I’m anxious about visiting the dentist. What can I do?

Do you postpone or avoid visiting the dentist? Do you dread the thought of undergoing a dental procedure? If you do, you could be suffering from dental anxiety.

Dental anxiety is one of the main obstacles that stands in the way of achieving optimal oral health. Dental phobics are known to avoid or delay consulting a dentist, even when they are in pain. While the majority of them are apprehensive about the perceived pain associated with the dental process, some avoid the dentist because they are embarrassed about the condition of their teeth. Whatever the reason, it does not change the fact that delaying a dental treatment or oral examination can have serious ramifications. In this article, we will examine the factors that contribute to dental anxiety and discuss ways to overcome them.

In light of modern dentistry introducing a host of minimally invasive techniques, dental anxiety based on the fear of painful procedures are generally unfounded. Dwelling on the perceived pain, however, would only serve to magnify the anxiety. When you avoid going for regular dental check-ups due to this reason, it may even backfire and become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

For anxious dental patients

Regular visits to the dentist remain one of the best safeguards against dental ailments like decays and gum diseases. Going for these regular check-ups help to ensure that your dental health is properly maintained and checked for any warning signs that may require immediate attention. If the dental problem is detected at an early stage, the dentist can fix them using a variety of pain-free techniques. By avoiding the dentist, you risk aggravating the problem until it becomes too painful to ignore, eventually requiring more complex and involved treatments – even surgery. A routine dental check-up once every 6 months can significantly reduce the likelihood of painful dental problems or the need for complex procedures to deal with them.

If you are the sort who feels uncomfortable showing your dental problems to a dentist, it is advisable that you ask amongst friends and family for a recommendation. Ask them to suggest a dentist who is friendly and professional. It is important for you to speak openly with the dentist about your dental fears and even negative dental experiences. Remember: A dentist may be a professional working in a serious environment, but behind the clinical mask, he or she is also a human being who can empathise with your fears and apprehensions. As with most relationships, it takes two hands to clap so it does take a little effort on your part to establish trust and rapport with your dentist.

If pain is the source of your anxiety, you may also consider the use of dental sedatives. A variety of different sedation dentistry may be administered for optimal comfort during treatment, including the use of breathing masks (sedation gas) and intravenous administration (IV sedation). Although these types of sedation are also known as sleep dentistry, the sedation is so mild that patients usually remain awake and can effectively communicate with dentists throughout the procedures.

It is never too late to deal with your dental anxiety. The best thing you can do is discuss your fears with your dentist. If you have an existing dental issue, a qualified dentist will be able to advise you on the best treatment options available. Overcome your anxiety and it will soon be replaced with a broad smile.

Further reading on general oral health here: Is Fluoride safe for my kids?

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