Do you have dentist phobia? How to know if you do

A trip to the dentist may not be a smiling occasion for many Kiwis.

For some people, a trip to the dentist will never be an enjoyable experience. But when an approaching cleaning gives you waves of anxiety, it may be time take a long hard look in the mirror. Your fear of the dentist may be preventing you from getting essential treatment and negatively effecting both your oral and mental health. Dental anxiety and phobia is more common than you'd think, and treatment and management strategies are available.

What is dental anxiety?

If you've ever gotten nervous in a dental waiting room, you're far from alone. In a 2013 survey of over a thousand New Zealanders conducted by Oral-B, 7 out of 10 women and 6 out of 10 men reporting feeling anxious before a dental appointment, according to the New Zealand Herald. While many reported only mild nervousness, for others dental anxiety can be crippling.

If your fear of dentists is keeping you from scheduling regular checkups or negatively effecting your mental health, you may be suffering from dentophobia, or the irrational fear of dentists. Far too many handle their dentophobia simply by delaying or avoiding dental care, which can leave them suffering from mouth pain or dealing with other symptoms of poor oral health.

There are many reasons a person may scared of the dentist, ranging from childhood trauma to finances, according to BetterHealth Victoria. For many, dental anxiety is connected to worries about the cost of potential treatment, the most commonly sighted source of fear in the Oral-B survey. For others, fear of the dentist is connected to a general phobia of sharp objects that may be used during a cleaning, such as needles. Still others worry that the dentist will discover that they have not been staying on top of their daily oral health. The Oral-B survey also discovered that a high number of New Zealanders lie to their dentist about brushing, flossing and other forms of oral care.

Dental anxiety and dentophobia can be hard to spot and manifest in different ways, depending on the severity of the case. Some common physical results of anxiety include sweating and an increased heartbeat. In some cases a person's fear may result in rapidly dropping blood pressure and even fainting. This is especially common in patients who see something they are scared of, such as needles. For others, dental anxiety may have no external signifiers at all, but could still effect their overall mood and mental health in the days or months leading up to an appointment.

Anxiety over a dental appointment could cary into other parts of your life.Anxiety over a dental appointment could carry into other parts of your life.

Managing dental anxiety and dentist phobia

Luckily, treatment and techniques exist for managing or even overcoming dental phobia and anxiety. Like other forms of anxiety, dental anxiety can be treated through calming techniques and, in more severe cases, the assistance of a therapist. Some common coping techniques include breathing exercises and meditation. In more mild cases, just keeping yourself distracted with a good book or a game on your mobile while you're in the waiting room may be all it takes to keep the nerves from building up.

In addition to strategies you can use to get in the rate frame of mind, there are also steps your dentist can take to help you feel more at ease during your appointment. Often, all it takes is for a dentist to maintain a calm tone of voice with a patient and walk them slowly through everything they are doing during an appointment. Dentists are caring medical professionals with their patients' best interests at heart, and seeing that they are being cared for is all it takes for some patients to feel better. For others with more severe dentophobia, physical treatment like analgesia (also known as happy gas), anti-anxiety medication or anaesthesia may be necessary to make it through even a regular cleaning.

Finding a dental team you can trust

If you've been skipping out on dental cleanings for several years, the decision to book an appointment may feel like a big decision. Knowing you're being attended to by a dentists office with a sterling reputation who have your best interests at heart can go a long way towards peace of mind. City Dentists takes the convenience of its patients to heart, with its central location by the Wellington train station, professional staff and modern offices.

If you want to get your teeth looking better than ever, City Dentists can help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment