Dental anxiety can affect people of all ages and is fairly common in Australia. People who've had bad experiences with dental visits in the past may feel nervous about visiting again, or anxiety may be based around certain aspects of the dental experience such as a fear of needles, fear of pain or fear of close contact.
Giving in to dental fear can mean delaying or skipping your regular check-ups, which increases oral health risks and could mean you need a more serious treatment in the future. If you suffer from dental anxiety or phobia, these 5 tips could help you to cope better during dental visits so you don't miss out on important care.
1. Find a sympathetic dentist
Many dentists have experience dealing with patients who have dental anxiety, and they should be able to suggest ways to help you. Finding a dentist you feel comfortable with can help to ease anxious feelings, so you should look around local dental clinics in your area until you find one that you're happy with.
Tell your dentist if you have specific anxiety triggers, as they may be able to avoid these. For example, if you have a fear of needles, your dentist may offer a numbing gel rather than local anaesthetic.
It's also a good idea to arrange a 'safe word' with your dentist, so you can take time out during your treatment if you need to calm down. This can be a verbal signal or a gesture using your hands.
2. Bring a friend with you
You don't have to suffer alone. If you think you'd feel stronger with the support of a friend or family member close by, ask your dentist if they can accompany you to the clinic and sit with you during the procedure.
If you choose to have sedation, your friend can also make sure you get back home safely in case you feel dizzy or are unable to drive yourself.
3. Use headphones and distractions
Ask your dentist or clinic staff if you can listen to music during your visit to help you relax. Some clinics also have TV screens with a choice of entertainment options to help you stay as distracted as possible.
4. Practise relaxation techniques
Some people find comfort in deep breathing, meditation or muscle relaxation techniques. These should be practised at home up to a few weeks before your appointment. If you think you could benefit from counselling or by talking to another specialist, your dentist may be able to arrange a referral.
5. Ask about dental sedation
If you've tried everything else, people who are extremely nervous about dental treatments can discuss sedation options with their dentist. Depending on the clinic, these may include:
- Oral sedation – self-administered medication taken before or during the appointment
- Inhalation sedation – self-administered sedatives breathed in through an inhaler
- IV sedation – calming sedatives administered by clinic staff through an intravenous drip
All types of sedation can have side-effects and may affect your recovery period following a treatment. Your dentist will make sure you know the possible risks so you can make a decision you're comfortable with.
Find a sympathetic dentist in Sydney CBD
At Sydney CBD Dental, our friendly team have extensive experience dealing with anxious patients. We'll do our best to help you feel calm and relaxed during your visit and can discuss sedation and other options.
 Better Health Channel. Dental anxiety and phobia [Online] 2017 [Accessed January 2019] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/dental-anxiety-and-phobia
 NHS. Fear of the dentist [Online] 2018 [Accessed January 2019] Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/fear-of-the-dentist-help/