I haven’t been to see a dentist for years because I’m terrified & absolutely petrified.”
We hear this sentiment a lot at Dovetail and it always impresses me how brave you have to be to overcome such a fear and finally make it to a dental appointment. We help lots of people with dental phobias and as their confidence grows they often share their coping strategies so I thought I would write a few tips about how you can take that first, hardest, step and make it to the dentist.
1. Firstly, don’t try and do this on your own, you need a friend who can support you, this is a difficult journey after all. Choosing your friend is difficult, a fellow phobic will understand what you’re going through but may not be able to accompany you on your visit and you could both end up scaring each other! Someone who isn’t at all concerned about visits to the dentist may be able to help you put some things into perspective and advise you that perhaps your previous experiences haven’t been typical. On the other hand they may not ‘get it’ when you explain your fears so I would say you need to find someone who is naturally an empathetic person but is only mildly worried about dental visits. At Dovetail we’ll give you a buddy who you’ll get to know and will be with you throughout your journey to a new smile whether you’re visiting us for dental implants or veneers.
2. Write down your goals as series of steps on the journey: choose a dentist, contact the practice, book an appointment, attend an appointment etc. Then set a reward system so that you get to feel good about achieving each step on your journey.
3. Find a dentist. You need two things here, firstly and most importantly, a dentist or dental team that understands your fears and operates a system that will allow you to take your time, one step at a time. Secondly, they need to be able to help with the treatment you require. If you need regular care – a clean, maybe a few small bits of work then most dentists will be potential candidates. If its been a while and things have really deteriorated then you may need to find a practice with experience in this area.
4. Call the practice by phone, explain your situation, have a chat and get a feel for the attitude of the dental team. Ask if they have experience of helping others with similar fears and why not be a bit cheeky and ask if it would be possible to speak to some patients. People who have found ways to conquer their phobias are often really happy to share their experience to help others.
5. Arrange a preview visit. Depending on how you feel this might just be a drive past or you might go in and familiarise yourself with the reception and waiting areas. You might even arrange to meet one of the dental team for a chat away from any of the clinical areas.
6. I know many people are embarrassed about their first visit. I often hear people say ‘I’m ashamed of the state of my teeth’ ‘my teeth are the worst you’ll have seen’ and similar – well I promise you that I’ve seen worse so don’t worry about that and remember… you have a dental phobia, it doesn’t make you a bad person. You will not be judged, we’re here to help.
7. Remember the list you made in point two. Go back to that list and add a target date for each step of the journey…. then get started.