10 Tips for coping with dental phobia

BY Rhona Eskander

21st Aug 2023 Wellbeing

3 min read

10 Tips for coping with dental phobia
Having a phobia of the dentist is not uncommon, but it is always important to visit your dentist. Here are some tips for coping with dental phobia
Having a fear of visiting the dentist isn't uncommon, however it's something that should be addressed as if you go too long without having a check up, this could be putting your oral health at risk. There are a number of things you can do however to help you get over your fear. Here are 10 tips from Dr Rhona Eskander, Dental Expert at dentalphobia.co.uk for getting over your fear of visiting the dentist.

What is dental phobia?

Dental phobia, also known as dentophobia or odontophobia, is an intense and irrational fear of receiving dental care or undergoing dental procedures. It goes beyond normal apprehnsion and can lead to extreme anxiety, panic attacks, and avoidance behaviour when faced with the prospect of visiting a dentist. This fear often stems from past negative experiences, a fear of pain, a sense of loss of control, or even general anxiety disorders.
"Dental phobia can have serious consequences for oral health and overall well-being"
Dental phobia can have serious consequences for oral health and overall well-being. Individuals with dental phobia often avoid regular dental check-ups and necessary treatments, which can lead to the progression of dental issues, such as cavities, gum disease and infections. Untreated dental problems can cause chronic pain, discomfort, and even tooth loss, negatively affecting an individual's ability to eat, speak, and maintain proper oral hygiene.  

1. Acknowledge your fear

The first step to overcoming dental phobia is recognising and acknowledging your fear. Understand that your feelings are valid and that many people share similar concerns about dental visits.

2. Choose a supportive dentist

Dentists can be trained in helping you with your anxiety. Credit: Pro-stock studio
Research and select a dentist who specializes in treating patients with dental anxiety. Discuss your fears with them beforehand so they can tailor their approach to make you more comfortable.

3. Gradual exposure

Start by visiting the dental clinic without receiving any treatment. Gradually expose yourself to the environment, sounds, and sights to desensitize your fear over time.

4. Communication

Openly communicate with your dentist about your anxiety.
"Openly communicate with your dentist about your anxiety"
Establish a signal to indicate when you need a break during the procedure, allowing you to feel more in control.

5. Relaxation techniques

Practicing deep breathing can help reduce anxiety while at the dentist. Credit: vladans
Practice deep breathing, meditation, or visualization exercises before and during your appointment to help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.

6. Distraction

Bring headphones and listen to calming music or an audiobook during the appointment to divert your attention from the procedure and relax your mind.

7. Desensitisation

Starting off with smaller appointments can help you get used to the dentist. Credit: Antonio Diaz
Gradually work your way up to more complex procedures. Start with simple cleanings and gradually progress to more involved treatments as your confidence increases

8. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Phobias can be treated safely through CBT. Credit: Pro-stock studio
Consider seeking therapy that specializes in treating phobias, like CBT. This approach can help you reframe negative thought patterns and develop coping strategies.

9. Sedation options

Discuss sedation options with your dentist, such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or oral sedatives, which can help you remain calm during the procedure.

10. Regular visits

Maintain a routine of regular dental visits to prevent minor issues from escalating into major problems.
"The more frequently you visit, the more familiar the dental environment will become"
The more frequently you visit, the more familiar and comfortable the dental environment will become.
Banner Credit: Dental anxiety (Prostock-studio)
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