We hear from dentist Chinwe Akuonu who offers her top tips for fending off dental fears.
Most nervous patients feel ashamed in their fear and are afraid of being judged. If you are one of these, the first thing to remember is that you are not alone.
Dental anxiety is more common than you think. In the 2009 UK Adult Health Survey, 48% of people admitted they were nervous about the dentist.
Here below are some tips on what to do to make it easier to manage.
- Choose a dentist you TRUST. Trust is the first step in overcoming your anxiety. Entrusting your oral health to someone supportive reassures you and provides you the confidence of being looked after properly
- Take responsibility of your oral health. Maintaining a healthy mouth is the result of a cooperative dentist-patient relationship, so please remember to do your own part. Most oral diseases can be easily prevented if good oral hygiene and diet habits are adopted. Your dentist’s job is to provide you with tailored advice, while it is your responsibility to take ownership of your health
- Be honest about your anxiety. Explain exactly how you feel to your dentist. There is no need to be ashamed. We can only help if you tell us exactly what makes you uncomfortable and your previous experiences. As mentioned above, dental anxiety is quite common and there are different ways to manage it. By not identifying and listing your fears, things can only get worse rather than improve, because you will not be getting the full level of support that you deserve
- Remember there are dentists who specialise in the management and treatment of nervous patients. They utilise a variety of techniques, including behaviour management and/or sedation. These methods have proven to be very efficient in helping overcome anxiety
- Ask questions if anything is unclear, so that you know what procedures are being carried out. Uncertainty generally increases anxiety
- Ask for breaks if you need any during treatment. You should normally agree on stop signals with your dentist
- Try not to overthink things. Distract yourself to take your mind off the dental work required. You can listen to your favourite music/podcast during the session. Some practices even have TV screens on the ceilings to help you relax
- Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups so that if any disease is present, it can be detected at an early stage that doesn’t require extensive treatment, but only a minimally invasive approach
- If you have been prescribed calming medications, take them as required before seeing the dentist
- Read about success stories about people who have overcome dental anxiety, as this can be a motivational factor.
A good website to visit for more information is www.dentalfearcentral.org