In the first part of this blog we looked at some of the causes and effects of dental anxiety and phobia.
In this section we will discuss how to find a good dentist who can work with you to overcome your fears.
As in any profession, there are good and bad dentists. Most dentists want to relieve pain and keep their patients happy. However, not all dentists have the personality, time or interest to work with those who are fearful and need extra care and attention.
Unfortunately, if you have had bad experiences in the past with one or more dentists this may lead you to believe that all dentists are uncaring or “bad”.
Media portrayal of dentists usually does not help. While movies may make other doctors the hero in their plots they usually portray the dentist as the villain!
If you had a schoolteacher who was cruel and ridiculed you, this does not mean that all teachers are the same.
There are many gentle, caring dentists who are good with nervous people.
The key is finding the right dentist for you.
Qualities of a good dentist
Of course, a dentist needs to be well qualified, knowledgeable and skillful at their job.The following qualities are also important, especially if you are anxious or have dental phobia:
- Someone you can develop a good rapport with.
- Makes you feel at ease and works to gain your trust.
- Treats all people with respect.
- Interested in whole person – does not just see people as a mouth or set of teeth!
- Understands anxiety and is gentle and caring.
- Willing to spend extra time when needed and listen to your concerns.
- Explains the diagnosis and treatment options in a way that you can understand.
- Involves you in decision making and gives preventive advice so that you become a partner in your dental care.
- If sedation is used, it should only be in conjunction with, and not as a replacement for, good communication and psychological support.
- Dental office environment should be clean and as welcoming and comfortable as possible.
So how do you find a dentist the right dentist for you?
The best way is by word of mouth. Ask your friends and family, if they have a dentist they can recommend. If a friend or family member is also anxious or an ex-dental phobic but has found a dentist who they get along well with, this is a good sign. You can also check a dentist’s reviews on various websites, but a personal recommendation is better.
There is no one dentist who is a perfect fit for every patient. Depending on past experience and personal preference, you may be happier with a male or female dentist, or someone with a different personality type than your friend.
Taking the first step
Once you have some recommendations you could telephone the practices to ask about the dentist and get some more information. If you are very anxious, you could ask someone to do this for you. Try to call into the practice, with a friend, if needed, to get get a feel for the place before making an appointment. You could explain to the receptionist that you are anxious and ask how the dentist deals with anxious patients.
Unless you have severe pain or infection, you do not need to rush into dental treatment. You will probably have been putting off seeing a dentist for some time, so a few more weeks are not going to make a huge difference. It is important to find a dentist who will help you overcome your fears, rather than reinforce them.
It may be less scary to ask to just have a chat with the dentist away from the dental chair for the first visit. It is best to be open about your fears, anxieties and past bad experiences, as this can enable the dentist to find the best way to help you. If you feel unable to talk about some of your fears, you could put them in writing.
If you feel positive about the dentist you can then make an appointment for a check-up. Trust your instincts, if you don’t feel comfortable with the dentist then make your excuses and leave. You can keep looking until you find the right dentist for you.
If you have a dental phobia, just making the first appointment can be the hardest part. An understanding dentist will let you take one step at a time in order to build up your confidence. Once you have managed a check-up and x-ray, you will probably find that your level of anxiety is reduced. It is best to start with a simpler procedure, such as cleaning, before moving onto to more complex treatment.Congratulate yourself for each new step you take.
As the following testimonial from a Smile Station patient shows, it is possible to overcome your fears once you find the right dentist:
“When I was referred by my colleague to go to Smile Station, I thought it is going to be yet another place and have to bear the grueling pains which normally arises due to dental treatments. After the first consultation with Dr Gurudev I changed my opinion completely. Within few sittings all my problems along with fear has gone and our entire family is now under the care of Smile Station. Both Dr Pramila and Dr Gurudev are excellent in their approach and services to the patients!! Cheers and Good wishes to the entire Team !!!”
Look out for the next section in which we will look at specific anxieties and some techniques for overcoming them.