Whether it be the sound of the drill, or the smell of mouthwash that set you off, many of us feel a little anxious at the thought of going to the dentist. However, if your fear is preventing you from visiting your local surgery, and you've missed your routine check-ups, it's time to take back control over your worries.
There are many reasons why people are afraid of the dentist. For example, they may have had a bad experience as a child that has left them with bad memories. Others may have witnessed a parent or sibling being anxious when they accompanied them on a trip. There may also be a fear that the treatment will be uncomfortable or painful.
The very first step to getting a handle on a phobia of the visiting the dentist is to recognise that there is a problem, and to begin to speak with others about this. The key people to speak to are your dental team, though you may find it helpful to speak to family or friends for moral support too. Once you open up about your worries, you'll start to understand more about how you're feeling, what's causing it and what the options are for managing it better. If you're not sure about speaking to your dental team, or have a bad experience linked to a particular surgery, maybe it's time to start visiting a new surgery. Do your research beforehand by looking on websites or phoning the surgeries to see who might be able to offer treatment that specialises in supporting people with a fear of the dentist. Try speaking to friends and family: often a recommendation from someone you know (who is also afraid of the dentist) is the best place to start.
When you have your first appointment with the dentist, make sure you book it for the best time of day for you. Choose a time whereby you'll have ample travel time, so that you don't have to rush to get there. Ensure you've got nothing booked in straight afterwards, or anything that you're worrying about (such as your car parking running out). Try to eat something beforehand so that you're not feeling light-headed.
Plan ahead in partnership with your dentist. Agree a signal (for example raising one hand), that means you'd like a break. At this point your dentist will stop your treatment until you are ready to start again. Before you go in, consider what you'll think about during your appointment. Perhaps you're planning a holiday and need to remember what to pack, or are organising a family meal and are thinking about what food to prepare. Either way, go in with something that you can think about to distract you. Consider also if you have a family member or friend that is particularly calm and reassuring (and not afraid of the dentist!) who can come along with you. You may feel better just knowing that the other person is there.
If these steps don't help to alleviate some of your concerns, your dental surgery may be able to offer you alternatives. For example, they may have access to sedation or relaxation techniques, or may be able to point you in the direction of a specialist counsellor who can help you to learn to cope with your fear.
Either way, it's really important not to leave it: the longer you avoid tackling the issue, the worse it may become. Visiting your dentist regularly means that problems can be picked up and treated sooner, before they become bigger and need more in depth treatment.
If you're worried about going to the dentist, give us a call today and we can discuss your concerns with you and plan a way to manage these together.