One of the most common reasons people fear the dentist is from horror stories that have spread through the gripe vine.
Dentist Dr Safa Al-Naher, who works at The Care Dental Practice and Care Dental Platinum in Hammersmith, West London, which specialises in the treatment of nervous patients, has debunked several myths that may be putting you off booking a check-up.
Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, Dr Safa, who provides treatments as well as facial aesthetics to those who normally struggle with fear, has explained why going to the dentist shouldn’t be ‘scary’ – adding that the professionals are not ‘money grabbers’ – despite what people may think.
The expert has also offered her top tips to overcome fears of going to the dentist – including seeing a therapist to help you talk through your phobias or trying Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Dentist Dr Safa Al-Naher, who works at The Care Dental Practice and Care Dental Platinum in Hammersmith, West London, has debunked common misconceptions about dentists and treatment. Pictured, stock image
1. GOING TO THE DENTIST IS SCARY
This is a completely understandable fear that many people have, and most of the time dental anxiety and phobias are a result of a particularly bad past experience.
Dentists know this and are highly trained in the psychology of dental phobias, how to spot them, and how to manage them.
Dentists receive experience in sedation and the management of nervous patients during their university training.
No two dental phobias are the same, and they range in severity, triggers and experiences.
Most people are afraid of pain, but other reasons for being afraid of the dentist include the feeling of loss of control, the fear of being told off and the various sounds and smells inside a dental practice.
Making an appointment and turning up is often the first step and usually an in-depth discussion takes place about what your problems are, what you would like to achieve and whether they are able to help you or need to refer you to someone who can.
2. PATIENT CAN’T GET OVER BAD EXPERIENCE THEY HAD AS A CHILD
This is the most common cause of dental phobias that we treat. As a child you don’t understand strange situations and cannot rationalise that sometimes it is necessary to experience pain for the greater good, so you develop an irrational fear of certain aspects of visiting the dentist.
There are many ways this can be addressed. The simplest way is by many small visits and discussions about your fears, and slowly becoming more familiar and comfortable with the dental environment and treatment.
Dr Safa Al-Naher (pictured), is a Dentist and Facial Aesthetics Practitioner and Trainer, and is Clinical Lead at her family-run dental clinics – The Care Dental Practice and Care Dental Platinum in Hammersmith, West London
This is a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and hypnosis with a registered Hypnotherapist can also help.
You can have dental sedation with ‘happy air’ or nitrous oxide sedation, which allows you to feel relaxed and ‘not care’ about what is happening during dental treatment.
For very nervous patients, we sometimes use another form of conscious sedation called Intra-Venous sedation, which produces a more profound and deep sedative effect, but this also carries more risks.
The last resort for extremely phobic patients is to have dental treatment done under general anaesthetic in a hospital.
3. DENTAL TREATMENT IS PAINFUL
Previously this was certainly true, but most dentists are now experts at giving dental injections painlessly and will avoid them all together if a treatment does not require it.
Dentists ensure they always do their best to make sure treatment is totally pain and stress free from beginning to end.
It’s important to remember that going to the dentist is essential for many reasons, including:
1. Dentists routinely check for mouth cancer at every checkup. If you don’t go you could have a suspicious lesion and not know about it.
2. They check for signs of gum disease, which if untreated could lead to bad breath, bleeding gums and eventually tooth loss.
Tips to overcome your fears of going to the dentist:
1. Think about the positive effect that healthier teeth will have on your life! It is worth the effort!
2. See a therapist to help you talk through your fears, or a dentist who specialised in treating nervous patients.
3. Try hypnosis or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
4. Do your research to find the dentist and dental practice that suits you- most offer free consultations.
5. Ask your friends and family to recommend a dentist- there is nothing better than personal experience!
6. Take the first step! Making that phone call and going in will help to alleviate a lot of your initial fears straight away!
3. Dentists check for cavities caused by tooth decay, which if untreated could lead to pain, swelling, infection, root canal treatment and eventually extraction.
4. Dentists check whether you grind your teeth or not. Teeth grinding and clenching is a modern day dental problem often made worse by stress.
I have seen a massive increase in problems linked to teeth grinding in my patients during the pandemic. These include cracked teeth, fractured and broken teeth, jaw pain, muscle pain, and headaches.
4. DENTAL TREATMENT IS EXPENSIVE AND DENTISTS ARE JUST MONEY-GRABBERS
Basic and necessary dental treatment is provided at a subsidised rate on the NHS and is free for those receiving Universal Credit.
Cosmetic or advanced dental treatment is provided privately by most dentists and can seem like a large investment.
However, it is often just that – an investment in your smile, dental health and confidence – which to many, is priceless.
Dentists price their treatments very carefully based on lots of factors including level of experience and expertise, quality of the materials used, time spent on the treatment and the additional costs to them such as the laboratory expertise and cost.
The most important thing is that you are happy with the dentist and have developed a trust and good professional relationship with them.
Most dental practices now offer monthly payment plans with 0% finance.
The best way to save money is to not need any costly treatments in the first place.
See your dentist and hygienist regularly to stop anything serious from developing.
5. DENTISTS ARE NORMALLY IN A RUSH AND THEY COULD MAKE A MISTAKE AND HURT YOU
Dentists hate seeing people in pain. They will try to avoid this at all costs, even if it means not completing all of the treatment in one go and re-booking longer on another day instead. This is one way they avoid running late, too.
It is important to remember that dentistry is a form of surgery and sometimes treatments take longer than anticipated or, the treatment plan has to change because of an unexpected complication.
6. DENTISTS WILL NOT TELL YOU OFF
Dentists need you to trust them, and like them!
The old-fashioned view of dentists and healthcare professionals being King is outdated, because patients have and know they have many more rights.
It is the dentist’s job to explain sensitively and comprehensively if the patient has oral hygiene or diet habits that are contributing to dental or oral disease, as most of the time the patient is unaware that they are harming themselves.
We know this as dentists and try to explain everything in a way the patient will understand and appreciate.