Fear of dentist. How can we cope with it
Why am I afraid of the dentist ?
Being "afraid of the dentist" may mean different things to different people. For some, the sounds and smells bring back memories of bad experiences as a child; others just think that having treatment will hurt or are scared of needles and injections.
It is probably a good idea if you can work out just what it is that worries you most. The good news is that more and more dentists understand now their patients fear and try with kindness and gentleness as well as new and modern equipment to make dental treatment an acceptable, normal part of life.
I have not been to see a dentist for some time. What is it like now?
If you haven't been to see a dentist for some time, you will be happy to find out that things have improved a lot since your last visit. Dental techniques have improved so much over the last few years that a normal dental treatment can now be completely painless.
Moreover, the general atmosphere inside a dental practice is much more relaxed, the procedures are safe and the equipment is modern and up to date.
How do I choose a dentist ?
If you are a nervous patient, it is good to know that many dentists offer today special treatments just for that. Some patients find it uncomfortable to discuss their dental fears with friends or relatives.
This is not always a good idea. If you can discuss it with your friends or colleagues you are likely to find someone else who has similar problems. They may be able to recommend a dentist to you. A dentist who is personally recommended by another nervous person is usually a very good choice.
What will happen at my first appointment ?
If you are a nervous person, your first appointment should be just for a consultation. See it as an opportunity to get acquainted with the practice and the staff; you will also have a chance to ask the dentist about what to expect next.
Should I tell the dental team that I am nervous ?
Absolutely. Tell the team that you are nervous so they can help you. Make sure you tell the dentist which part of the treatment you think you dislike the most and if you know the reasons that may have caused your fears, it is even better.
You will notice that a preliminary "chat" with the doctor and his team will make you fell much more comfortable.
I am afraid of injections, what can I do ?
Many people are scared of the local anaesthetic injection, so there is no shame in telling the dental team that this is something that bothers you.
There are anaesthetic gels that can be applied to the area of the gum before the injection. The gel numbs the gum so that you will not feel the needle.
If you have not been to a dental practice for a long time, you will be happy to notice that the injection needles that are used nowadays are extremely "gentle" and thin.
What is the best time of day to visit the dentist ?
Schedule your appointment at a time of day when you feel most comfortable. You should not have any commitments to worry about just before and after the appointment.
This way you can get to the practice in a relaxed frame of mind; arriving in a rush will only make you feel more nervous.
It is a good idea to have something to eat before you go, so there is no risk of feeling faint while you are in the chair.
Can I go to sleep for the dental treatment ?
Routine dental treatments do not require general anaesthetics. When a general anaesthetic is needed, patients are referred to a hospital where the necessary safety equipment is available.
If you are a very nervous patient, there are safer and less complex techniques available for you such as several types of sedation, including inhalation ('gas and air') and intravenous, hypnosis and other relaxation techniques.
Many dental practices offer these techniques today; be sure to check in which techniques the practice you want to attend is experienced in and discuss it with the staff before the treatment begins.
What else can I do to help me relax during treatment ?
There are many other things you can do but this depends on your personal preferences:
Before the treatment starts, you can agree with the dental team a sign that means "stop the treatment now" (such as raising your hand). This way you can be sure that the procedure can be stopped for a few minutes until you are ready to start again.
Since you know that you can control the situation, you will feel much more confident.
Listening to music is another good way to help you relax. Some practices have it playing in the treatment rooms just for that purpose. If this is not the case with "your" practice, you can take headphones and your phone or MP3 player and have your own choice of music.
Some people feel better if a friend comes with them to the practice. A reassuring and capable friend can be a great help.
Try to think about something other than the treatment: solve a puzzle in your mind, or work out a plan for your next holiday. If you can distract your mind from the treatment, the time will pass faster.
Will things get better with time ?
As you get to know and trust your dentist and his dental team, you will find your fears start to lessen. In time you will gain control over your fears, and dental procedures will become a normal part of your life.
Last review and update: May 2019