We often talk about how dental anxiety is common for children. However, this fear also affects one in seven Australian adults, according to the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). So if you're an adult who's afraid of the dentist, rest assured you're not alone.
That said, not going to the dentist regularly strongly correlates with poorer oral health outcomes in the New Zealand Oral Health Survey – so overcoming dental anxiety is vital.
If you fear the dentist, consider these three tips to help you take control of your oral health:
1. Talk to your dentist
What about the dentist scares you? NHMRC research shows it's not so much the dentist itself, but the idea that dental treatment may be uncontrollable, invasive or costly.
Since you aren't afraid of the dentists themselves, but rather the procedures, you should recognise that your dentist is there to make it easier for you. Communicate with a dentist about any discomfort, anxiety or concerns you have regarding any treatment before it happens or you decide to opt out. Dental professionals are no stranger to these fears, so we can help you overcome them by addressing any questions, or ensuring you're as comfortable as possible.
2. Ask for sedation
Conscious sedation allows you to feel in control of the situation.
You shouldn't show up at your dental clinic with a boombox and playing "I Wanna Be Sedated" by the Ramones – but asking your dentist for sedation options can significantly reduce the stress of a dental procedure.
Sedative medicines can be injected into a patient's arm to help relaxation and reduce anxiety. This could be in the form of an intravenous (IV) line or a single shot. You'll feel drowsy and relaxed, but won't be knocked out. Conscious sedation like this allows you to stay aware of what's happening and even respond to questions, so you can still feel in control of the situation.
If you also experience a needle phobia, nitrous oxide can be inhaled for a similar but shorter effect.
3. Bring a support person
Kids will often have their parents in the room during check-ups and there's no reason adults can't do the same. Ask your dentist if you can bring along your partner, a friend or colleague to support you. With a familiar face in the room, you'll feel more at ease and have a trusted friend available if you start to experience a panic attack.
Don't fear your next dentist visit. Book a check-up online or call City Dentists on 04 978 4964 for compassionate dental treatment.