Is fear keeping you away from the dentist?
More than 40% of Canadians avoid going to the dentist because of anxiety. Source: Statistics Canada
We all know how important regular dental care is for our overall health and well-being. Regular visits to your dentist will help to detect any changes in your teeth to prevent gum disease and other changes that could lead to serious health conditions.
But let’s face it, going to the dentist is not usually something we look forward to. We just know it’s the right thing to do.
Despite the best efforts of many dentists and their staff to make their patients feel comfortable and at ease, there are people who do not feel able to go.
There are many reasons that people avoid going to the dentist. Most often it is because they had a bad experience as a child. Other reasons can range from mood disorders to posttraumatic stress, and substance abuse. Still others feel embarrassed because they have not been taking good care of their teeth and think they will be judged.
Others put off dental care because they feel a loss of control over their situation. Cost of dental care is also a factor for postponing or avoiding dental treatment.
Regular visits to the dentist can remove plaque as well as flag other serious health conditions like oral cancer.
We all experience anxiety from time to time for many reasons; a fear of spiders, snakes, heights, or flying are quite common.
Unlike some phobias, the fear of going to the dentist can have serious consequences for our health. By allowing this anxiety to stop us from regular dental care, we are risking our long-term overall health. Regular brushing can help but plaque and tartar can still build up and will require more time to remove. Tartar can start to affect the gums and potentially cause gum disease.
Regular visits can shorten the amount of time you need in the dentist’s chair.
If the patient cannot stay in the dentist’s chair for very long, then not all of the plaque can be removed, resulting in the need for more visits.
Regular checkups can actually decrease the amount of time you will need to spend at the dentist for treatment of cavities and other problems.
At Dentistry in Waterloo we think the best way to avoid the dentist’s chair is to come for regular check-ups and cleanings. Having good oral hygiene and regular visits with the hygienist helps minimize build-up, and we can catch cavities while they’re still small and easy to deal with. Not to mention, cleanings will be painless if you get regular cleanings.
Technology has improved dental care and many patients are surprised at how little pain they feel. But childhood memories can prevent people from going to the dentist which only increases the chance of tooth decay and gum disease which of course leads to the need for more treatment.
We are here to help and have several suggestions for patients to help them reduce their level of anxiety so they can focus on their oral health. It is perfectly normal for many patients to experience some anxiety, but if it prevents you from getting dental treatment then it is essential to take steps to manage your fear.
• Acknowledging your fear is the first step to making a change
• Try to pinpoint why you feel this way – is it a specific part of the dental visit that concerns you?
• Talk to someone you trust about your fears
• We are always happy to meet with our patients and listen to their concerns.
When you are ready, make up your mind to take some steps and try to stick with your plan
• Set realistic objectives and goals for yourself
• Maybe you want to improve your oral health but have putting it off
• Think of little differences you can make to help you reach your end goal
• Keep a journal to record your feelings while you are working towards your goal
Choosing a dentist
• Choose a dentist you will feel comfortable with
• Ask friends for a recommendation
• Call different dental offices and compare how they respond to your needs
• Ask how they help patients who have anxiety
• Arrange an appointment to meet the staff and tour the practice
• Ask how they keep up to date with new dental techniques and technologies so that you will have the best options available to you
• Talk to your dentist about what you can expect
• Will they take the time to explain each step in the procedure and how you will feel?
• Will they ask your permission before moving to the next step?
• Will they plan ahead with you how you can communicate that you need a break during the treatment, for example, raise your left hand?
Make an appointment to talk to your dentist first
Getting ready for your first checkup
• Book an early morning appointment so that you won’t be thinking about it all day
• Ask a close friend or relative who is comfortable going to the dentist to accompany you on your first visit
• Tell your dentist about the specific parts of the treatment you fear. Your dentist will do their best to adjust the treatment to minimize your anxiety
• Take along some music and ear phones, and ask your dentist if they provide videos
• Try relaxation techniques such as breathing used in yoga to gain control of your fears
• Schedule your appointments gradually; try having a check up first, see how you feel and then book a cleaning.
• Ask the dentist ahead of time to explain each procedure if this will make you feel more at ease.
Begin regular dental care at a young age
More Helpful Tips
• If you have tried your best and still feel anxious at the thought of going to the dentist then there are still lots of things you can do
• Ask your family doctor for advice and a referral to a professional who can help you with your fears
• Avoid discussing your fears with friends who are also anxious about going to the dentist
• Make a point of shifting your thoughts to something positive if you find yourself getting anxious about your dental appointment
• Some dentists use sedation such as local anesthetic, nitrous oxide, oral sedatives and intravenous sedation.
• Take care not to pass your fears of the dentist on to your children
In the end, the decision to have good oral health is yours. Good oral health is the key to overall health so it is well worth the effort to learn to manage your fear.
We are here to help you achieve a lifetime of good dental and overall health.
Please call us today for more information and to arrange a tour and meeting with Dr. Yu and his staff.
Dr. Holman Yu and Family