Dental phobia: How to overcome a fear of the dentist – 6 tips

Chris Evans recalls 'traumatic experience' of visiting the dentist

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The general rule says we should all visit the dentist every six months but the NHS site explains the time between check-ups can vary from three months to two years, depending on how healthy your teeth and gums are and your risk of future problems. If you’re too scared to go to the dentist and it has been too long since your last visit, you need to force yourself to go. Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Kailesh Solanki, advisory dentist at Dental Phobia and Dr Martina Hodgson, dentist & Invisalign doctor at The Dental Studio to find out their top six tips to overcoming a fear of the dentist.

Experienced dentist

First things first, make sure you’re going to the right dentist for you.

Dr Solanki said: “If you can, ensure that your dentist is experienced in treating nervous patients.

“Dentophobia is very common and there’s no need to be embarrassed. Your dentist should take the time to talk over your fears and suggest how treatment could be adapted to accommodate your phobia.

“This might include mild sedation or using the wand technique instead of the traditional syringe, to deliver anaesthetic slowly; minimising the risk of feeling uncomfortable.”

Be on time

Being late will exacerbate your anxiety, but there’s no need to be more than five or 10 minutes early.

Dr Solanki said: “Although you need to arrive in good time for your appointment, try to ensure that you’re not exceptionally early.

“Arriving shortly before your appointment will ensure you don’t have to sit for too long in the waiting area, with your tension increasing by the minute.”

Arrive relaxed

Don’t do anything before the appointment that will make you feel more stressed, instead, you should try and relax.

Dr Hodgson said: “Start the relaxation process early. Before your appointment, you could try either doing an activity which makes you happy such as clothes shopping.

“Or enjoy a hot bath or even have a massage, so you come to your appointment already relaxed.”

Distract yourself

If you’d rather not think about what’s going on in the moment, it’s perfectly okay to distract yourself.

Dr Solanki said: “If you prefer not to know what’s going on, playing catchy music through headphones can be a great distraction, both from the noise of the equipment and the treatment taking place. Why not make your own dental playlist?

“Some dental clinics provide their own music or even a TV screen on the ceiling which has proven to relax many patients.”

Dr Hodgson added: “Try distracting yourself with an object you’ve brought in specifically, such as a stress ball, a charm bracelet or a fidget spinner.

“By focusing your touch sense on feeling the object in your hand, this may help to distract you from the treatment taking place in your mouth.”

Speak up

If you can’t distract yourself and you’d rather a continuous monologue from the dentist, tell them!

Dr Hodgson said: “Some patients are soothed by being able to maintain a degree of control whilst having treatment.

“For those individuals, a constant commentary by the dentist, explaining what each instrument does, what is happening and why, can be very helpful.”

Lavender

You can’t exactly have a soothing drink or do some yoga during your appointment, but you can use aromatherapy to stay calm.

Dr Hodgson said: “You can use your sense of smell to help you relax.

“Bring some lavender pillow spray and spray it on your top or on your wrist to help you calm down when you feel tense and bring about a sense of safety and wellbeing.”

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