Afraid of the dentist? Here are 5 tips to ease dental fear
If you're afraid of the dentist's chair, you're not alone. Fear of dentistry is as common as children hating broccoli. One study found that up to 75% of people have at least a little fear about trips to the dentist, with a further 10-15% having a great deal of fear.
Objectively you know you should have regular check-ups – not just for your dental health, but because oral hygiene is linked to serious health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes – but you just can't face it.
For most people, the fear stems from bad memories from childhood of the smells and sounds of dental surgeries. The good news is that modern surgeries are very different to the clichés of old. By and large, they are friendly, bright environments.
Even better, dental technology has made great strides, and the instruments we use are much friendlier. For example, we can use dental wands to apply anaesthetic completely painlessly – and they look just like a pen, rather than a needle.
Still, if you haven't been to the dentist for a long time, returning can be a daunting experience. Here are 5 tips for easing your dental fear.
Make an early appointment
Anticipation is always the worst aspect of any fear. It's rarely as bad as you think, and the longer you have to sit and think about it, the more you'll build it up in your head. Make as early an appointment as you can so you have less chance to worry.
Remember it's just a check-up
The first appointment will always just be a check-up, so there won't be any treatments involved. Your dentist will just take a look to see if any treatment is required, which will then be agreed with you. It gives you a gentle re-introduction to dentistry, and a chance to get to know your dentist before diving in with anything serious.
Start with a simple treatment
Most people's fear of dentistry comes from the more serious treatments (let's not name them). Chances are, you won't need anything of the sort, but even if you do, you might want to build up to it with a much simpler treatment like a scale and polish. A bit more poking around than a check-up, but certainly nothing to be afraid of.
Take a friend
If you think you'd be more comfortable with someone there to support you, by all means bring a friend. They can sit with you in the waiting room, and your dentist won't mind them accompanying you for your treatment.
Alternatively, you might like to bring some music to listen to on your phone/iPod to distract you during the examination. Try and pick something you don't know well – new music is more likely to sustain your interest.
Agree on a signal with your dentist
Agree a signal in advance with your dentist to let her know at any point that you're feeling uncomfortable and need a break. It can be as simple as pointing a finger. Even if you don't use it, knowing that you can will help you feel more in control, and knowing you can take breaks can do a lot to nullify the fear.
Remember that fear of dentistry is very common, so there's no need to be embarrassed. Be honest with your dentist and they'll do their best to ease your fear.