Overcoming dental anxiety
Dental Anxiety and treatment in London
Rory James MacLaren-Jackson is a professional Clinical Hypnotherapist and can give you insight into dental anxiety and ways to treat it.
Dental anxiety is surprisingly common among adults and can range from a mild sense of unease (a rational response for most people) to acute episodes of anxiety and panic attacks.
A general dislike of visiting the dentist or a sense of fear when anticipating a certain procedure is reasonable. However, it is when these feelings become excessive that they can become problematic.
The key consequence is simply avoidance – dental phobics do not visit the dentist and make almost any excuse not to. This could naturally lead to a plethora of dental and oral health problems building up as a result of missing regular check-ups. The potential seriousness is highlighted by my own mother’s experience of her dentist spotting the first signs of oral cancer, which she was later successfully treated for. If dental anxiety had prevented her from attending the routine check-up where her squamous cell carcinoma was discovered, there is a high chance she would not be here today.
At the Harley Street Stop Smoking Clinic, as well as hypnotherapy for smoking cessation, we help clients address a range of different fears and phobias, with overcoming dental anxiety being a frequent request. Whilst every sufferer of dental anxiety is unique, and our treatments are tailored to the nature of their individual fears, there are techniques and approaches that people can do on their own to lessen and overcome this anxiety.
From my clinical experience, sufferers of dental anxiety exhibit a large amount of negative ‘self-talk’ in relation to visiting the dentist and how they expect to feel during the appointment. Thoughts such as “It will hurt” and “I can’t face the injection needle” create a negative expectation in the mind. This can be so strong and so powerful that even just mentioning the word ‘dentist’ can cause all those thoughts and feelings to rush back and set off the physical symptoms of anxiety.
The good news is that positive self-talk is just as strong and just as powerful, so it can be used to tackle dental anxiety instead of reinforcing it. In the run up to a dental appointment (or even in the process of booking one), I recommend spending some time getting into a healthier mindset by using a technique of affirmation and visualisation.
Firstly, write positive affirmations or statements about what you ideally want from your visit to the dentist. It is important to express these statements in the present tense – as if they are already true or have already happened e.g. ‘I feel great having clean, healthy teeth’ or ‘I have an attractive smile’. You could even write these on a small note or record card to carry with you.
Once you have your positive affirmations, spend a little time each day relaxing in a calm, quiet place, closing your eyes and just silently repeating those affirmations in your mind. As you do so really imagine the experience you are describing. For example, for ‘I have an attractive smile’ really visualise yourself after your dental appointment: see yourself with shiny white teeth, hear the positive comments from your friends, really feel that fresh feeling in your mouth and the relaxation of an effortless big smile. You will find with practice that these positive feelings flowing from the affirmations begin to layer and build, creating a more positive outlook generally towards visiting the dentist. Even the word ‘dentist’ can start to trigger the positive feelings of all those things you stand to gain from each visit.
These affirmations are also just as useful at the appointment itself. You can do them whilst calmly relaxing in the waiting room or during your treatment and they will serve as both a positive reinforcement and a distraction.
Good dental clinics also know the importance of communication skills in helping their clients to relax and reducing anxiety. Your dentist will explain the process in an empathetic way, both at the enquiry stage and during the treatment, which will help reduce or completely remove the core fear of the ‘unknown’ that many people with dental anxiety experience.
1. Choose a dentist who is experienced and sensitive to the needs of clients with dental anxiety, like all those at Smilepod
2. Use the recommended affirmation and visualisation technique to encourage positive self-talk and thoughts in relation to visiting the dentist
3. If you still need help with your dental anxiety and wish to explore how hypnotherapy can help overcome it, please contact me on 020 7127 4554.
Book a Dental appointment at smilepod