Simple Steps for Dealing with Fear of the Dentist

Do you avoid going to the dentist at all costs, even when you know you need treatment and you’re in pain?

You’re not alone – dental phobia is extremely common, but the good news is, it’s also extremely treatable.

I can help you to:

  • Identify the root of your fear
  • Start to relax
  • Develop the confidence to source a dentist you’re happy with
  • Cope with that first appointment comfortably

Getting to the Root of Your Issue

Very often, fear of the dentist stems from childhood – do the sights, sounds and smells of the dentists surgery invoke feelings of fear?  Or take you right back to your childhood?  Or was there someone around you who had a fear of the dentist when you were young?  Perhaps the fear is an association you’ve made – e.g. do the staff uniforms remind you of a previous hospital visit?  Be assured that however the original fear started, I can help you to take back control.

The list below shows typical thoughts and feelings for each level of the fear scale and will help you to gauge your own level of fear.

Fear/Phobia Scale and Typical Symptoms

  • Mild (1 to 4): I dislike the thought of going to the dentist and get nervous beforehand, often I put off going, but I can usually manage to get through a check-up if I really make the effort. I would probably find excuses to put off going for treatment until the last minute and would be nervous of getting it done.
  • Medium (5 to 7): I get stressed quickly at the dentists. I usually fear the worst and don’t like having dental equipment put in my mouth for check-ups, let alone anything else.  Even looking at leaflets about dental care can make me feel anxious or panicky.  It would not be easy to get me to go for treatment and I would need more moral support than most to manage it.
  • Severe (8 to 10): Just the word “dentist” makes me break into a cold sweat. I have not been to a dentist for a long time and have let a dental problem get worse rather than facing an appointment to get it fixed (or I know I would do that).  I can’t look at images of dentists or hear details of any kind of treatment.  Deep down, I’m convinced that visiting a dentist will be painful and that I’ll panic too much to be able to face it.

If your fear is medium to severe: think honestly about whether you could cope with that needed appointment purely with self-help and the moral support of someone you trust, or whether some professional support is needed.

If your fear is mild to medium: self-help may be extremely effective for you.  Decide whether this would be an appropriate strategy for you, or whether you would still prefer to have some professional backup.

Whatever, your level of fear, if you feel you do need some professional support: Claim your FREE 30 minute Change Your Life Consultation by going to www.vernonaharris.com.

Whatever your level of fear, if you feel you would like to try self-help, follow my programme of tips outlined below.

Tip 1:  Begin a self-help journal: divide a page into two columns, heading them “Positive” and “Negative”, then write down every positive or negative thought, feeling or perception that comes to mind when you think about a trip to the dentist.  It may seem difficult at first to find anything to put on your “positive” list, but even a feeling of relief that your check-up showed that you needed no treatment, for example, would be a “positive”.  Or perhaps you were grateful that a friend or family member came along with you, or that the dentist explained a better way of cleaning or flossing.

Looking at your “negative” column, decide whether some of your thoughts, feelings and perceptions go back a long way – if so, be assured that working practice and approaches have changed a lot since you last visited a dentist – you may be pleasantly surprised.

With your list firmly in mind, make a clear decision about whether you wish to go to a dentist who specialises in treating nervous patients.  If so, you may need to travel some way, but regard this as part of your new commitment to ongoing self-care.

Whether you decide to find such a specialist or stick with the dentist you already have, make your appointment today.  Schedule it for at least a week ahead if possible.  Explain when booking that you are a nervous patient, but that you will make every effort to attend.  Remember: this first appointment will be an initial assessment only – any treatment will come later.

Congratulations – You have taken that essential first step!

Tip 2:  Looking back over your list, decide whether you can pinpoint your fear to a particular situation.  If you think you know what caused your original fear, give yourself full credit for recognising it and jot it down in your notebook.  You are going to mention it when you attend your appointment, so that everything possible can be done to make your visits less stressful in the future.  For example, if you are afraid of needles, there is a numbing gel that can be applied to the gum first.  If it’s seeing dental instruments that you dislike, you could simply close your eyes or wear dark glasses.  If you would prefer not to look at any X-Rays taken, you are under no obligation to do so.  If you would like the dentist to explain, step by step, what’s going on – say so.  The main thing is to communicate with your dentist so that the dentist and support staff can co-operate to help things go smoothly for you – remember, they will want to do everything possible to help you.

Next, think about whether you would like to be accompanied on your visit by someone you trust – if so, make the necessary arrangements now.

Also decide whether you would like to take some soothing music to help you through the experience – if so, select it today.

Tip 3:  Two powerful relaxation techniques are deep breathing and meditation.  Both are extremely effective for self-soothing in potentially stressful situations.

Simple deep breathing technique:

The instant you feel your fear coming on…Take a deep breath in for a count of 5…Hold for a count of 5…Then breathe out for a count of 8. Repeat this breathing technique until you’re feeling calm again.

Simple meditation technique:

To practice this find somewhere comfortable to sit or lie down for about 5 or 10 minutes without being disturbed.  Close your eyes and allow your breathing to become nice and rhythmic as you start to let go of all feelings of tension.  Then in your mind, count from 5 down to 1 while still keeping your breathing nice and rhythmic.  Now just keep focusing on your breathing and relaxing as much as you can.  If any thought comes into your mind …simply acknowledge it, tell it you will deal with it later and return your focus to your breathing.  As you continue to practice you will find the thoughts getting less and less until one day they stop and you find yourself going deeper into your meditation.  How long this will take depends on your dedication to practice.  The benefit of this is that the more you meditate the easier it becomes for you to take control of your fear.

When you combine the two techniques you can even take yourself into a state of self-hypnosis and mentally take yourself to a real or imaginary place where you’re completely safe and secure, where nothing is asked, desired or required from you.  While you are in this sanctuary/safe place, the dentist can get on with their job without it affecting you negatively.

Keep practicing your deep breathing, meditations and/or self-hypnosis over the coming days – you are going to go to that first appointment very well prepared!

Tip 4:  Putting Together a Personal Care Plan

Now you are becoming more and more able to tackle that initial appointment – ask yourself “What steps do I need to take now that will help me in the future?”  In the event that there is some treatment you need to undergo, keep using the tips shown above to keep yourself calm and in control and decide in advance how you are going to reward yourself for each appointment you keep, including the initial visit.  But after that?  Make a list of actions you are going to take to keep your teeth and mouth in excellent shape for the future.

Most dentists recommend a check-up every six months as a minimum.  You may also want to do some research into different types of brush, paste, flossing and specialist cleaning items (interdental brushes, etc.) according to your specific needs.  Maybe you’ve decided that some dietary changes might be beneficial?  Or a regular trip to the hygienist?  Jot down in your notebook a list of the things you want to commit to – and give yourself full credit for turning your initial fears into a commitment to keep your teeth and mouth as healthy as possible!

Tip 5:  Researching Alternatives

Remember, you can always look into your own alternatives to make your personal dental care plan exactly right for you.  Keep jotting down your ideas and discoveries so that you will make trying them out part of your agenda.  Here are a couple of ideas to start with – enjoy your journey!

Coconut Oil Pulling Benefits and How to do Oil Pulling
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtFzd3TBYiI

How to Clean Your Teeth Naturally
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCMagoR0y6E

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