If the thought of climbing into the dentist’s chair leaves you cold with fear, you are not alone. Many people suffer negative emotions, ranging from mild anxiety to severe phobia, at the mere thought of going to the dentist.
And it makes no difference who they are – fear of the dentist can send dread into the hearts of even the biggest, toughest men.
The fear of dentists, like other phobias, is generally completely irrational.
None of us is born afraid of the dentist, but often our fear will start pretty early in life. A bad experience as a child can be enough to leave us quivering at the very idea of going to the dentist for the rest of our lives.
Many of our patients arrive ashen-faced, telling us how scared they are before getting into the ‘hot seat’. Some will remain stiff with fear until the moment the dentist finishes.
However, almost without exception, they will admit afterwards that the experience was absolutely fine and nothing like they had imagined it would be.
And, that is the crux of the problem, it is our minds that are creating the fear, not the experience itself.
The memory of one bad experience can stay with us forever, illogically cancelling out numerous good experiences. Even more illogically, someone who has never had a particularly bad dental experience imagines themselves into being afraid simply because it has somehow entered their subconscious that dental surgeries are bad and scary places to be.
So, what can we do about it?
Fight irrationality with rationality – Understanding your fear and realising why you have it and why it is no longer relevant can help you to overcome it. Ask yourself why you are afraid, and then ask yourself if your fear is really real. If you can expose the illogical thought behind your fear, it can help you to get rid of it.
Remind yourself that dentists now are nothing like they used to be – Dental medicine has changed a great deal over the years. Treatments and techniques have advanced and the horrible experience or pain you may have once been subjected to will not be repeated today.
Choose your dentist carefully – Some dentists are far better at putting you at your ease than others. An understanding, sympathetic dentist who takes the trouble to explain procedures to you can make an enormous difference to your dental experience.
Tell the receptionist that you are afraid when you book – If the dentist knows you have a fear of dentists, he or she can make sure there is enough time to talk to you, explain everything that is going to happen and put you at your ease.
Have a dental examination with no treatment – We offer all our patients free dental examinations. This is because we believe regular checks are vital to maintaining healthy teeth and gums, but it is also a great way for nervous patients to spend time with the dentist and to get to know him or her and become more confident, all while knowing that no treatment will be carried out.
Listen to music – We generally have music playing in our dental surgery, but if you want to ‘cut yourself off’ from the experience even more, you can bring your own music and listen to it via headphones (small ones that don’t get in the dentist’s way) if you prefer. Or, bring your favourite relaxation CD and we will play it for you.
Consider hypnotherapy or counselling – Hypnotherapy and counselling can be successfully used to cure people of irrational fears and phobias.
Take medication – If all else fails, and you have a very bad phobia, a mild sedative may be the best solution. Our doctor can prescribe a sedative if she feels that would be in your best interests.