Managing phobias and anxiety

Posted on 2 October 2018

Anxiety is normal. We all feel it at different points in time and for different reasons.

It is certainly not uncommon to feel anxious about entering a clinic of any kind. We find most patients who feel anxious about coming to our clinic have at least one incident from their past that triggers the cascade of uncomfortable feelings. Such as; increased heart rate, sweaty palms, tightening of the throat and chest, sometimes even clenching of the fists or jaw.

How does The Smile Clinique help you deal with your anxieties?

We start by attempting to soothe the senses. We created a calm environment where the waiting room feels more like a comfortable lounge than a scary, sterile clinic. This starts to deal with sight related triggers.

There is smell. We decided to use melts and scented oils to permeate the place with calming and relaxing smells rather than sterile, disinfectant smells.

Then there’s taste. For our patients who arrive early, we offer a warming cup of tea or coffee, camomile for those who really need to feel calm.

Let’s look at touch. We tackled this one with a massage in our massage chair to physically work the tension out of your body.

We also work on sound. With the calming sound of meditative, relaxing music, you can’t help but feel a little more at ease.

This is all at the entry stage, from here we bring in our patients and seat them. Not in the dental chair but by a coffee table where we simply chat.

We take the time to find out what triggers your anxiety

Taking time to find out what triggers the individual is key. Many people are unaware of their triggers so we, as clinicians, take in upon ourselves to gently investigate. More often than not, it will come back to a specific fear. It could be of needles, pain, invasion of person space/claustrophobia or even the physical sensation of numbness and a fear of swallowing your own tongue.

We can’t always eliminate all triggers but we can certainly manage them. I personally assess the individual to see how the anxiety affects them. Is it debilitating? If so, perhaps mild sedatives or even twilight dentistry may be the best way to start but more often than not we can manage our patient’s anxiety environmentally.

For example, I saw a patient petrified of needles so in order to manage her phobia, I found out who her favourite singer was. It turns out she loves Bruno Mars. I explained to her that we would use numbing gel so she would feel very little if anything at all when we anaesthetise her. We offered her a cooling eye mask to help her relax and so she wouldn’t physically see the “needle” and gave her a set of noise reducing Beats headphones playing her favourite Bruno Mars tunes so she wouldn’t have to hear anything that might worsen her anxiety.

We let the numbing gel settle for some time while we got her relaxed, listening to her favourite music, with an eye mask. She barely noticed the anaesthetic and found her appointment comfortable and pain free.

This doesn’t mean she wouldn’t feel any anxiety the next time she came, she certainly did but she was able to manage it and maintain regular visits. Each time she comes in, her anxiety levels slowly reduce.

It’s so rewarding to help someone face and even conquer their fears. Soon, they realise there is nothing to be afraid of. We help our patients learn to trust and relax.

Some may require medical sedation of some sort to begin with and there is nothing wrong with this. But most will find a sense of satisfaction in dealing with their anxiety and a sense of accomplishment when they realise they can change negative associations into positive associations.

We hope this can help them in their everyday lives to understand the nature of anxiety and perhaps even provide them with some tools to manage it in other aspects of their life too.

Our team treat the individual as holistically as we can rather than focusing only on treating their mouth and skin.

Holistic Dentist, Perth

To find out more about how we can help you, contact our friendly team today.

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