Today we have Veena once again joining us in a discussion on dental anxiety effects on oral health.
Hello and welcome to our 5th podcast! Today’s topic stems from probably one of the most heard statements about visits to the Dentist which is…
I HATE GOING TO THE DENTIST!!!
That’s very funny, if I took a penny for every time I heard this statement, my piggy bank would be rather full!
Ha ha, I bet!
For Halloween this year, I just dressed up as me in my work clothes as a Dentist!
Unfortunately, that is the sad reality that a lot of people just associate their Dentist visits with fear and pain probably because of their past experiences or some stories they must have heard from friends or family. Then this gets passed on subconsciously to their kids, that dental anxiety and this just creates that vicious circle.
That is right, Veena. Dental anxiety or phobia certainly affects oral health. For example, a small problem is often left to become a very big problem due to delays with coming to the Dentist. This requires more extensive treatment. In contrast, if patients were regular attendees and did not defer appointments because of anxiety, extensive treatment could potentially be avoided. The focus would then be on preventative measures to reduce the risk in the future.
Ok. So is there a age group or patient background that are more prone to anxiety?
I don’t think so. Dental anxiety is quite common and can affect people of any age. It can start from little children who have never been to the Dentist before to geriatric patients.
Wow, that’s interesting! So what is it that actually causes dental anxiety or phobia in people?
I thought you would never ask. It could be a variety of reasons. For example, a traumatic dental experience in the past is one of the most common reasons for anxiety. Even some kind of previous trauma to the head and neck. Sometimes there is no real underlying cause besides being genetically predisposed to anxiety, depression, stress or PTSD.
Oh wow, so there is a lot of reasons. Hmm.
Hence it is so important to get a detailed medical history at each visit to help manage anxiety.
Hmmm. I understand now. So the view that the mouth is a personal area and accessing the mouth is like an invasion of personal space – do you think that could also add to the anxiety?
Absolutely. Some people also fear the loss of control when they are lying down in the dental chair, put back in a very rather vulnerable position or may have trust issues which can also add to the anxiety.
Then there is anxiety associated with other conditions such as agoraphobia (fear of being in situations where you feel you cannot escape), claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces) or obsessive compulsive disorder where there is an obsession around cleanliness can make access to dental care very difficult.
Wow. I’ve learnt a few new terms there. So I guess digging down to the root cause would then take some good communication between yourself, Dr Shilpa and your patient. So how do you help your patients manage dental anxiety?
It really depends. It’s not one solution for all. It varies from patient to patient as I like to start off with a very thorough history to understand patients’ fear so I can help them cope better. There are a few tested strategies that work – like deep breathing, meditation, listening to our favourite music or the TV. Sometimes painless needles for anaesthesia, happy gas, anxiety relieving tablets, or even referral for general anaesthesia may be the solution for some patients.
Gosh! So there is definteley a lot of option there, great! Is there something patients can actually do themselves to prepare for before their appointments?
Absolutely! It’s all about getting mentally prepared. We can always schedule the appointments first thing in the morning so that they don’t get worked up or fret about it all through the day. They can also start practicing their breathing prior to appointments and little things like that.
Great, great. So I guess we do everything we possibly can to make it a comfortable and pleasant experience and I guess these little things do go a long way. Things like a good night’s sleep, a good breakfast, just a nice cup of tea – chamomile is nice and relaxing, and yeah its nice to see our patients coming in 10 mins early to relax in our massage chair to calm those nerves down.
Yes, every little bit counts towards the overall experience. Our friendly receptionists are always available for a good chat too.
There you go, see the main thing I’d like to point out here is, if you know what to expect, it reduces the fear. You are absolutely amazing Dr Shilpa, at explaining all treatment and procedures to your patients.
Aww, thank you Veena, thank you so much. Yes, I do like to spend time with patients, so I don’t have to rush and answer any questions that my patients may have to reduce their anxiety.
Can you always tell though if your patients are anxious?
Most of the time. You know, there are some obvious signs when people are stressed or anxious, like sweating, palpitations, visible distress. Sometimes people can faint, cry, or show signs of panic or withdrawal. However, some people may hide these obvious signs really really well, even though they are extremely anxious. So its very important to keep a watch. I really do encourage everyone to talk about it and let us know how they are feeling so we can help them in the best possible way to manage their anxiety.
Great. Thank you so much for that insight, Dr Shilpa. As always, if any of you have any questions or concerns at all about your dental health or in regards to your appointments, or if you haven’t been to us before and you would like to come and check us out, feel free to give us a call!
Our motto is… Everyone deserves a beautiful smile.
And we can totally help you achieve that. So, take care & look after yourself. Thank you!