How common is dental anxiety? According to the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health*, high dental fear affects approximately one in six Australian adults and about one in ten children. Among some sections of the population, such as middle-aged women, this fear may be as high as one in three
Dental phobia is an extreme level of dental fear and impacts significantly on a person’s life. This affects about 5% of the Australian population.
Consequences of dental anxiety For some patients the dread of attending the dentist is so intense, they suffer oral pain and/or infection for months, sometimes years just to avoid a trip to the dentist. For others, the sights, sounds, or smells of the dental centre may trigger their fear, while some may even fear the confines of the dental chair.
Unfortunately, such patients are often at a higher risk of more severe dental disease including deep decay, gum disease and early tooth loss, which can in turn lead to insecurities about their smiles and a lack of self-confidence.
Patients with heightened levels of dental anxiety who avoid attending the dentist for routine oral care, and who experience a decline in the status of their oral health can also experience an overall decline in physical health.
How do Pacific Smiles Dental help reduce dental anxiety? If you feel nervous at the dentist, don’t worry, you’re not alone. We aim to make your visit as comfortable as possible.
To ensure our patients have a comfortable visit, dentists at Pacific Smiles Dental use a variety of techniques including:
An open, honest and non-judgemental approach to dental care: Dentists at Pacific Smiles Dental genuinely care about your feelings and will discuss with you any concerns you may have to ensure your appointments are comfortable for you. Your treatment can be tailored to your needs including, where required, the provision of treatment under relative analgesia (nitrous oxide) or IV sedation. Other sedation options can also be discussed with you.
Pre-treatment familiarisation visits: If patients are extremely anxious, we encourage them to come in for an initial meeting. Patients are invited to sit in the dental chair and spend a little time talking to get acquainted with both the dentist and the environment. This helps patients familiarise themselves with the centre and the friendly staff who will care for them. Please contact Pacific Smiles Dental for information on organising a familiarisation visit.
Patients maintain control: If during any dental procedures you need to take a break, you can simply raise a hand to signal the dentist or the dental assistant who will stop proceedings in order to check on how you are going.
Distraction techniques: Playing music during a dental procedure can really help to relax and distract you from the visit. We recommend that anxious patients bring along headphones and a new set of songs from a smartphone or iPod that are different and interesting. Familiar music can too easily go unnoticed.
For children who are fearful or anxious at the thought of visiting the dentist, the following tips are recommended:
Helping to prepare your child: Before coming in to the appointment, talk about what might happen during the visit with your child. You might talk about a ride in the special chair, which can go up and down, or about letting the dentist count their teeth on the first visit. You may even have guessing games to see how many teeth they think they have. You can show your child how you might open your mouth when you visit the dentist so that they get used to the idea of being asked to open their mouth.
Try not to project your own fears onto your children: It is easy for parents who are themselves not comfortable with visiting the dentist to instil that same fear into their children from things they say. Always try to speak positively about the dentist in front of your children, so that dental visits appear a normal part of looking after yourself in your children’s minds.
When visiting the dentist yourself, take your child with you: When you are attending the dentist for your own routine check-up (or short consultation), let your child have a ride in the dental chair and meet the dentist just to get used to the environment. Allowing them to be familiar with what happens before their own appointment will help avoid any surprises. It is important however that your appointment is short and does not involve procedures that are more detailed.
If you or a loved one suffers from any level of dental anxiety, there is no need to suffer. Please talk to staff at your nearest Pacific Smiles Dental clinic for advice on what options they provide to make your appointment stress-free.