Many people have a fear, or experience some form of anxiety around visiting the dentist and undergoing dental treatment. This ‘fear’ can vary with different people, ranging from a slight nervousness to panic1. However, there are multiple ways that you can address this anxiety, and dentists will encounter patients who are nervous or fearful about their visits on a regular basis.
Dental phobia, or dental anxiety, is common; Dental Phobia reported that 53% of the UK population suffers from a fear or anxiety when visiting the dentist. Their research also indicated that 17% of the population suffer from a level of dental phobia to the extent that they ‘completely avoid the dentist to their own detriment and suffering’1. Whilst visiting the dentist isn’t a fun experience for anyone, developing a fear to the point of completely avoiding attending regular check-ups can have serious consequences for your oral and general health.
In a recent article by the Daily Mail focusing on patients who are scared of the dentist, it was highlighted that the phobia can increase the risk of certain dental issues not being picked up on early enough, when they are more treatable, if patients refuse to visit2. These conditions can include tooth decay, gum disease and even oral cancers. Therefore, in order to maintain a good standard of dental and oral health, regular check-ups at the dentist are essential. Some develop their fear based on a significant period of time passing since their last visit, meaning they are nervous about requiring extensive treatment. This can be avoided by confronting your fear, and attending regular check-ups will prevent the need for treatment at all. It is also important that you keep up to date with you regular dental hygiene; using fluoridated toothpaste to brush twice a day will help to keep your teeth healthy, and prevent the need for further treatment once you are able to attend a check-up.
Chris Dean of the Dental Law Partnership commented: “It’s really important that people visit the dentist regularly to look after their oral health and catch any potentially serious problems early. Dental anxiety is a very real barrier to this and, sadly, we weren’t surprised by the results of this survey because we speak to people every day who have had a bad experience at the hands of a dental professional which has affected the way they feel about dentists.”3
One of the first steps to facing your fear of the dentist is to talk to someone; the Oral Health Foundation emphasises that speaking to friends or colleagues will likely result in finding someone else with a similar fear4. This can also lead you to a dentist that is personally recommended as being familiar with dental anxiety, and understanding of your concerns.
Similarly, it may be helpful to identify specific reasons why you have developed your fear, in order for your dentist to know exactly how best to accommodate you. Many people have bad memories associated with the dentist from their childhood, they may have a fear of needles, or the sound of drills and close proximity to the dentist can induce anxiety.3
It could also be that a previous experience at the dentist left you in pain, or you experience negligent treatment that resulted in a general distrust of dentists. If this is the case and the treatment was in the last 3 years, the Dental Law Partnership will be able to help you identify negligence, and you may be eligible for compensation.
The NHS website also has a list of tips for overcoming your fear of the dentist; finding an understanding dentists who specialises in treating anxious patients, visiting the surgery to meet your dentists and familiarise yourself with the environment, and making sure to communicate your fears with your dentists are a few of their recommendations.5 As previously stated, most dentists are familiar with how to make visits easier for anxious patients, so if you are able to explain your concerns, they will most likely do everything they can to make you more comfortable.
Unfortunately, many dental negligence cases we deal with can result in some form or fear or anxiety following on from a distressing experience. If you have had a bad experience at the dentist, this cause might not simply be anxiety, but it could be malpractice. For more information, contact our team today to enquire about starting a claim.
For more resources regarding dental anxiety, visit the links below or find more articles and tips at www.dentallaw.co.uk by using the search bar to look up the relevant terms.