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Overcoming Dental Fears and Anxiety

Posted on November 3, 2014 | in Dental Anxiety | by

Overcoming Dental Fears and Anxiety

By Elizabeth Mahadeo RDH

As a Registered Dental Hygienist and empathetic person, I urge you to communicate to your dental healthcare provider what it is that makes you anxious and fearful about your dental visit.

I want you to know, even though I loved my dental appointments growing up, I do understand not everyone had a lovely dental office to visit. I, along with my fellow dental healthcare professionals, am compassionate to this and will try to alleviate your anxiety and fears.

Can I share a story I hear all too often from patients, friends, and family members?

When I was a child I had to have a filling every time I went to the dental office. It smelled awful in there, I felt claustrophobic and trapped laying back with them hovering over me wielding those pointy instruments, calling them strange names… excavator, carver… once I had a filling with no anaesthetic, another time the anaesthetic didn’t take and I felt the whole thing, and the worst was the time I had four fillings done on one side and was numb for days. Now, just laying in the dental chair creates a panic inside me that makes me jump and twitch so much that I get told off, I squeeze the arms of the chair so tightly my knuckles are white and my hands are stiff by the end of the appointment. It’s all I can do to get through a routine checkup and cleaning. No matter how gentle their touch is, I am afraid. The memories all come rushing back. I know my dental healthcare providers wonder what the big deal is, and often I even wonder myself! But I am just so afraid of being at the dental office. Even the thought of it hurts…

Does this sound familiar?

Many people share these experiences from the past, you aren’t alone. It seems no matter how many excellent, pain-free, you left happy visits you have had since then, the memories from the past continue to haunt you. It is so sad to me that just a few (or even one) unpleasant appointments can over-ride many great appointments.

The exciting part is you are in control now. We now live in an era of patient-centered care and we as healthcare providers respect you. There has been a shift in dental care.

Long gone are the days where the dentist is always correct, no questions, no discussion, you were expected to do as you were told.

You have the right to ask questions today, you have the right to be part of your treatment plan, to create healthy goals with your dental healthcare provider, to take the time to think about your options and get second opinions if you wish.

It is your health, your oral health and total body health.

You have a choice about which dental office family you wish to be part of. You make the decisions now- but I warn you- arm yourself with knowledge and educate yourself in order to make the best decision for your optimal health.

My heart reaches out to you as dental patients and as people. I have heard your story before but it does not get old in my eyes. It inspires me to make things better. Times have changed in the field of dentistry and I hope to convince you to join my movement, The Mahadeo Movement.

I cannot rewrite your dental past but I can impress upon your future. Educate yourself, share it with those around you, be the best you can be.

A goal of The Mahadeo Movement is to teach and promote a positive, peaceful dental visit. I will share with you a couple of ways to do this.

Interview your dental office:

I have had this happen to me on a number of occasions. A patient will come for their first visit (aka new patient appointment), communicating to me at the beginning of this appointment that they are interviewing me, and they are not committing to being a patient under my care at that particular office just yet. They want to feel comfortable with the care they receive and I respect this.

As a new patient to a practice, the first visit includes: taking a health and dental history, a new patient exam, photographs and x-rays, intraoral and extraoral exams, as well as a cleaning and checkup.

Once the visit is complete, they decide if they were happy with the care they received and whether or not they would be returning. This is a perfectly acceptable thing to do to decide whether or not you are comfortable at this dental office and/or in the care of a particular dental healthcare provider.

Brush up on your facts (not just your teeth) before you come:

Increase your dental knowledge by going to reliable dental websites.

Some great sites include the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association, Social Dental Network, and the Canadian Dental Association. If you educate yourself using the right resources, you will better understand oral health and what treatment is required to achieve and maintain your oral health and overall wellness.

For more compassionate advice on how to have a peaceful, positive visit to the dentist, please visit themahadeomovement.com

About Elizabeth Mahadeo 

Elizabeth Mahadeo RDH

Elizabeth Mahadeo is a Registered Dental Hygienist, author of the Teddy Visits the Dentist series, healthy life leader and founder of The Mahadeo Movement. A dental healthcare professional with fifteen plus years experience, Elizabeth created the concept of The Mahadeo Movement to educate about oral health and overall wellness, and to break through the myths, fears and negativity associated with dental care.

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+Chris Barnard is Managing Editor of DentalPatientNews.com, a patient-centric Social Dental Network blog dedicated to enabling the digital dental health conversation - and the eradication of the cavity creeps.
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