Many people, myself included, do not look forward to visiting a dentist and the reasons for this are often complex and deeply rooted in past experiences. To undertake orthodontic treatment will result in many visits to an orthodontist over several years and possibly a few visits to a dentist to undertake other dental procedures and to a hygienist to keep everything clean whilst you have braces. If you have a fear of the dentist, then all this can be overwhelming resulting in you probably not wanting to get started in the first place.
There has been a lot written about how to overcome dental anxiety and many practices understand this fear and work with patients to overcome their issues but the thought of undertaking a lengthy course of orthodontic treatment can still be off-putting for many people and particularly those with more severe anxiety.
So how might you overcome this anxiety and start on a course of orthodontic treatment? The first thing to do would be to better understand what you are anxious about and try to rationalise your thoughts about undertaking treatment. Making a list of all the things you are worried about and thinking about exactly what concerns you have is probably a good start. In my case, despite having had some restorations when I was younger, I have never had a dental injection and to be perfectly honest, am just a little fearful about the prospect of having one in the future. With orthodontics, unless you require an extraction prior to treatment, you will be unlikely to need an injection so this can be crossed off your list if you have noted this common fear.
Some people fear the loss of control that can sometimes be felt during treatment and this can be addressed by talking to your orthodontist so that they can talk you through every step of the treatment. Throughout my treatment, I was kept informed about everything that was happening and on those occasions when I did not fully understand the next step, simply asked a couple of questions and received a full explanation of what was to happen. Gaining patient consent is an important part of dentistry and throughout your treatment, you should find your dentist more than happy to talk to you about what is happening so that you can consent to the course of treatment being proposed.
Another common fear is one of suffocation when you find fingers and various instruments all being used at the same time. For me, this is experienced during impression taking which is undertaken before and at the end of orthodontic treatment. I find impressions quite difficult and cough and splutter throughout the process but over time have found this easier. To get over the problem, I spoke to my orthodontic therapist and explained my concerns and they worked with me to make the process much easier. They sized the trays and ensured the alginate was not too runny and kept me seated more upright during the impression taking. Whilst still not an enjoyable process, it was certainly a lot easier and one I no longer worry about. For more information about how to get through impressions, read the great post by Dr Megan Hatfield.
To help you get over dental anxiety I suggest you talk to your orthodontist to explain your concerns and to get their advice about what can be done to make the experience more positive. Most orthodontists will be more than happy to talk to you about your anxiety and to suggest ways make the whole experience more enjoyable but if you find they show little interest, maybe it’s time to find another practice.
There is a great website on dental phobia which can be accessed here
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