It’s one of the most common things that we hear from our patients – they scared stiff of sitting in the dentist’s chair. From the fear of pain, to the fear of what the dentist going to find and a whole range of other anxieties, it’s completely understandable why people may feel apprehensive about visiting the dentist. It’s also important to realise that many of these anxieties are unfounded.
What do people hate most about visiting the dentist?
The research states that people’s fear of the dentists –also backed up by our own experiences with patients often stems from a negative experience as a child. Whether it was an uncomfortable extraction or striking a nerve, often people associate a trip to the dentist as pain inflicting when this is normally not the case. Because of past perceptions or fears these people may not visit the dentist for years. When they do there’s usually more work to be done, which can be more costly and this is more uncomfortable for the patient than if they had regular checkups. This then reinforces their negative perception of visiting the dental and some of their anxieties.
A study from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that there are is a small number of the population – around 5 percent – who avoid the dentist completely due to a severe dental phobia. The fear stems from a fear of the unknown, the perceived pain of the procedure, and fact people feel like they have little control in the dentist’s chair.
Others feel instinctively wary of the metal equipment and the noise they make, associating them with inflicting pain which cause a ‘fight or flight’ response. The truth is that there are a number of pain management options to reduce most, if not all discomfort caused by more intensive procedures and the vast majority of procedures that dentists carry out cause little to no pain. There’s also the fact that people’s love of sharing a good horror story about their teeth does little reduce the anxieties of those already nervous about visiting the dentist.
The good news is that people’s fears about the dentist don’t match the reality of what people can expect visiting to the dentist in 2015. Still, we understand that many people still feel anxious and fortunately there are a number of techniques people can use to make the necessary trip to the dentist a lot more pleasant.
How to Calm Your Dentist Chair Fears
- Remember You Can Leave at Any Time – For people who feel like they are at the mercy of the dentist remembering this basic fact helps to give back their sense of control. It’s also important to remember that there’s a good reason to be sitting in the dentists chair in the first instance, so just by sitting in the dentist’s chair you’ve taken positive steps to maintain your oral health.
- Speak honestly to the dentist about your fears. Dentists are trained to manage pain, and can talk you step by step through the procedure so you can understand what’s being done on your teeth. Knowing what to expect can alleviate some of the fear of the unknown patients. It’s important to find a team of dentists that you trust. If you suffer from severe anxiety it’s worth mentioning this from the beginning to assess how the practice responds and if the dentists have the patience to put their clients at ease.
- Keep it in perspective. Like other anxieties many people build up their fears about pain and discomfort to be bigger than what is the reality. After procedures like root canals and wisdom teeth removals we commonly hear people tell us it wasn’t as bad as they thought. It’s important to remember that the work is going to resolve tooth aches and other dental pain you are experiencing, so any discomfort is short term is certainly worth it in the long term.
- Listen to Music. We recommend some patients put in headphones and listen to music to help relax and mask out the sound of any equipment that may contribute to additional anxiety. Other relaxation techniques including slow deep breathing, speaking to the dentist beforehand to schedule the appointment in the morning so that they anticipation doesn’t build throughout the day.
These are just of few of the ways you can reduce anxiety in the dentist’s chair, however other techniques include bringing a friend, having a preliminary meeting with the dentist to build rapport and trust. Pain control medication including sedation can also be an option to reduce anxiety.
It’s important to note that more frequent visits will reduce to a dentist will also alleviate much of the anxiety people feel, and reduce the amount of invasive treatments that are required.
At Australia Dental we are confident that by understanding these anxieties and providing exceptional care to our patients, goes a long way counteract any past bad dental experiences they may have had. Only after having positive experiences at the dentist can the panic of visiting the dentist be reduced.