Avoiding the Dentist?
If the mere thought of going to the dentist causes your heart to race and your hands to sweat you are not alone. While many people will choose to make dental health care one of their New Year priorities, according to Statistics Canada more than 40% of Canadian will give the dentist the brush-off because of dental anxiety.
Although there has been many significant advances in dental techniques and technology, many people still feel uncomfortable in a dental office. This is because the body is simply amazing! It is designed for self-preservation and is equipped with an incredible internal response system when it senses danger. Even when you brain attempts to rationalize and calm your fears, your body may already be sending you the strong urge to escape.
It’s no wonder people avoid coming to the dentist or cancel their dental appointments. Trying to reason with such a strong fight/flight/freeze mechanism can be challenging. You may not be able to eliminate all of your fears, but you can learn to manage them despite your body’s physical reactions.
If you are determined to make your health and well-being a priority this year here’s what:
You Can Do…
1. Admit your fears – If you are already thinking about going to the dentist you are likely already feeling anxiety. Discuss you concerns with a trusted, empathetic person. Avoid speaking to someone who may intensify and reinforce your fears by recalling their own fears or experiences. We are also here to listen and help make your visits to us as comfortable as possible.
2. Look for a new dentist – If you do not already have a dentist , email or call around to look for a dental office to call home. Convey your fears and concerns to them then review their responses. Did they respond? Did you feel rushed on the phone? Did the staff sound informative and sympathetic? Although time-consuming, this will help you narrow down your search which will save time in the long run. Perhaps you would like to visit the dental office first and meet the staff. If taking a tour will help, a good office will be proud to show off their practice. Finding an office that is willing to help you become more comfortable right from the get go will most likely be there to help you cope with your fears and concerns in the future. If you think you have found the right place schedule an exam then proceed to a cleaning.
3. Know your fear – Let us know what you like or dislike. Is it the noises? Fear of the needle? Water in your mouth? A past experience? Perhaps you prefer to be in control or like distractions. If you can identify the source of your fear or already know what puts you at ease then communicate this to us and together we can find a solution. Everyone prefers anxiety-free surroundings – even us!
4. Know the facts – Although, we always explain what we are doing to our patients, some people need more information in order to feel in control of a situation. If however, knowing too much will aggravate your fears, let us know and we will inform and assure without alarming you further. Everyone has their own comfort level. Let us know yours.
5. Don’t hurry – If you are not in need of immediate dental care then why hurry? You’ve waited this long, so go slow and face your fears one step at a time. Start off with an examination. Once you have completed this stage and are ready you will be better prepared to move on to the cleaning appointment. If all goes well and you are in need of further care then we can take baby steps together!
6. Be realistic – Your dental health is as individual and personal as your are and your treatment will be specific to your situation. Comparing dental treatments with friends is like comparing other health conditions. No two people are the same. Diagnosis and treatment recommendations depend on your pre-existing dental and health conditions. Short and long term prognosis depends on many factors such as severity of conditions, patient cooperation, health history, body response, maintenance, other conditions of the mouth, age and lifestyle. Understanding your current state of dental health will help you make informed decisions moving forward. Your dentist should be open to answering all of your questions, and if possible, offering treatment alternatives.
7. Control your imagination – Our imaginations can both amaze and terrify us and it is easy to conjure up all sorts of scenarios that will likely never occur. Learning to tame your thoughts so that they do not interfere with your emotions will help empower you so that you can attend to your needs.
8. Find closure – Previous traumatic experiences or conditioning can severely immobilize a person and prevent them from ever moving forward. Speak with your family doctor or regional health department about your situation and ask them to refer you to a professional who deals specifically with these types of fears so that you can begin to take your first steps towards recovery.
9. Bring a friend – Sometimes, bringing along a friend or family member or even a stuffed animal can put you more at ease. If you wish, you can appoint them as your advocate who can help ask questions and communicate your fears and concerns. If having them in the treatment room helps perhaps you dentist will allow you to have this support as long as they do not aggravate an already anxious situation.
10. Bring your own music – Although we have music in our operatories, sometimes people would rather bring their own devices and listen to their own music. Whatever helps!
11. Be a good role model – If you do not want your children living a life of fear you must help them develop positive and responsible attitudes. Studies have shown that most children are more likely to pattern their future choices and behaviours after their parents and carry the habits they learn as children into adulthood and throughout their lives. Your positive remarks and optimistic outlook about dental care will empower your children and help to ensure that they will continue to benefit from your great example!
Welcome you – At Your Smile Dental Care we strive to make you feel comfortable and valued from the warm welcome that greets you at each visit to the high degree of personal attention we offer you throughout your treatment. We understand the importance of gentle dental care and always encourage open communication. Most of our new patients found us by word of mouth. We appreciate the care entrusted to us and consider these referral from family and friends the greatest compliment a dentist can receive.
Provide sympathy – We do more than just work on teeth. First and foremost, we recognise these teeth are attached to a person who deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. We all have fears. Dealing with patient fears is what we are trained for and being afraid means different things to different people. A person’s true feelings can manifest themselves in a whole host of ways. Some people react physically with tense muscles, rapid breathing or heart rate, nausea, sweating, and dizziness, while others become angry, silent, or talkative. We must always be sensitive to the fact that, in a dental setting, a person may have difficulty conveying their thoughts, feelings and opinions. Patience with our patients is key while we strive to reduce their anxieties and allay their fears while providing painless, quick treatments.
Stay up to date – A good dentist and staff continually strives to provide the best possible care for their patients so that they have the option to choose the best treatments available today. Staying current on all the latest techniques and technologies helps a dentist to obtain and maintain a level of care that meets or even exceeds industry standards. Ask your dentist and staff what they do to stay up to date. They should be proud to tell you!
Establish trust – We believe that clear and concise communication is the cornerstone of trust in dentistry. The patient/dentist relationship depends on a solid foundation of trust. We know that if a patient has had trust issues in the past with a dentist or other healthcare provider it will influence how likely there are to trust another dentist. These past experiences sometimes makes it difficult for another dentist to gain a patient’s trust let alone form a lifelong partnership. We have seen firsthand that patients are more likely to follow through with advice and treatment and achieve optimal oral health when they trust their dentist.
Communicate – Patients appreciate clear, honest, and straightforward communication. Your dentist should face you when speaking, use plain, everyday language and avoid using terms that are too technical. It is important that you are asked if you understand the information being presented and be given the opportunity to ask questions or seek clarification. Most dental offices will have pamphlets or printed material on hand for you to take home for further reading. If you have further questions or concerns once you leave the office, do not hesitate to call your dentist.
Listen – We all know that communication involves being an active listener as well. Oftentimes, being a good listener requires that you pay attention to other cues and signals that a person may be giving. Anxiety and stress can make a person afraid to ask to have information clarified or cause a person to shut down making it further difficult for them to absorb information. We may explain a treatment plan and ensure that a patient has had the chance to ask questions and gather additional information, but we must always appreciate that sometimes information is still being digested by a person long after they have left the office. We aim to make certain that our patients understand their oral health care needs. This may require additional guidance by encouraging our patients to make further inquires if necessary.
Accommodate – We can schedule your appointments at a time and date that is best for you. Early morning appointment usually work best so that you are not worrying about your visit all day long. Perhaps spacing out your treatment over a series of shorter appointments or over an agreeable and suitable period of time will help you cope and manage your visits better. We offer a wide range of services for all ages including cosmetic, implant and emergency dentistry. We are wheel chair accessible and are able to move our dental chairs to accommodate most wheelchairs.
Provide lifelines – Different people cope and manage their stress in different ways. Some people need distractions such as movies, music and periods of rest, while others need to feel in control at all times and like to watch using a hand held mirror. We allow our patients to stop treatment at any time by raising their hand. Sitting up briefly, going for a short walk or having a responsible and trusted family member or friend present in the room can also be beneficial. We offer conscious sedation in the form of laughing gas to calm fears and we have throat spray to help alleviate gagging.
Professional – As stated earlier, every patient deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. We never make our patients feel ashamed or embarrassed about the condition of their teeth or that they have not attended to regular dental care in the past. We are all about moving forward. If you made it through our doors and into the dental chair that is incredible progress which we believe is cause for celebration. We treat all patients equally, while offering personalized, individual care. In return, all we ask is that our patients respect our time and commitment also by honouring the appointment times we schedule for them or informing us of appointment changes well in advance so that we can care for another patient in need. Maintaining regular oral care visits will also help us to detect problems early so that we can help you avoid repeated crisis situations.
Follow up – Don’t be surprised if we provide some TLC with an after care telephone call just to see how you are managing. It’s our way of letting your know that we care for you and your health long after you have left our office. This also allows you to make further inquires or gage the progress of your recovery.
Offer payment plans – If the cost of your treatment is the source of your stress, you can discuss your payment options with our friendly staff. If you qualify, we can help you set up a committed repayment schedule that allows you to achieve oral health sooner than later.
Your First Step
The first step to successfully managing anxiety is learning to understand and recognize it. Although your body is designed to become anxious around perceived threats, it becomes a problem when you cannot control your fears when there is no real danger. We understand that your fears are real, but when they prevent you from taking charge of your dental needs conditions will only worsen causing you further grief.
This year resolve to make dental care a normal part of your life. Dr. Axelrod and his team of caring professionals at Your Smile Dental Care have helped thousands of people conquer their dental fears, take control of their oral care and achieve optimal oral health. As you get to know and trust us, you will soon find that your fears will lessen and your anxiety levels will become more manageable.
Remember…you are not alone!
Yours in better health,
The Your Smile Dental Care team
(905) 5SMILES (576-4537)