Anxiety, fear and the dentist

If you break out in a cold sweat at the thought of visiting the dentist then it’s likely you suffer from dental phobia – a common condition which affects up to 75% of all Americans.

Dental phobia is more common than anxiety, according to Cape-based dentist Dr Marc Sher, and can be caused by a variety of reasons — from needle phobia to the cost of the visit.

A common cause of dental phobia in adults is previous traumatic experiences as a child. Young children often do not understand painful dental procedures, not least why a “stranger” applies injections, drilling and sometimes tooth pulling. All of this can lead to a lifetime of anxiety about the dental chair.

“Visiting the dentist can be scary for anyone. There are foreign sounds and smells, someone wearing a mask and gloves hovering over your head — it’s an invasion of one’s personal space. All of this leads to anxiety,” says Sher.

Symptoms of dental anxiety include struggling to sleep before an appointment or extreme nervousness in the waiting room. More serious symptoms include crying, nausea or intense unease, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.

Sher says that dealing with anxiety is a constant challenge for any dentist. “The real challenge is not to add to the anxiety but rather to manage it and to calm the patient.”

Sher says one way to alleviate this stress is to communicate clearly what work will be done prior to the procedure and then to update the patient regularly while underway. Talking in a calm and soothing voice goes a long way to easing anxiety while Sher advises that dentists should monitor patients’ body language and manage their stress levels by taking breaks during long procedures or gauging when to give the patient a break.

“Pain is very difficult to quantify and measure, so how much pain is associated to dentistry depends on the individual. It is safe to say that dental pain (tooth ache) is one the most debilitating feelings one can experience.

“Fortunately, dentists have very effective fast acting local anesthetics at their disposal. If administered correctly, patients can have invasive dental treatment carried out without feeling a thing.”

Sher says prevention is better than cure and advises regular dental check-ups while home care such as daily brushing and flossing is imperative. “Maintaining a high standard of oral hygiene is essential to avoiding pain in the dental chair,” he adds.

Sher advocates the use of natural calming remedies such as Rescue Select prior to a visit. This helps alleviate stress and relaxes the patient without compromising the dental work.

Rescue Select is available at all health shops, pharmacies, Dis-Chem, Clicks, Pick n Pay, Wellness Warehouse and Medi-Rite.

For more info, see: or and call 011 516 1700. Find Rescue Select on Facebook here:



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