Do you consider yourself a coward when it comes to visiting the dentist? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, 1 in 6 Australian adults have varying degrees of fear associated with going to the dentist, with an estimated 5% suffering from severe dental phobia, impacting on their quality of life.
Fortunately, in today’s modern medicine world there are several solutions fearful patients can use to help get them through dental visits, and their mouth back to a healthier state – However, the advice to follow goes beyond the tech and dives deeper into what you really need to overcome your fear of the dentist, for life!
Step #1 – Establish trust in your dentist.
Unfortunately, all the tricks and medical miracles at your disposal can’t help you with this one. Your first step in overcoming your fear of the dentist is to find one you trust, respect, and who you truly believe will do everything in their power to get you through each visit, with empathy and patience. Without trust in your dental team I’m afraid you’re in for a bit of a battle. In the past, the search for the perfect dentist as been difficult. So many misleading marketing ploys – a confusing and biased oral health care systems – and a lack of transparency and control for patients, has forced a lot of people to lose trust in the dental industry. This is why we created AirSmile – a marketplace, available free online and through app stores, that makes finding a trustworthy dentist a cinch! Before you can go any further – start with finding a dentist you trust with your heart and head.
Step #2 – Get a plan nailed down.
Once you’ve found the dentist you love, allow them to do a comprehensive exam with x-rays, photos, models if needed, and any other diagnostic tests they need to formulate a treatment plan. There may be several options for you to consider and this takes the dentist time to write up and present – so be patient on the day. You wouldn’t start construction on your new home without first having a blueprint and a step by step action plan to follow, and your oral health care should be no different.
When you have a solid plan you’ll feel in control. Knowledge is power and knowing what’s to come and what to expect at each stage of your treatment journey will do wonders for your anxiety. The fear of not knowing what’s coming next is often the most crippling part for the anxious patient.
Step #3 – Start with the end in mind and see it through.
I can’t tell you how many times I see a motivated patient begin treatment with all the passion and devotion one can muster only to get half way through their plan and stop. Don’t do this – it shatters your confidence. You’ll beat yourself up for not seeing it through, and since the results will not be what you and the dentist had envisioned, now you’ll be disappointed with the treatment results too. Not a great head space to be in for a nervous patient.
Commit to the treatment plan, and make a promise to yourself that you’re going to reach your goal of completing the work. This will be a massive win – not only for your oral health but your mental well-being. This positive experience will carry you through future dental visits as you remember how strong you were in overcoming your fears to get the smile you always wanted.
Step #4 – Get back on that horse.
Some appointments will be harder then others, there’s no getting around it. You’re mood may be different – the treatment required may take more of a toll on you – some appointments are longer then others – and you may even cry and want to vomit sitting in the car (or the dental chair).
YOU ARE NOT ALONE! You are not the first patient to have a melt down in the dental surgery, and you won’t be the last. This is a normal scene for the dental team, one they are well-trained for and take great pride in helping you overcome. The worst thing you can do at this point is get in your car, drive away and never come back. Don’t do that! You’ll be right back where you started and that in itself makes it harder next time you decide to give dental a go.
Step #5 – Ask for all the extra help you need.
- Numbing gel
- local anesthetic (lots of it)
- face massages
- loud music
- Lots of talking or silence
- general anesthetic
- prescription medication
- or simply a hand to hold (or crush!)
All you need to do is ask and your trusted dental team are only to eager to find a solution to help you through. If they’re not – you’re in the wrong practice.
A visit to the dentist doesn’t need to be full of anxiety and fear – it can be one you almost look forward to every six months (I did say almost). It can happen and it does happen – I’ve seen it hundreds of times throughout my career. It just takes the right dental team to support you, a clear direction, self belief and yes, maybe some of today’s modern medical tricks on hand just to settle those last few remaining nerves.