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7 ways to overcome a fear of the dentist

4 minute read
A woman covering her mouth in a dentist's chair

Does the thought of sitting in a dentist’s chair make your heart race and palms sweaty? You’re not alone. Research shows approximately one in seven Australian adults are affected by a dental phobia, making it one of the most common anxiety disorders in our country.

Regularly visiting the dentist and keeping on top of your oral hygiene isn’t just about having a perfect set of pearly whites; taking care of your teeth and gums can also help prevent many different diseases including heart disease and pancreatic cancer.

To keep your teeth in tip-top shape, a biannual trip to the dentist is essential. So, if you’re currently suffering from dental anxiety, here are seven things you can do to kick that fear to the kerb.

1. Identify what drives your phobia

The first step to overcoming your fear is to identify exactly what it is that makes you feel afraid, so spend some time reflecting on the source of your anxiety. For some, it might be based on a bad experience; for others, it could be specific to a drill or needle. Once you’ve identified what you’re fearful about, you’ll be better placed to work towards a solution.

2. Book an early appointment

By booking in the first appointment of the day, you'll be able to get your check-up over and done with as quickly as possible. An afternoon appointment means you’ll have more time for the dental phobia to kick in, and you'll likely be thinking about it unnecessarily all day.

3. Go with someone you trust

If you have a friend or family member who is fearless when it comes to the dentist, enlist their help by taking them along with you. They’ll be able to ensure you turn up to your appointment (which is often the hardest part) and they can keep you company and reassure you throughout.

A woman smiling at her dentist from the dental chair

4. Pop in some headphones

Does listening to Jack Johnson put you in a zen-like state? Do you have a favourite podcast that absorbs your attention? Are you halfway through an audiobook? If you answer yes to any of the above, then pop in some headphones during your appointment and try to keep your mind focused on anything other than what’s going on in your mouth.

5. Make it part of your routine

Don’t wait until you’re in pain to lock in an appointment as that might only make things worse. The best thing you can do is to make two check-ups part of your annual routine. At the end of your appointment, see if you can schedule in your next check-up for six months’ time or ask for a reminder closer to the date. Regular visits mean problems will be identified early and treated before they turn into anything more serious.

6. Focus on your breathing

A great way to relax and keep calm during your appointment is through controlled breathing. If you’re feeling stressed, give the 4-7-8 breathing technique a try. To practice this breathing method, inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds and exhale for eight seconds. Practice this for four full breaths and you’ll be able to relax your muscles and slow your heart rate.

7. Talk to your dentist

Hate the thought of needles? Worried about pain? Dreading the drill? There's no shame in talking through any fears you have with your dentist. Once they’re aware of your situation, they’ll be able to address your concerns and create an action plan that’s tailored to suit your needs. They can also help come up with a signal or cue you can enact (like raising your hand) if you want to take a break from treatment or stop it altogether.

Ready to book an appointment?

When you’re ready to book your dental appointment, our nib First Choice network should be your first port of call to keep your out-of-pocket expenses low. It’s our community of specially-selected health providers who have agreed to provide nib members with quality healthcare and great customer service at an affordable price.

You can choose to see the dentist of your choice, but by choosing an nib First Choice provider, it simply means you could pay less. Search the nib First Choice network now to find a provider.

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