Daunted by the Dentist? 8 Top Tips for Nervous Patients

Anxious about going to the dentist? It’s more normal than you’d think, with an estimated 20-25% of people reporting that they fear the dentist, and as many as 1 in 10 saying they avoid the dentist altogether because of their phobia. For patients who’ve had bad prior experiences, it’s justified, too. But, as we’ve probably all heard before, avoiding a problem only makes it worse. Regular dental visits are important for good oral health, but also important in terms of taking preventative measures to avoid more dire health issues. Gum disease can go further than your gums if left untreated, and has been proven to lead to serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and even strokes. Even if your teeth look clean and healthy, it’s still important to stay on top of dental visits

It’s important not to let nerves hold you back from seeking proper dental care when you need it, but if you’re someone who struggles with dental anxiety, we’ve got some top tips and tricks to help you get the help you need with the least amount of stress.

Why are people afraid of dentists?

For many people, it’s a fear of pain. A lot of patients are nervous about the pain they may experience during dental treatment. Some procedures have earnt themselves a reputation for being particularly painful, such as root canal treatment, but the truth is that oftentimes these treatments are not especially painful in themselves, and most people are associating the pain of toothache prior to treatment with the treatment itself. Research suggests, in fact, that someone who is expecting a procedure to hurt is more likely to experience pain than someone who is not. Moreover, root canal procedures are actually smooth sailing when you’re proactive about getting booked in, and nip the problem in the bud. 

Some people might have had genuinely bad experiences at the dentist as a child or young adult, whether due to unexpected pain or an inexperienced or unsympathetic dentist. But dental practice isn’t what it was years ago, and advances in medical science and technology means drills are quieter, sedatives are more effective, and the introduction of machines like scanners sometimes rule out the need for more invasive investigations. 

Anxiety can also be caused by a lack of knowledge of exactly what’s going on, and the difficulty in communicating that arises from this. But here at Define, we are all about giving you the information you need to abate your fears (we’ve already got plenty of blogs up explaining away common fears and talking you through the ins-and-outs of our treatments, so why not check them out?) and our clinicians are committed to taking the time needed to thoroughly explain and answer any questions you may have during consultation.

Our Top Tips

Book in an initial consultation: As mentioned, taking the time to talk things through with your clinician before actually going in for any treatment can be a huge help in alleviating anxiety, and it gives you a chance to meet your dentist in a low-pressure situation and be sure that your personalities are a fit and you’re confident in their ability to treat you. You’ll also be able to talk through any and all concerns you may have about treatment, and be reassured about whatever might be troubling you.

Communicate!: It’s important to be open about how you feel – dentists aren’t mind-readers, and they can’t always tell if something is scaring you. But if you voice these problems, they can and will do their best to help. No question is silly, and no fear is invalid, so don’t suffer in silence. There’s plenty of small steps a dentist can take to help put you at ease – they can talk you through the treatment step-by-step, pre-schedule in breaks during the procedure to give you time to rest, or ask permission before proceeding. You can even agree on a hand signal for when you’re unable to talk, to let your clinician know you need a moment.

Book your appointment first thing in the morning: It might sound simple, but sometimes it’s easier to get it out of the way rather than stressing all day!

Bring music or have a go at breathing techniques: Some people might like to chatter to soothe their nerves, but oftentimes what can be helpful is just tuning everything out. Don’t worry, none of our dentists will take offence if you pop in a pair of headphones – they know the drill! Additionally, having a look into different breathing techniques to help calm your nerves and practising these before your appointment may prove beneficial.

Bring someone with you: We’re not opposed to company at Define, and know how helpful it can be to have someone else there that you’re comfortable with, whether it’s a friend or family member. The more the merrier!

Make regular visits: We know, this might sound like the last thing you want to do, but coming in often for small things like check-ups and hygienist appointments can help acclimate you to the environment, give you a chance to build a relationship with your dental team. And, of course, regular check-ups and preventative appointments means you’re more likely to avoid the serious problems that result in more frightening procedures. 

Find a dentist who’s experienced in dealing with nervous patients: Some dentists don’t always have the experience, or might not be especially sympathetic, in dealing with anxious patients, and that can make anxiety worse. But not all dentists are cut from the same cloth. At Define, all of our practitioners operate with care and compassion, and treat patient comfort as a priority, and in particular our very own Dr Shabri Chandarana completed a vocational year during her degree focused specifically on working with children, nervous adults, and patients with special needs and disabilities, so she’s very well-versed in caring for those who don’t like the dentist.

And last, but not least, consider additional medication. Sedation is available to those that need it, and if nothing else works then it’s a viable solution. So rest assured, there is always a way, and nobody need be nervous about the dentist.

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