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Dread the dentist? You’re not alone!

July 16, 2021

Fear of the dentist is by no means an uncommon feeling, and in some cases it’s extreme enough to be considered a dental phobia.

Like any form of anxiety, dental anxiety comes in many shapes and forms and can be different from person to person. It is often triggered by past negative experience, fear of needles, drills or pain. Some common signs of anxiety include sweating, shallow breathing, increased heart rate, fainting or dizziness, and signs of panic and distress.

Dentist looking at child's teeth with mum in the background

Visiting the dentist

There is no official guide to how often you should visit your dental clinic for a dental checkup, but most dental practices recommend a frequency of every 6-12 months. For people who suffer from dental anxiety or dental fear, this is 1-2 times a year more than they would like!

But skipping or delaying dental checkups can result in misdiagnosed problems, which can lead to a need for more complex treatments down the track.

Given dental visits are important, you want to make the best of them and reduce the negative response to such visits. Here are a couple of ideas to maximise your dental care:

  • choose a dental surgery that feels comfortable to you – the environment, friendliness of staff, distance from home, and budget all matter
  • reduce the financial burden through extras cover as Medicare doesn’t help with dentist visits
  • clean your teether regularly and maintain a healthy diet with minimal sugars
  • do a thorough clean just before visiting the dentist to boost your confidence
  • give yourself plenty of time to reach the dentist – rushing at the last minute just adds to the stress
  • get any old dental records transferred to a new dentist
  • avoid caffeine and alcohol just before a visit – make them a treat afterwards if necessary

Managing dental anxiety

Overcoming a fear of the dentist can be really difficult, but here a few helpful tips to help you manage dental anxiety.

Know your triggers

Consciously recognising what triggers your dental anxiety can really help in managing it, and making dental visits more bearable.

Is is the sound of the drill? Fear of needles? Dislike of things in your mouth or being unable to speak up?

Tell your dentist how you’re feeling

Being open about your dental anxiety will help you feel less alone, and ensure your dentist approaches your check up and dental care appropriately.

Take someone with you

Having a friend or family member present at your dental appointment can be a real comfort, especially if you or you children suffer from separation anxiety or social anxiety.

Use relaxation techniques

Practicing deep breathing or other relaxation techniques such as meditation can help take your mind off your anxiety, and can help put your fears and worries at ease. Listening to music or a podcast to distract yourself can also really help.

Children with a fear of the dentist

It’s not uncommon for children to suffer varying levels of anxiety about dental treatment and appointments. It’s important that these fears are taken seriously so as to prevent them worsening and becoming more problematic over time.

Keep them informed

Letting children know their dental appointment is coming up enables them to  mentally prepare themselves. Give them as much information about the appointment as possible so there are no surprises when they get there. Springing an appointment on them is likely to increase anxiety and worsen the situation over time.

Bring a toy or something comforting

Encourage your child to bring along their favourite toy or something comforting when visiting the dentist. This works as a distraction, and also acts a safety net for them.

Seeking help

There are many other great services available to help you or your children manage a fear of the dentist and other forms of anxiety. We recommend the following resources:

Beyond Blue

Mindspot

Headspace

Kids Help Line

HCi used its best endeavours to ensure this information was accurate at the time of publication. From time to time, circumstances relating to the subject matter may change which may impact the accuracy of the information. This information is also general in nature and does not take into account any specific health or financial situation. Before making any decisions in relation to this information, you should consider your own financial and health situation and seek professional advice. Health Care Insurance Ltd ABN 43 009 579 088. A Registered Private Health Insurer.

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