July 4, 2024

10 Tips for Nervous Dental Patients

Fear of the dentist is more common than you might think. In a recent survey, around 53% of respondents reported some level of anxiety around trips to the dentist.

Dental phobias can range from a slightly racing heart and sweaty palms when you’re sitting in the dentist’s chair, to being completely unable to even book an appointment.

Dental anxiety can become problematic if it means avoiding appointments, checkups and treatment as a result of your fears.

All dentists are trained to help support nervous and anxious patients. It’s in their interest to help keep their patients calm, as a calm patient is much easier to work with. So, if you’re suffering some dental anxiety that is preventing you from accessing the care and support you need, here are some tips from your dentist to help you work through your fears.

Find the source of your fear

1. Find the source of your fear

There are many reasons you might be afraid of the dentist. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with the dentist at all and anxiety in other parts of your life manifests as anxiety about situations where you feel out of control.

Understanding the source of your fear is a great place to start as it will help you to understand what you need from your dentist to be able to cope.

For example, if you are afraid of the dentist because of a previous bad experience where you experienced unexpected pain, it will be important for your dentist to take things slowly as they provide treatment.

2. Speak to your dentist

Finding the right dentist who is willing to listen to you and support you through this difficult time is essential. It’s no secret that some dentists are more patient than others, so you might simply need to find the right one for your needs.

Communicate your fears and anxieties to your dentist and ask them questions about how they can support you. Being open about your fears might be all you need to be able to work through them step by step.

Book a hygienist appointment

3. Book a hygienist appointment

If a trip to the dentist feels too daunting, you could start with a dental hygienist cleaning. This is less intimidating and there are no drills or needles in sight. A hygienist cleaning could also help you to get comfortable sitting in the dentist’s chair.

You’ll also have some reassurance that you are taking care of your teeth, and if there are possible issues that your dentist needs to look at, you’ll know it’s time to be brave and book that appointment.

4. Try distractions

Sometimes all you need is a good distraction. You don’t have to love a trip to the dentist, you just need to find a way to be able to get through it without panicking. You could try wearing headphones and listening to relaxing music during your appointment.

While some patients want to be able to ignore what is happening, others might want to know exactly what is going on. Ask your dentist to describe what they are doing and what you can expect if this is the case.

Bring a friend

5. Bring a friend

You may be afraid of the dentist because of a poor experience in the past – perhaps you faced a rude or dismissive dentist. If you’re worried about this happening again, try bringing a friend or family member along.

This can give you the support you need to speak up if you aren’t happy with something. Your friend can also reassure you about the experience as you will be looking at it through a very anxious lens which can distort your perception.

6. Try relaxation techniques

Deep breathing techniques can do wonders for anxiety disorders. Slowing down your breathing will slow down your heart rate and this can help you to feel more in control. Once you have learned how to master your breath, you can handle whatever challenge lies in front of you.

You can download a relaxation app and use this in our waiting room while you prepare for your appointment. As you slow down your breathing and take control of your heart rate, you’ll be able to deal with irrational thoughts as they arise.

Build up slowly

7. Build up slowly

Phobias are incredibly complex and you might not be ready to book an appointment straight away. We can help you to build up to this by inviting you to visit the dental practice and simply sit in the reception waiting area. Next, you might book a hygienist appointment and then finally, you’ll be ready to see the dentist.

Our reception team can help to support you through this with encouragement and guidance as you work through your phobia.

8. Ask about oral conscious sedation

If you know that you need a procedure and this is causing a lot of anxiety, we would recommend asking about oral conscious sedation rather than avoiding the appointment entirely.

Oral conscious sedation is a pill that will help you to relax during your appointment. It won’t put you to sleep, but some patients find they are able to nod off during long appointments. Another perk is that you won’t remember much about the procedure, so you won’t be adding to your phobia.

9. Speak to a therapist

If your phobia is getting in the way of your oral health, it might be time to speak to a professional. If this is the case, it’s likely that you have an anxiety disorder that is impacting other areas of your life, not just trips to the dentist.

Speak to your GP about what support might be available to help you overcome your fear and take back control of your life.

10. Give yourself a reward

Getting over your fear of the dentist is a big event that should be acknowledged. Make sure you plan something enjoyable to do after your appointment to help boost your mood. This will help you to start associating a trip to the dentist with positive things, rather that it being something negative in your mind.

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