Stay calm at the dentist – tips for nervous patients 

By City Bridge Dental & Implant Clinic 

Dental anxiety takes many forms, from a mild “This is going to hurt, isn’t it?” to a full-blown dental phobia which can prevent patients visiting the dentist for years. If you think you have dental anxiety, you are not alone. In 2011, the BBC reported that the British Dental Association estimates 25% of us exhibit some form of anxiety before visiting the dentist.

The fear of pain, often associated with a genuinely painful experience in younger life, is a frequent trigger. Research indicates, as one would expect, that someone who expects a procedure to hurt is more likely to experience pain than someone who does not.

Dental procedures have improved tremendously over recent years and modern practices provide environments and treatment options which are much less stressful than what we might remember from the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

However, fear does not necessarily respond to the simple statement of facts like this. The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to reduce your fear of treatment. In this blog post, Mark Aston, dentist at City Bridge Dental Care, outlines his top tips for helping patients relax in the surgery.

  1. Tell the dentist about your fears and ask about the procedure. Much anxiety is based around fear of the unknown: “What are you going to do to me?” City Bridge dentists and our patient care coordinator, Kim, will always take the time to explain treatments and discuss any concerns you may have. By letting the dentist know exactly why the experience is difficult for you, you will feel more in control in the examination chair.
  2. Choose a dentist with whom you click. All dentists have different personalities and it stands to reason you will get on with some better than others. We have a number of dentists in our practice and will make sure you find someone who makes you feel at ease.
  3. We have audio and video facilities, so bring in your favourite music or films which you can enjoy and will help take your mind off the treatment itself.
  4. Teach yourself some deep breathing techniques and use them before you come to the surgery and during your appointment. (We will be putting up a blog outlining a recommended breathing technique in the near future.)
  5. Many patients report that an early morning appointment is best if they know anxiety will build up during the day.
  6. We encourage patients to agree a ‘stop’ signal which they can use to let us know they are uncomfortable and would like to take a break during the appointment. Patients tell us this puts them in control and they feel more relaxed about the treatment. We will take it as slowly as you like.
  7. We also encourage nervous patients to visit regularly. Coming into the practice frequently for cleaning, seeing the hygienist, discussing treatment options brings two benefits. It acclimatises you to the surgery and being around the dental environment. And, of course, it means you are more likely to avoid the more serious problems which result in complex procedures.

Talking things through, finding the right environment and practising relaxation exercises work for most patients. However, we also see many people whose phobias are so strong that they require additional medication to help them through their treatment. 

For further info, see our dental phobia blog which looks at the procedures City Bridge can introduce into the treatment plan to help extremely anxious patients receive the comfort they need.

(City Bridge acknowledges the help provided by www.psychcentral.com in the preparation of this article)

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Nick And Mark Outside Practice

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