If you're scared of sitting in the examining chair, read on...
Louise Emma Clarke
Dental phobia affects several million people worldwide. Louise Emma Clarke reports on how to cope.
Does the thought of sitting in a dentist’s chair bring you out in a cold sweat? Loathe the sound of drilling and the sight of injections? You are not alone.
In a recent UK study by Professor Tim Newton of King’s College London Dental Institute, it was revealed that dental phobia affects 12 percent of the population in industrialised countries. In the Gulf, research has shown that the figure is even higher, resting around 19 percent. With a population of more than a million, there are probably over 200,000 of us avoiding visits to the dentist – and that equates to a lot of unnecessary toothache.
So what causes dental phobia? Doctor Jaco Smith explains: ‘Dental phobia is caused by a combination of factors. Usually the phobic won’t have visited the dentist as a child on a regular basis, so instead of becoming part of the routine like a visit to the doctor, it becomes a big deal. Other factors may include a painful experience in the past, the sound of the drill, a fear of choking or simply because they are embarrassed by the condition of their oral health. They leave it until the pain makes it absolutely essential to seek treatment, and that pain exacerbates the fear.’
If it all sounds familiar, Doctor Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and managing director of The LightHouse Arabia has some strategies to cope:
• When you look for a dentist, call and ask if they deal with patients that are anxious and fearful.
• When you have found a clinic, ask if you can come on a ‘friendly visit’ to have a tour and meet the dentist and support staff.
• Before the procedure itself, imagine yourself in the dentist’s chair and then start to concentrate on calm, deep breathing.
• On the day of the procedure, head to the clinic with somebody you trust – it’s very comforting to have a friend or relative close by.
• Be assertive with the dentist, reminding him or her that you are anxious and will need to be talked through the procedure. Ask for breaks when you need them.
• Wear headphones with calming music during the procedure and return to the techniques of calm breathing you have practised.
Still need convincing? It’s worth remembering that the whole experience may have changed dramatically since you past visited. Doctor Jaco Smith says: ‘Dentistry has come a long way in the last 20 years and with modern techniques, we can keep any causes of pain to a minimum. You may be surprised by your own ability to cope.’ For support and more information, visit www.lighthousearabia.com or checkout www.dentalfearcentral.com, a non-profit resource for both patients and dentists.
Three ways to beat anxiety
Relax Melodies App Rated five stars by users, this free app helps to lull you into a relaxed state with a choice of 46 different relaxing tunes. Free. Visit ‘App Store’ on iTunes or tablet and search ‘Relax Melodies’.
Tai Chi Class Head to Bahrain Tai Chi & Wushu Centre to take part in a group Tai Chi class. The art is said to focus the mind and promote a state of mental calm and clarity. Daily classes at the centre next to Elite 5 in Juffair and also on the Corniche beach. BD6 for walk-ins. (17 825 667).
Personalised Aromatherapy Massage therapy The therapists at Sparadise Spa will create a bespoke blend of organic oils to relax body and mind. From BD34 for a 90-minute relaxing massage. Sparadise, Elite Resort & Spa, Muharraq. (17 313 131).