Regular dental check-ups are important to keep your teeth and gums healthy but dental anxiety can make people delay appointments or treatment which can result in more complex treatment down the track or other health complications.

The term dental anxiety is used to describe fear, anxiety or stress associated with a dental appointment or treatment. It can be triggered by previous experiences, the anticipation of the unknown or triggers like needles, drills or simply the dental setting in general.

So what are the symptoms and how can you manage it?

Signs and symptoms of Dental Anxiety

People with dental anxiety may experience some of the following:

  • Sweating,
  • Increased heart rate,
  • Fainting or low blood pressure,
  • Signs of panic, distress or crying or
  • Using humour or aggression to mask anxiety.

How can it impact your oral health?

Avoiding routine dental check-ups can mean the greater need for emergency treatment or more complex procedures in the future. This can feed the underlying problem of dental anxiety.

Regular check-ups help identify small issues before they become big problems, reducing the need for more invasive treatment. Good oral health can also be managed with lifestyle improvements so by going regularly, your dentist can help guide you on ways improve your oral health.

Managing dental anxiety

It’s important to let your dentist know if you experience any level of dental anxiety. Being open to discussion around your triggers will help them tailor a treatment plan suited to your needs.

Deep breathing and mediation or distracting yourself with music can be effective coping mechanisms. In some cases, referral to a psychologist can also be beneficial. Severe dental anxiety may require management with analgesia (like happy gas) or anxiety relieving medication. Some patients also find relief with natural remedies. Chat with your dentist about solutions that can work for you.

Kids and dental anxiety

It’s normal to have fears, especially for children. If your child is especially anxious about a dental appointment, here’s some tips that might help:

  • Before the appointment: Tell your child in advance they have a dental visit. Children often need time to adjust and transition into unfamiliar situations. Let them express their fears and give straightforward answers that are to the point. Don’t be too detailed in your answers, remind them they can also ask the dentist questions on the day.
  • During the visit: Dentists are trained to work with a variety of patients so ask them what you can do to put your child at ease and follow their recommendations. Consider taking along a favourite toy as a calming distraction in the waiting room, just check with the dentist what’s appropriate for them to hold while in the chair.

It might be difficult but keeping calm yourself will help reduce any anxiety your child might be experiencing. Remind yourself to remain collected and speak gently, this will help them feel safe and at ease.

Taking the anxiety out of dental bills

With selected Phoenix Health extras cover, everyone on your membership receives two gap free preventative check-ups and cleans every year. Plus, we don’t have preferred providers so you can choose, or continue to visit, a dentist that you feel comfortable with and know you’ll still receive the highest benefits available on your cover. Find out more here.

Source: Better Health Victoria and Carefree Dental.