What is dental anxiety?
Dental anxiety is feeling nervous or fearful about visiting a dentist. Such anxiety can sometimes prevent you from getting dental treatment.
There are different levels of dental anxiety or phobia (an irrational fear that makes you stay away from certain situations), ranging from slight nervousness to post traumatic stress disorder. It is common and can affect people of all ages.
Dental anxiety affects people in different ways. You may be anxious about specific aspects of dental treatment or about being in close contact with someone you don’t know very well. You may have had unpleasant experiences at the dentist as a child and are frightened that these will be repeated.
No matter how nervous or fearful you are of having dental treatment, there are a number of things that can help you to overcome this anxiety.
Options for patients with dental anxiety
At Queensway, our highly qualified and knowledgeable team has offered conscious sedation services for over 20 years. Conscious sedation involves using inhalation sedation through a nosepiece or intravenous sedation through an injection into your hand or arm.
Both methods allow patients to feel more relaxed and at ease enabling them to undergo dental treatment. Conscious sedation won’t send you to sleep – you’ll be awake and able to talk to the dentist – you’ll be calm and deeply relaxed and probably won’t remember much of what happened.
For the majority of patients, this allows required dental treatment to be carried out but it does not address the underlying issue of a patient’s dental anxiety. It is for this reason that we inform all our patients with dental anxieties of options for accessing psychotherapy services.
This is a free NHS service available in your local area.
How can the psychotherapies service help?
Psychotherapists are trained healthcare professionals who help people manage their emotional concerns over a specific period of time. A psychotherapist will work with you to identify your priorities for changing how you feel about visiting the dentist. Many patients want help with:
• Feeling less anxious about going into the dental surgery
• Feeling less anxious about receiving a dental injection
• Having dental treatment
• Taking children to the dentist
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
One of the ways in which a psychotherapy service can help is through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The process of CBT means the psychotherapist helps to identify problems and find solutions. This will help you to link thinking patterns, beliefs, emotions and behaviour, allowing you to see how they affect each other.
Self-help assignments such as practicing relaxation skills may be given or you may learn about how dental equipment works. These approaches can help you deal with your dental fear.
CBT has been found to be very effective for people with dental anxiety. This therapy can help you to develop positive coping skills, such as:
• Achieving goals by breaking them down into small steps
• Replacing unhelpful thought patterns with helpful thoughts
• Improving your belief in your ability to cope
• Learning how to control your anxiety levels
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
When a person is involved in a distressing event, they may feel overwhelmed and their brain may be unable to process the information normally.
This comprehensive therapeutic approach works on distress associated with memories/recurring nightmares and is used for those people experiencing anxiety through to those experiencing post-traumatic stress.
EMDR is an effective process that helps reduce distress of all different kinds of memories, whether they are a result of what has been seen, heard, smelt, tasted, felt or thought.
If you feel you could benefit from psychotherapy services to help alleviate your dental fears we would recommend you contact your local service directly:
Alliance Psychological Services Limited
24 Yarm Road
0300 555 0555 (local rate)
90-92 Lothian Road
6-8 Yarm Road
0191 374 0044
Belmont Business Park
South Durham and Darlington
Belmont Business Park