Don’t let your secret fear of the dentist stop you getting a new smile

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There are many factors surrounding dental anxiety, fear and phobia – and unless you speak with your dentist, it make hold you back in seeking a healthy smile.

With a plethora of cosmetic dental treatments available to us that can enhance that smile, for some of us we need to face our fears before we can even consider teeth whitening, orthodontics of veneers, for example.

For some of us, we may have left a dental check up so long that we might feel guilty or ashamed of our teeth and fear what the dentist or dental hygienist might ask about how or why we even allowed it to get to this stage.

Rest assured, the dental team are not there to make judgements.

Others feel uncomfortable with people invading our ‘personal space’ – let’s face it the mouth is an intimate part of our body – or we may have had an early and unpleasant previous dental experience. According to statistics, that accounts for around 80% of sufferers!

We may also dislike the feeling of being out of control lying supine on that chair – or we may simply be scared of possible pain.

And sadly, dentistry rarely gets good media coverage thanks largely to the focus on the ‘bad news’ when things go wrong, negatively slanted stories of what is a tightly regulated industry of highly trained clinical practitioners.

The most recent Adult Dental Health Survey found that 12% of adults had extreme dental anxiety – it affects more women than men – but that around half of us Brits suffer milder fear.

And, not only does this stop us from visiting the dentist for those all-important check-ups, it can also impact on our confidence and our ability to smile.

With surveys revealing that 51% of us say we notice said someone’s smile or teeth first when meeting them, then a healthy smile is an important asset.

But don’t despair. If your heart pounds or you feel sick at the thought of sitting in the dentist’s chair or panic about gagging whilst they work away, there are solutions.

Dentistry has moved on leaps and bounds and there is now a whole range of options available to the dental phobic among us.

And should you make it to booking an appointment, your dentist needs to be made aware of your trepidation before you even set foot inside the clinic.

Most dental practices are more than happy to provide all the information you need to help you feel more comfortable with the visit.

Some offer distraction techniques, hypnotherapy and counselling and others may open their doors out of hours to offer a dedicated phobia clinic, away from the noises and smells of a busy daytime clinic.

Other methods dental clinics employ are taking time to see you without actually undertaking any treatment at all! So-called desensitisation, rehearsals and tell-show-do appointments allow you to ‘experience’ the sensation of a check up without the anxiety of having a check up. The dentist will talk you through what he or she does and show you the equipment they use and explain its purpose, which in theory should help you feel more in control and offer an understanding of the procedures from a different perspective.

You can also discuss a ‘stop’ sign so that the dentist knows when you want to take a break during the check up.

Dental sedation is also a safe and effective method of anxiety control for those of us undergoing dental treatment.

This can be provided by drugs in several forms, such as orally, by inhalation or by intravenous delivery.

Whether we are seeking a routine check up, a clean from the hygienist or specialist and cosmetic treatments, there is help for those of us who’d rather ride a rollercoaster or pick up a spider than sit in a dentist’s chair.
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