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Dental Anxiety & Phobia

There are few people in the world that love going to see the dentist. For many it is something that simply has to be done every six moths to get a check-up and clean. However, for many people a visit to the dentist is the source of anxiety, and for a small, minority even the thought of visiting the dental surgery can fill them with such dread that they prefer to put up with dental pain rather than seek treatment.

At Brisbane Dental we have many patients that experience varying levels of anxiety or fear and we take great pride in our ability to treat nervous or anxious patients in a caring and comfortable manner.

Dental anxiety and dental phobia share many of the same symptoms. However, the degree and duration to which patients experience those symptoms are much more severe for those with dental phobia.

A person experiencing dental anxiety is likely to feel a sense of apprehension or unease at the time of their appointment. They may feel nervous and anxious particularly once they are sitting in the treatment room, but usually they are able to self-manage their feelings to a large extent and can undergo the necessary treatment.

Dental phobia (odontophobia), however, is associated with much more extreme feelings and emotions. A person experiencing dental phobia, will have an overwhelming fear or dread of visiting the dentist. Simply the thought of visiting the dentist or looking at dental-related images will cause feelings of severe anxiety and psychological discomfort. Their fear may be sufficiently debilitating that it prevents them from seeking treatment even when they are in pain.

There are a number of reason people experience fear and anxiety about a visit to the dentist:

  1. Helplessness & Loss of Control - many people are nervous about seeing the dentist because they feel vulnerable when lying back in the dentist's chair and that they are not in control of the situation;

  2. Previous negative dental experience - it is natural for a person who has experienced physical or psychological discomfort previously in a dental situation to have the same or more exaggerated feelings the next time they are in the same situation;

  3. Concern about being in pain - a lot of our patients tell us that it is a fear of pain that often prevents them from seeking dental treatment and research and our experience shows that anxious patients often have a lower pain threshold than more relaxed patients;

  4. Embarrassment - for some people the prospect of having a relative stranger probing in such an intimate part of the body as the mouth is a source of great embarrassment; further, they worry that their lack of oral hygiene will be so closely scrutinised;

  5. Fear of needles - this commonly-held phobia is a frequent source of patients expressing a fear of visiting the dentist;

Dealing with dental anxiety and dental phobia requires a strong, trust-based partnership with open communication between dentist and patient .

The first thing the patient needs to do is tell the dentist you are nervous or fearful. Although, your dentist will almost certainly recognise your anxiety without having to be explicitly told, by telling the dentist how you feel ensures that both parties have a common understanding of the situation and the dentist can adapt her treatment as necessary.

If possible, it's also important to let your dentist know WHAT it is that you are fearful of. You don't need to explain to your dentist WHY you have a particular fear unless you are comfortable to do so. There are many triggers for dental anxiety/phobia: embarrassment; chocking; needles; lack of control; sounds & smells; pain; and so on. By letting your dentist know what are your specific triggers, she can make the necessary adjustments to her treatment plan to try, wherever possible, to avoid anxiety-inducing situations.

Even if you haven't been to see a dentist for decades there is ABSOLUTELY no need to be embarrassed about the condition of your oral health. At Roma Street Dental all of our practitioners have the patient's needs, both physical and psychological, at the forefront of their mind and you will not be lectured about your past oral hygiene practices. We will, however, treat you with the greatest of care and consideration and we will guide you on future improvements you can make with your oral care that will help to deliver continued oral health benefits.

The use of various relaxation techniques can also help to reduce the stress and anxiety of visiting the dentist. Mental and physical anxiety go hand-in-hand, so techniques that focus on reducing physical tension, such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation or Deep Diaphragm Breathing, will also result in a corresponding reduction in mental tension. Many of our patients also choose to bring in their own meditative music which they can either play on their own device with ear-phones or on one of the practice's devices.

In some situations it may be appropriate for the dentist to prescribe an anti-anxiety medication which is taken prior to your appointment.

If you believe you have dental anxiety or phobia, then please don't hesitate to contact Roma Street Dental to discuss ways in which we can help you to receive dental treatment in a supportive and caring manner. You can reach us on (07) 3236 2984 or at

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