Top tips for overcoming a fear of visiting the dentist

August 28th, 2015

According to the NHS, one in four of us is fearful of visiting the dentist. This fear can stem from a number of factors: it may be informed by a bad experience in the past, you may be concerned that the treatment may be painful, or you may simply feel uneasy hearing certain sounds/smelling certain smells and worry about what they may bring. Luckily for us, we live in a day and age where there is increasing understanding about patients’ fears. More and more dentists are now actively working to try and ensure a trip to the surgery is stress free.

If you are worried about visiting the dentist, or know someone who is, there are lots of things that can be done to help make it more manageable. Here are a few of our favourites:

  • First and foremost, let your dentist know about your concerns. If there are particular aspects you are concerned about, be open and honest about these. This will help your dentist to plan with you how best to support you.
  • If you’re not registered with a dentist, have a chat to friends and family about where they go, and what it is like. A recommendation from someone you trust is always reassuring.
  • Book your appointment for a time of day that works best for you. It may be that having an appointment first thing in the morning works well for you as you don’t spend all day worrying about it. Or if mornings are stressful getting everyone out of the house, it might be better to go at lunchtime, or later in the day. Think about how you will get there and plan thoroughly so that you don’t arrive in a rush or feeling flustered.
  • Plan things you will do to relax yourself during your appointment. It may be that you take music to listen to on your head phones, or plan what you are going to think about during the appointment. It may be that you set yourself a particular task to think about during your appointment (perhaps an itinerary for your holidays, what you might get for family and friends for Christmas, and so on).
  • Before your check-up or treatment begin, agree with your dentist a ‘stop’ sign (for example, raising your hand). This will allow you to have a break, and will make you feel more comfortable by giving you more control.
  • Consider taking a friend with you. Who would suit you best? Try and think of someone who is calm and reassuring, and who isn’t worried about visiting the dentist.

Remember, dental care and treatment has improved a lot over recent years. Even if you’ve not been to the dentist for a few years, provided you’ve been maintaining a good oral hygiene routine, your teeth may be in a better shape than you think. In addition, dental treatment rarely needs to be carried out urgently (your dentist will advise), and so any follow up appointments needed can generally happen at your own pace. The first step is your initial consultation appointment.

If you’re still concerned or worried, there are other steps you can take to conquer your fear. Speak to your dental team and they will be able to signpost you to other services that may be able to help, or to dental surgeries that specialise in treatment for nervous patients. The first step however is to acknowledge how you feel and to decide to take action.

For more information on conquering a fear of visiting the dentist, visit the British Dental Health Foundation or the NHS websites.

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