Do You Have a Fear of the Dentist?
Updated: Nov 11, 2021
We are sharing this interesting article from Psychology Today about tips for beating a fear of the dentist.
We are always promoting the benefits of dental insurance to our corporate clients, to help them protect their employees oral health. It is proven that regular dental check ups can avoid more serious oral health and other linked problems. So having a dental insurance health policy that covers dental check ups is a great win for all of your employees. But what do you do if you have an employee with a phobia of the dentist? Figures show that this could include up to half of the UK population.
As we have been covering through the pandemic, access to dentists has proven to be very difficult, due to increased cleaning regimes, reducing the amount of patients they can see in the day. Our clients with dental insurance policies have been able to access private dental care more readily. This lack of appointments has helped to enable those with phobias to swerve a much needed visit to the dentist, thus developing an even greater phobia as the longer you leave it, the worse the fear gets. Many dentists are starting to fear a huge amount of dental problems once they are able to resume normal treatments.
Over 50% of the Population Experience Dental Fear
Dental fear is very common and effects people in different ways from a mild fear of a visit to a debilitating phobia that prevents people visiting the dentists. Some dentists have resorted to offering sedation services to help patients to face their fear. For others fear is just the overall discomfort rising to a fear of needles and drills.
Dental fear has serious consequences for people’s oral health and overall well-being. Scientists refer to a “vicious cycle of dental fear,” in which initial fear leads to delayed dentist visits, which result in higher numbers of dental problems, and, consequently, require symptom-driven treatment. Unpleasant experiences during treatment increase existing levels of dental fear, aggravating the problem.
What to do if you are Afraid of the Dentist?
Breaking the fear of the dentist can be handled in a number of psychological strategies:
Distraction - If you experience mild fear, practising exercises to take your mind off the exam or treatment can be an easy win. Things to try are listening to music or an audio book, watching a video on your phone, or maybe go low tech and count the tiles on the ceiling.
Physical relaxation - By relaxing you are targeting the body's physical response to stress and anxiety. Things to try could be meditation, mental visualisation, muscle relaxation or breathing exercises.
Increasing control - A main source of dental anxiety is fear of the unknown. So to try and take control back from the mysterious people in masks with scary tools could be to use stop signalling or tell, show, do techniques. You could arrange a stop signal, ie raising your hand during a treatment. This gives you a feeling of greater power over the situation and helps to relax you. If using tell, show, do, this puts more onus on the dentist, asking them to clearly explain everything that they are doing. This can help to target a patient's fear of the unknown at the root.
Cognitive restructuring - This is where you work on the evaluation of unhelpful thoughts and irrational thinking patterns. You could think about the thoughts that come to mind when you think about visiting the dentist. By facing up to these thoughts and fears, you develop a plan. For example if it's fear of pain, why not speak to your dentists about sedation options?
As lockdown hopefully continues to relax and dental practices are able to see more patients it is likely that there will be an increased fear in visiting the dentists when for most people it has been over a year. Taking out a dental insurance policy for you and your employees can help to take out some of the fear of visiting the dentist when you know that you are covered for any unexpected costs that could have arisen for pandemic related decay.
Contact us today to see how we can help you with your dental insurance requirements.