and concerns.

2. Find a Dentist Who Takes Your Fears Seriously

Dental anxiety is a very real thing for many patients. It can be caused by a variety of factors including childhood experiences and the horror stories shared by friends and family. These anxieties can cause people to miss appointments, avoid the dentist altogether or even to go years without a dental exam. This will negatively impact their oral health and may lead to future problems that require more invasive treatment.

Fortunately, there are ways for people to cope with their anxiety and find a dentist who understands that they need more than just a quick cleaning. Patients who are open about their fears and anxieties can help their dentist develop a management plan that addresses those specific concerns. This can include psychotherapy, referral to a psychologist or, for severe cases of anxiety or phobia, medical management with relative analgesia (happy gas), anxiety medication and conscious sedation.

It’s also important to find a dentist who understands that not all anxiety can be addressed with psychotherapy. Some patients have very pronounced physical responses to their anxiety. These include their heart pounding, palms sweating and loss of sleep prior to and during their dental appointment. For these patients, a dentist who can create a calming environment and offer amenities like soothing decor, blankets and music can make all the difference.

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3. Ask Your Dentist for Help

If you’re suffering from dental anxiety, it’s important to find a dentist who can help. Dental anxiety isn’t just common, but it can also be a debilitating condition that prevents you from visiting the dentist regularly and receiving the dental care you need.

A dentist who understands and supports your apprehension can help you overcome it. They’ll be able to offer you a wide range of coping mechanisms and techniques that will make your appointments more bearable. They’ll also be able to provide you with a safe word so that you can signal to your provider to stop immediately if you become uncomfortable, need to rinse your mouth or need to catch your breath.

The most important thing to do is to be honest with your dentist about what you’re feeling. Let them know that you’re anxious about needles, drills and other procedures. Explain to them what makes you tense and fearful, and what has happened at previous appointments that have made you feel this way. This will allow them to tailor their approach to your needs and provide you with a positive experience. Other coping techniques include practicing breathing exercises, listening to music and using distractions (like a fidget spinner or stress ball). For extreme cases of anxiety, some patients can be prescribed medication to manage their fear and help them relax.

4. Find a Dentist You Can Trust

If you are a person with dental anxiety, it’s important to find a dentist who is experienced and understands your needs. Look for a dentist who has had plenty of experience treating patients with your specific condition and is familiar with the latest treatments and procedures. However, don’t be afraid to go with a younger dentist who is also well-versed in the field.

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While the exact causes of dental fear are complex, many factors may play a role. These include a previous negative experience at the dentist or another health care setting, fear of pain or being touched, a traumatic event or history of head or neck trauma, and mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder) or depression.

For mild to moderate anxiety, a dentist can offer a number of relaxation options such as headphones for music or shows and blankets. They can also provide nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, which helps relieve anxiety and doesn’t leave lingering effects. They can also prescribe short-acting anxiety medication or, for those with severe dental phobia or apprehension, conscious sedation or general anesthesia.

For people with more serious and complex dental issues, a dentist who has had extensive experience can be a lifesaver. These dentists know how to treat complex oral conditions and can use their skills to help calm apprehensive patients.