Dental phobia affects around half of the UK population.
For most people living with the condition, symptoms like sweaty palms and an increased heart rate will be enough to make a visit to the dentist feel anything but comfortable.
However, for a small but significant minority, dental phobia can feel so overwhelming that it seems preferable to suffer toothaches, painful abscesses and other dental problems than endure the ordeal of treatment.
For them, untreated dental problems can soon turn into serious health issues.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to face your fears. But how?
Let’s take a look at some tips for overcoming fears and getting your dental health back on track.
Find the Right Dentist
This first step is key to overcoming dental phobia. Until you find a dentist you can trust – and who understands your phobia – getting the treatment you need will always feel overwhelming.
If your dentist belittles or dismisses your fears, it’s time to move on.
Once you’ve found a dentist you feel you can work with, talk to them about your fears. Explaining the source of your anxiety and which aspects of treatment worry you most will help you to design a strategy for starting scare-free treatment.
Now you’ve made friends with a new phobia-friendly dentist, work with them to devise a plan to help you feel more comfortable during treatment. Common coping strategies include:
- Requesting gentle sedation
- Swapping the needle for an anaesthetic wand or analgesic gel
- Using a hand signal to show when you need a break
- Listening to calming music
- Distracting yourself with a movie or puzzle
Other Ways to Cope
The plan you put together with your dentist should take you most of the way to overcoming any anxiety. If things still feel like too much, then consider a therapy like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you begin thinking about the dentist in a more positive and realistic light.
You could also look into exercises like diaphragmatic breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, which can really help you to stay calm in the chair.
Mindfulness has also been shown to work. It can also help you feel more centred and grounded in day-to-day life – and that can’t be a bad thing!