Managing Dental Anxiety as an Adult

Sweaty palms, racing thoughts and a stomach full of butterflies… have you experienced nerves before the dentist?

While most dentists strive to make every appointment a positive experience, the chances are that they’re not the person you look forward to seeing most. If you find yourself falling victim to dental anxiety, you’re not alone. In fact, one in seven Australians experience high dental fear. So, what are the impacts of dental anxiety and how can it be managed?


What is dental anxiety?

Dental anxiety is the experience of fear, stress or anxiety in a dental environment. Often associated with triggers like drills, needles or other apparatus, this anxiety can also be set off simply by thinking about a dental practice. When most severe, dental anxiety can result in irrational fear and total avoidance of the dentist called dental phobia.

Common symptoms of dental anxiety include:
– Sweating
– Increase in heartbeat or palpitations
– Fainting
– Signs of distress like crying or panicking
– Aggression or social withdrawal

What are the implications of dental anxiety?
Often, dental anxiety can cause patients to miss or cancel dental appointments. The fear of undergoing dental treatment, whether it be a simple check-up or a more involved procedure, can result in years of avoidance.

Avoiding the dentist can bring about an unhealthy pattern in which oral health rapidly deteriorates. When dental appointments are missed, seemingly small dental issues go undetected and grow to become costly, painful dental emergencies. This pattern of avoidance leads to poor dental health and often the development of irreversible problems like gum disease and tooth loss.


What causes dental anxiety?

Fear of pain – We’ve all heard our fair share of dental ‘horror stories’ (most of which have been exaggerated for dramatic effect). For many adults, uncomfortable childhood procedures or hearing of other people’s experiences can lead to the formation of negative associations. We’re all human, and it is completely natural to want to avoid pain.

Fortunately, modern dentistry has come a very long way. Today, patients can leave the dental chair having experienced little to no pain. If you struggle with dental anxiety, it’s crucial to find a dentist dedicated to maximising your comfort. At TLC Dental, our highly trained team and human-centred approach to dentistry helps make every visit relaxing, friendly and professional.

Fear of loss of control – For some people, sitting in a dental chair can trigger feelings of helplessness and lack of control. The uncertainty of not seeing their treatment take place can leave people feeling lost and vulnerable.

To manage these feelings, many patients find it helpful for their dentist to explain each step of their treatment. Whether it be before or during the appointment (or both), simply ask your dentist to explain the procedure and they’ll be happy to oblige!

Fear of injections and dental equipment – Often, when people think of the dentist, their minds wander to loud drills and long needles. In fact, a fear of needles and other dental apparatus is a leading cause of dental anxiety.

Fortunately, if treatment requires anaesthetic, the needle’s mild sting can be minimised using numbing gel. Additionally, many patients find distraction helpful to minimise fear during their appointment. Listen to your favourite music, a podcast or watch television to be taken to your happy place!

Final thoughts

At TLC Dental, our highly trained dental experts are here to support you every step of your treatment. Whether it’s a routine check-up or a more involved procedure – let us know if you experience dental anxiety and we’ll do everything in our power to put you at ease!

Book a dental check-up at one of our four suburbs south of the river, including:
– Winthrop
– Mandurah
– Chisham

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