How to fight your fear of the dentist

Dental Surgeon at Bupa UK
25 October 2018

If you have a fear of going to the dentist, you’re not alone. ‘Dental anxiety’ – as it’s known to us dentists – is a recognised issue for many people, and one that we’re well used to coming across. But it’s not a problem that needs to be overwhelming, and certainly not one that should get in the way of your dental health. Here, I’ll try to give some helpful tips for anyone who’s struggling with their fear of visiting the dentist.

Image of a dentist and a patient in a dental surgery

Dental anxiety – the problem

When it comes to the nation keeping their teeth healthy, dental anxiety is a well-established problem. It’s thought that around one in every 10 adults in the UK have a serious fear of the dentist. According to the British Dental Association, roughly seven in 100 people never go to the dentist, with around one in six of these people saying it’s because they’re too scared to do so.

An underlying fear of dental treatment can often stem from a previous bad experience, especially if it happened when you were a child. This might mean that you’re reluctant to book in for regular check-ups, which help to spot problems earlier, when they’re simpler to treat. This then means you’re more likely to end up seeing a dentist in an emergency, to relieve you of pain. This treatment may well be a lot more involved, which won’t help with the anxiety.

How to fight your fear of the dentist

Look after your teeth

The most important thing to remember is that prevention is better than cure. You can reduce your chances of needing serious dental treatment by looking after your teeth properly. In short, this means brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste for two to three minutes each time. Cleaning between your teeth is equally important, using dental floss daily. For more, look at our detailed information on caring for your teeth.

Go for regular check-ups

This may sound counterintuitive if you have a fear, but one of the best things you can do is to make sure you visit the dentist regularly. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, regular check-ups and hygienist appointments will help to ensure your teeth stay clean and healthy. This should minimise the chances of you needing more invasive and uncomfortable treatments. Secondly, it gives you a chance of familiarising and ultimately normalising the experience, which should help to gradually alleviate the anxiety you associate with the dentist.

Speak to your dentist

If you’re feeling scared or worried when you go for an appointment, it’s important that you speak to the dentist about how you’re feeling. We’re well used to treating people who have dental anxiety, and there are ways a dentist can change their approach to help you. Tell your dentist exactly what it is that’s worrying you. Is it the noise? The dread of having an injection? The possibility of feeling pain? The better your dentist understands the causes of your fear, the better prepared they are to mitigate against it.

Some steps they might take include:

  • explaining and educating you about each step of the treatment as they go along, thereby involving you in your dental care
  • using an anaesthetic gel on the gum before placing an injection
  • using a sedative to help you relax, if you’re particularly nervous or anxious

Seek out a specialist

There are some dentists who specialise in looking after anxious or nervous patients. If you’re looking for a new dentist, perhaps after a period of time without an appointment, it’s a good idea to see if you can find one of these specialists. They might be able to try more unusual techniques like sedation, hypnosis or acupuncture to help with your anxiety.

Stay in control

It’s important to keep in mind that you’re in control of your appointment. If at any stage you start to feel uncomfortable or anxious, you can simply raise a hand, signalling to the dentist to stop what they’re doing. Knowing that you’re in control can go some way to managing your dental anxiety.

The doors of our dental centres are open to all, even if you're not a Bupa member. So if you're thinking of changing your dentist or need help improving your smile, contact us today.

Dr Bhav Kotecha
Dental Surgeon at Bupa UK

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