Fear of the dentist is by no means an uncommon feeling, and in some cases it's extreme enough to be considered a dental phobia.

There is no official guide to how often you should visit your dental clinic for a dental checkup, but most dental practices recommend a frequency of every 6-12 months. For people who suffer from dental anxiety or dental fear, this is 1-2 times a year more than they would like! But skipping or delaying dental checkups can result in misdiagnosed problems, which can lead to a need for more complex treatments down the track.

Like any form of anxiety, dental anxiety comes in many shapes and forms and can be different from person to person. It is often triggered by past negative experience, fear of needles, drills or pain. Some common signs of anxiety include sweating, shallow breathing, increased heart rate, fainting or dizziness, and signs of panic and distress.

Managing dental anxiety

Overcoming anxiety can be really difficult, but here a few helpful tips to help you manage dental anxiety.

Know your triggers

Consciously recognising what triggers your anxiety can really help in managing it, and making dental visits more bearable.

Tell your dentist how you’re feeling

Being open about your anxiety will help you feel less alone, and ensure your dentist approaches your check up and dental care appropriately.

Take someone with you

Having a friend or family member present at your dental appointment can be a real comfort, especially if you or you children suffer from separation anxiety or social anxiety.

Use relaxation techniques

Practicing deep breathing or other relaxation techniques such as meditation can help take your mind off your anxiety, and can help put your fears and worries at ease. Listening to music or a podcast to distract yourself can also really help.

Children with dental anxiety

It’s not uncommon for children to suffer varying levels of anxiety when it comes to dental treatment and appointments, and it’s important that these fears are taken seriously so as to prevent them worsening and becoming more problematic over time.

Keep them informed

Letting children know their dental appointment is coming up enables them to come to terms and mentally prepare themselves. Give them as much information about the appointment as possible so there are no surprises when they get there. Springing an appointment on them is likely to increase anxiety and worsen the situation over time.

Bring a toy or something comforting

Encourage your child to bring along their favourite toy or something comforting when visiting the dentist. This works as a distraction, and also acts a safety net for them.

For our Members

Members of Health Care Insurance can also access the Mental Health Navigator by Best Doctors. The Mental Health Navigator is provided at no cost to members and can help in two ways:

· Provide a thorough review of an existing mental health condition and treatment plan with recommendations for improvement and ongoing support

· Give guidance on how to navigate the mental health system with advice on treatment options for your best path forward

For more information visit https://hciltd.com.au/bestdoctors

Seeking help

There are many other great services available to help you or your children manage dental and other forms of anxiety. We recommend the following resources:

Beyond Blue

Mindspot

Headspace

Kids Help Line

Health Care Insurance App

The new Health Care Insurance phone app allows you to easily claim through the use of your smart phone.

Get it on Google Play Available on the App Store