How to Overcome Dental Anxiety

Female doctor consulting patientDental anxiety comes in many forms from feeling slightly anxious about visiting the dentist right through to full-blown dental phobia where even the thought of the dentist is more than you can handle.

Dental anxiety is one of the largest contributors to people not visiting the dentist which, in turn, can lead to a reduction in your overall dental health, dental disease and ultimately tooth loss if things go unchecked.

This post is here to help you overcome your anxiety using a range of psychological and physical techniques.

Talking Therapies Including Hypnosis and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Hypnosis

Hypnosis is essentially a state of deep relaxation, to show how successful this can be Dr Mike Gow Successfully used hypnosis during an extraction and placement of dental implants on a patient in 2007. No anaesthetic was used.

This shows the immense power of hypnosis to enable you to control your state and even pain! We know that many people reading this blog post may be fearful of the dentist so we have not embedded video here, however, if you feel up to watching you can watch it on YouTube.

CBT

Cognitive behavioural therapy could help many people with a dental phobia overcome their fear of visiting the dentist and enable them to receive dental treatment without the need to be sedated, according to a new study by King’s College London. 

Patients with dental phobia were able to face down their fear after an average five sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a study found.

Professor Tim Newton, who led the King’s College team, said: “People with dental phobia are most commonly given sedation to allow them to become relaxed enough for a short period of time to have their dental treatment performed. However this does not help them to overcome their fear in the long term.

“The primary goal of our CBT service is to enable patients to receive dental treatment without the need for sedation, by working with each individual patient to set goals according to their priorities. Our study shows that after on average five CBT sessions, most people can go on to be treated by the dentist without the need to be sedated.”

Physical aids to overcoming dental anxiety

The Wand Dental Injections

The Wand painless injection system was developed to replace the traditional syringe in dentistry. As much of a revolution as an evolution, this computer controlled anaesthetic delivery system is a logical progression from the syringe which has seen little change since its invention more than 150 years ago.

With The Wand, dentists can bring one of dentistry’s last remaining antiquated designs into the 21st century.

How does it work?Wand_handpiece_reduced

The Wand uses a small hand piece that looks like a pen.

The Wand gives a supply of anaesthetic in a slow comfortable manner.

The Wand uses a unique new technology, which is unlike any other.

The Wand works at a low pressure and a slow rate that gives an improved anaesthesia.

The Wand works more effectively, resulting in a more pleasant experience

Dental sedation

Dental sedation can also be used to help you relax a dentist, sedation typically comes in three forms

  1. Oral sedation.
  2. Inhalation sedation.
  3. Intravenous sedation.

Oral sedation can normally be provided by most dental practices allowing you to take the tablets couple of hours before you go to visit the dentist whilst you were still at home. You will normally advised to have a chaperone with you to ensure you get there and back safely.

Inhalation sedation involves you breathing in happy gas or nitrous oxide during treatment, it allows you to float away into a dreamland very quickly. One of the biggest advantages with inhalation sedation is that the effects wear off very quickly, this means that if you decide you don’t like the effects, you simply stop breathing the gas and return to normal within a few moments.

Intravenous sedation can also be given. This often involves an anaesthetist being present during your dental treatment which can add to the cost. Intravenous sedation means you can completely drift off into your own dreamers like state was the dental treatment is carried out. You will need someone to visit the dentist with you to ensure you get home safely afterwards.

You should not drink, drive or operate machinery after sedation.

Dr Hussein at The Sandford Clinic in Bexleyheath says:

Being anxious about dental treatment is how most people feel. If visiting a dentist causes you extreme anxiety, please rest assured that you’re not alone. If you have an extreme fear causing you to experience unusual distress, you may be dental phobic.

At The Sandford you will experience gentle dentistry provided by a caring and well trained team of professionals to help you overcome your fears and get you on track for healthy teeth.

 

Image source freedigitalphotos.net

DENTAL PHOBIA STILL RIFE THROUGHOUT UK

People afraid of the dentist are being reminded that dentistry has significantly changed after an alarming number of Brits say a visit is scarier than 10 of the UK’s most common phobias, a new survey reveals. One in three (33 per cent) said a routine check-up was scarier than interacting with other people. Visiting the dentist also caused greater anxiety than open spaces (31 per cent),  driving, animals and confined spaces. Spiders and flying (25 per cent), and vomiting and illness (24 per cent) completed the list.
When asked what influences fear of the dentist the most, one in three (31 per cent) said needles and injections while one in four (25 per cent) suggested pain was the main influence.

The results have been published as part of National Smile Month, which ran from 19 May to 19 June 2014. The good news for patients afraid of the dentist is that more and more dentists nowadays understand their patients’ fears, and with a combination of kindness, gentleness and improvements in technology they can do a lot to make dental treatment a normal part of life.

If you haven’t seen a dentist for years through fear and anxiety, be reassured that you should find the experience dramatically more bearable nowadays.

Why are some people afraid of the dentist?

Most people who are scared of the dentist have bad memories from childhood of the smells and sounds of the surgery. The reality is modern dental surgeries are much friendlier environments with flowers in the waiting room, art on the walls, a pleasant reception area and polite staff.

Advances in technology have also improved dentistry. Treatment can now be completely painless. The dental wand (a computer-driven injection system) is great for anyone with a needle phobia or a numbing gel can be used to numb your gums before an injection.

Do you have fear or anxiety about coming to the dentist? The Dental Fears Research Clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle (1) estimates that perhaps 20% of patients experienced enough anxiety that they will go to the dentist only when absolutely necessary.

One of the problems is that if you don’t visit the dentist your oral health can deteriorate without you knowing.

Research by the Harvard Medical School (2) stated that:

“Oral bacteria could also harm blood vessels or cause blood clots by releasing toxins that resemble proteins found in artery walls or the bloodstream. The immune system’s response to these toxins could harm vessel walls or make blood clot more easily. It is also possible that inflammation in the mouth revs up inflammation throughout the body, including in the arteries, where it can lead to heart attack and stroke.”

So really, attending the dentist regularly is vital to keep your dental health and overall body health in excellent condition, so how can we begin to help you overcome that fear?

We often find that overcoming dental fear is about realising that you have a choice.

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Think about it now, you weren’t born with a fear of the dentist, babies are a blank canvas and have no such irrational fears. However, as we get older we have certain experiences that shape our views, so think about it now… what experience led you to believe you were afraid of the dentist?

When you come to see us we will ask you what was the trigger that taught you this behaviour, this will then help us to help you overcome this irrational fear.

The problem is that we have these experiences once and they then shape our thought patterns by teaching us new behaviours i.e. to fear the dentist, this is a key point to understand, your fear is a learnt behaviour – and if it can be learnt, a new way of thinking can also be learnt.

So even as you read this email now, you’ll notice how irrational being afraid of the dentist really is and how comfortable we can actually make dental treatment with all of our modern techniques.

Some simple exercises to help overcome dental anxiety

Do you hear voices in our head?

If you are thinking ‘No I don’t have voices’ then THAT’S the voice we are talking about, the one that just said ‘I don’t have any voices’!

We all have voices in our head that talk to us telling us things… ‘you’re no good’ ‘ you’re fat’ ‘ you’re scared of the dentist’… now you know the voice we mean, don’t you.

A key strategy on overcoming fear and relaxing at the dentist is to learn to control these voices, so try this exercise now… it may seem odd, but try it as it will work brilliantly for you.

1) Say in your mind something mean about yourself.

Not anything too mean, but something that is important to you and has meaning for you, something like “You are a failure’, “You’ll never be any good at anything’… you know, the kind of thing we were told as kids and we keep with us as adults.

2) Now take that voice and remove it from your head and imagine it on your shoulder, allow it to keep saying those mean things.

Notice how it seems to have less power now that it is out of your head and on your shoulder

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3) Now hold you arm out straight in front of you, put your thumb up vertically, and imagine your voice coming from the tip of your thumb.

As you do this now, notice that even though the words are the same, the power of the voice is weaker.

4) Now give that voice on the tip of your thumb a comedic voice, something really funny and stupid. Allow it to say the same mean things, but allow that voice to say them from the tip of your thumb and in a comedic and funny voice.

Notice this time how the power is completely gone from that voice. Notice how YOU have controlled that voice to take away it’s power.

Now you have realised that YOU are in control of the nagging voice in your head, each time it mentions fear, then place it at the end of your thumb, give it a comedic funny voice and the power of that negative thought has gone.

Dental Sedation, one more step in the right direction.

Now that you have greater control over relaxing at the dentist, it is a good time to talk more about specifically about dental sedation and what options are available.

Relative Analgesia Sedation Explained

RA Sedation, often called Happy Gas, or Happy Air is a mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen which is adjusted to suit you. Different people need a different mix of these gases to achieve a feeling of being warm, cosy and far-away. We use a small soft sterile nosepiece for you to breathe through.

RA sedation allows you to return to work or home afterwards.

How quickly will you recover from RA Sedation?

Very quickly. After treatment you will usually be recovered within 2-3 minutes and can return to the waiting room. You will usually be able to leave the practice within 10 minutes. We do advise against driving for 30-60 minutes but you can return to your usual activities such as home, work or school.

How safe is RA sedation?

Very safe. We use it for children and adults from 5 to 95 so long as they are able to understand how it works and how they will feel. Since you are able to speak to the dentist, if at any time you feel the happy air mixture is a bit too strong, we can quickly turn it down and within a few seconds you will feel very relaxed again.

References:

1. WEBMD – Dental Fears Research Clinic www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/dont-fear-the-dentist

2. Harvard Medical School – heart disease and oral health: role of oral bacteria in heart plaque www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/heart-disease-oral-health