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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Overcoming Fear: Tip On Dealing With Dental Phobia

A while ago now, at the beginning of January, I mentioned in a post (here) that I'd overcome a tiny part of a huge fear. I didn't mention what it was at the time and started to wonder if I actually would at all. Phobias can be funny things, what absolutely terrified one person doesn't bother another, so you can spend a lot of your time thinking "am I being silly?" "do people think I'm stupid for feeling this way?". But you aren't! If there's one thing I've learnt over the past few months it's that you should never feel silly for feeling how you do, we are all different and we all have things we can sometimes find hard, and we have to find our own ways of dealing with them. Mine was the dentist!

To start with I thought I'd explain my story a little to give you some background and hopefully get across just how frightened I was (if you'd rather not read it you can just skip to the bottom). My fear of the dentist was so great that up until January I hadn't been for around 10 years -I know, that's terrible! I stopped going when I was a younger and before I go any further I want to point out that I've never had any shocking traumatising experiences, I never even had any work done, every check-up, each time I went was fine -but I still remember being very anxious. Because of this I have always made a huge effort when cleaning my teeth, I'm always very careful...but I've since found out that doesn't always mean you won't need work done.

For the past couple of years it's really played on my mind that I should go have a check-up, register with a dentist and start going regularly but every time I thought it or Paul mentioned it I brushed it to the side and stupidly tried to forget it. Just before last Christmas I started to get a feeling in one of my teeth, mostly when I was eating sweet sugary things. I say a feeling because it wasn't painful but it wasn't there before so I knew I had to do something about it. I felt sick every day, from the minute I woke up I thought about it and so many things run through your mind. I had convinced myself I needed a filling, and then thought "oh god, what if it's worse?". The thought of having to go and set foot in a dentists office was the most terrifying thing to me and I didn't know what I was going to do but at the same time I knew I had no choice. I kept telling myself I would go in January so it didn't ruin Christmas because to me it was this huge thing, and it sounds crazy to say but I couldn't see how I was every going to do any of it. I tried to tell myself that people do it everyday and it's not a big deal, I've even seen Paul have fillings done in his lunch hour and go straight back to work!

As scared as I was, I made an appointment after the new year and I went along to have a check up. My first appointment was horrible, not because of anything that was happening to me because all they did was look in my mouth, and the staff couldn't have been nicer. It was just everything, the smell, the rooms, the tools, I couldn't speak when they asked me questions without my voice shaking from trying my best to hold back the tears. This was the tiny part of the huge fear I was referring to when I mentioned it in January. After leaving when my appointment was over I also started to feel like a complete fool especially when people said how proud they were of me for going. I couldn't understand why I was so worked up when nothing was done, nothing happened to make me feel that way -but then Phobias are never rational are they?! I then went back to have a scale and polish which went fine and was another step in the right direction but then I knew the next appointment was to have a filling done as at the check up I found out I needed a couple. It didn't go well, I wont talk you through the whole thing but there was just no way I could do it! I tried, I honestly did but it just wasn't going to happen. 

I then started to look for another dentist and after visiting a few I found one where I felt ok, I wasn't hoping for comfortable so ok was going to have to do. The dentist was amazing and for my first proper appointment after the consultation I managed to have a filling done -I was amazed! I put it all down to her and her being the perfect dentist for me. Flash forward to now and I can honestly say I look back and wonder how I could have let myself get into such a state. My fear was something I had built up in my mind completely on my own, it hadn't come from anything, there was no cause or reason for it and I'd made it worse by staying away. I'd let it reach such high levels that I could barely breath when going in to dentist office, and that was my own fault.

Tips On Dealing With Dental Phobia...

1. Find a practise and dentist you are comfortable with! I can't stress this point enough!! The first place I registered with was one Paul's been going to for years, in fact his mum,dad and brother all go there too. It wasn't somewhere I felt comfortable at all, when I was waiting to go in for my appointment I could feel myself getting more and more panicked so I knew it was never going to work. Before going I was told that if I had a dentist I felt comfortable with, it would make me feel better while I was there, but it's not only the dentist that matters the place is just as important and this is something I wasn't told. Everyone is different and you have to find a place that is right for you, not all practises are the same. Even if the work being carried out is exactly the same procedure in all practises if you are an anxious patient like me, the actual place it's self makes a huge difference to how you feel. If I'm sitting in a waiting room that's adding to my anxiety before my appointment has even begun, it's unlikely that I'm going to feel ok when I'm in the chair. It won't be the same for each person so I would suggest you visit a few places and meet with a few dentists until you find a place and person you feel comfortable with. I was a little worried about doing this as I didn't want to feel I was wasting any ones time but I never came across one who was unhappy with me doing so.

2. Work out what time of day is best for you for appointments. I kept being told that early morning appointments are best for anxious patients as you don't have time to worry too much before you go. This didn't work for me, I am an anxious person so feeling rushed in the morning made me feel so worked up before I'd even got to the dentist and that's not what you want. For me late afternoon is a much better time, I don't feel rushed and as it's later Paul is able to meet me after his work and knowing he's there helps a lot. So when making an appointment always choose the time of day that is going to be best for you.

3. Having someone with you. This is again different for everyone but if having someone with you is going to put you at ease then you should do it. The dentists are happy for you to bring someone in to either have sitting there for support or to even hold you hand. I usually have Paul with me but he stays in the waiting room, I was quite adamant at the beginning that I wanted to get used to going in by my self but if that's not going to work for you then bring a friend along.

4. Eat before hand!  This is a funny one and something I didn't think of until speaking to the dentist I'm with now. When you are worked up and anxious about situations such as the dentist you sometimes don't feel like eating before you go. But! I've since been told that avoiding food can actually make you feel a lot worse. I'm not exactly sure why but making sure you have breakfast or lunch before you go can make a big difference to how you feel -just make sure you brush your teeth after!

5. Think of a bribe. Think of something you really want, or somewhere you really want to go and focus on that! Obviously the main goal is having the work finished but there's nothing wrong with a little reward. Just keep telling yourself through your appointments "when this is over I can have ..." or "once I've had this filling done we can go..." you can fill in the blanks, but it helps give you something to look forward to and to take your mind off where you actually are.

6. Don't leave to long between appointments. If you have to go a few times for a few things, just get it over with. Pick the next available day and make the appointment, try not to think too much about things in between. The sooner it's over the sooner you can stop thinking abut it.

I know if you have no problem with the dentist you probably won't have even read this but I wanted to share my experience this year and possibly help anyone else who is or has been as scared as I was. It's a horrible phobia to have as it's one you can't ignore, but you can get past it. I can't say I enjoy going to the dentist, who actually does? But I can go now and that's the main thing :)


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