Dental phobias are relatively common, but when yours prevents you from seeing a dentist it can have a negative impact on your oral health. Using a few careful techniques, you can manage your dental fears and make appointments easier.
Find someone who specialises in anxious patients
Although most family dentists will have some experience in managing anxious patients, some make it their specialty. Such individuals may offer environments that put you at ease prior to your procedure. Others may also provide twilight sedation, which involves the use of a medication to reduce the symptoms of anxiety throughout. Simply knowing that the person providing you with oral health care offers an understanding environment can reduce sensations of fear.
Get to know the environment you'll receive treatment in
As with any fear, heading into the unknown can heighten your feelings of anxiety. Although you can't understand the dental treatment process entirely, familiarising yourself with the area where it takes place can be a big help. Ask the dentist you want to use if it's possible to visit their practice ahead of your appointment. Some may briefly let you enter the treatment room, which can make it feel less daunting when you visit them for a procedure.
Book a morning appointment
When making an appointment consider asking for one as early in the day as possible. Delaying your treatment until the afternoon gives you a chance to ruminate on what lies ahead, which can then make your anxiety worse. Additionally, aiming for one of the first appointment slots means you could spend less time sat in the waiting room, which then means your fear-based feelings have less time to develop when you're in a dental setting.
In severe cases of dental phobia, consider medical interventions
If your dental phobia is so severe that you struggle to make it to appointments without experiencing a panic attack, you may want to consider medical interventions. For example, you could visit your family doctor and ask them for a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) referral. CBT will help you reduce feelings of anxiety ahead of your appointment and it can help you develop the coping strategies you need to not panic while you're there. In some cases, your GP may prescribe you a low-dose beta blocker, but this will depend on existing medical conditions and the type of treatment your dentist wants to provide. Beta blockers reduce feelings of anxiety by preventing your heart from racing.
Regardless of how bad your dental phobia is, always consider using stress reduction techniques and seeking help. If you're not sure where to start, ask your family dentist for advice