Don’t Let Dental Anxiety Ruin Your Teeth

Our friendly Ipswich dentists are here to help nervous patients

Dentist in surgerySome of you may have been waiting for a dental appointment for longer than usual due to the backlog caused by the Covid pandemic. This was far from ideal for everyone, but for nervous patients especially, it has created a whole new problem. Overcoming anxiety around a visit to the dentist can take a lot of courage and a willingness to go through the fear barrier in order to maintain a healthy mouth.

These anxieties are likely to have worsened over the past few years and so patients of the Foxhall Dental Practice may be finding that this means that they are more reluctant than ever to make or attend an appointment.

Dental phobias and anxieties are horrible as anyone who has suffered from them will know. It can even affect dentists too, so it isn’t something to be embarrassed about and we encourage any patient feeling this way to contact us for help so that they can receive the care and attention that they deserve.

Why dental anxiety?

Some people are naturally more prone to anxiety anyway but even the usually calmest of people can find their anxiety levels rising when a dentist’s visit is due, but why is this?

There are many theories as to why this might be the case, including a bad experience as a child. One thing that is becoming more widely accepted amongst the medical community though is that a large part of the fear is due to the location of the treatment. Think about it; if you are having an operation on your foot, although you may not be looking forward to it, you would probably be less concerned than if it were a procedure in the oral cavity. The feeling is that this is because your mouth is so close to all of your main senses; i.e. sight, sound and taste. You see a drill approaching at very close quarters as the whirring sound gets louder and louder as it gets closer. It is probably not surprising then that our minds can receive warning signals of potential ‘danger’.

Don’t give in to your phobia

The temptation, if you suffer from this widespread problem, is to take the ostrich approach of sticking your head in the sand and hoping that everything will be ok. This can work in the short term of course, as missing an appointment is unlikely to mean immediate problems unless the missed appointment was for treatment, in which case, the consequences may become more immediately apparent.

The fact is that professional oral care takes an interventionist approach, detecting and treating any problems that are found at a relatively early stage. This is why we ask patients to attend every six months. Leaving a longer gap between appointments means that any issues would become worse. For instance, a small cavity will almost inevitably become larger and need a larger filling to restore it, presuming it can be saved at all by then.

So, although you might not want to face your fear and see the dentist, you are just creating problems, and larger ones at that, further down the line. What may have been a small filling that you might have had to face up to, can easily mean that the treatment you need will be more extensive and take longer if you simply keep your fingers crossed.

Overcoming your anxiety

The above is all very well, you may be thinking, but fear is very real. We absolutely accept this is the case and we see very nervous patients at our Ipswich clinic on a more or less daily basis. Our experienced team of dentists are used to treating patients who attend and who visibly would rather be pretty much anywhere else. This does mean though that, over time, we have become very good at helping patients like this. The calm and easy manner of our team and willingness to discuss the treatment and talk patients through it means that some have managed to more or less overcome their fear altogether. Many of those who still experience it do so at a lesser level and at least enough to enable them to attend and keep their teeth and gums in good health.

What can you do about it?

However much our team can help, there are still many things that you can do to help yourself too. This should start with the understanding that seeing a dentist IS necessary and that they are there to help you. Most appointments don’t last too long, however much that might not seem to be the case, and you can get back to normality afterwards.

Here are a few things that some of our patients have told us works for them in reducing their anxiety levels before and during a visit.

Breathe – A simple one but many of us hold our breath when we are nervous. Try to relax your breathing and breathe in and out steadily. You will find that this helps to calm you down.

Appointment time – Try not to be late for your appointment or you might arrive with your heart racing, putting you in an anxious state even before any treatment starts. Equally, don’t arrive too early so that you have time to start worrying about your appointment.

Music – Many people find that music or audiobooks can help them to relax. As long as you use efficient headphones, we are happy for you to use these while you are waiting, though please do be aware so that you don’t miss being called for. Some dentists may even allow you to wear earphones during the treatment though do check in advance with us.

These are just a few of the things that might help you and there are many other suggestions online. The key thing is not to put your appointment off if you suffer from a fear of the dentist and instead, call us and we will do what we can to help you receive your oral health care in as relaxed a manner as possible. Please call the Foxhall Dental Practice on 01473 258396.