Dr Reuben Sim Dental Phobia InterviewHEALTH SERVICES BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
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Dr Reuben Sim Dental Phobia Interview
Dental fear affects a third of Australian adults, making it one of the most prevalent anxiety disorders in the country, according to a recent survey. Anxiety causes many people to avoid or delay their visit to the dentist until bigger problems such as pain and infection occur. People fail to realise that their teeth and gums are connected with other parts of the body, and issues in the mouth can have a negative long term impact on their general health. Some of the serious medical conditions that are linked to poor dental health include diabetes and heart disease as bacteria can enter the body through infected gum or other untreated dental diseases.
Most dental phobia is caused by a traumatic past dental experience. Bad dental experience may not necessarily be a physical experience such as painful needle injections or a bad gag reflex. It can also be a psychological experience such as feeling a loss of control when lying in the dental chair, feeling worried of being humiliated or judged by the treating dentist or the feeling of disappointment with past dental work. Dental anxiety can be exacerbated by external factors such as noise from the dental equipment and the smell of the dental clinic.
Interview with Dr Reuben Sim
Question: What is dental fear and how does it develop? Is it common?
Dr Reuben Sim: Did you know dental fear affects about one in seven Australian adults, making it one of the most prevalent anxiety disorders in the country?
If you ever meet an anxious patient their behaviour is uneasy, panicked and jitty. But what makes them so fearful? Many patients believe that visiting the dentist can be scary for a number of reasons, often preventing them from visiting the dentist for years and achieving their smile goals.
Melbourne based aesthetic and cosmetic dentist, Dr. Reuben Sim from Dental Boutique shares some common reasons for dental anxiety and tips to help calm the nerves upon your next visit to the dentist.
For a dentist to treat dental anxiety, it is key to understand what makes one so scared of visiting the dentist. There are three common reasons for dental fear, often caused by traumatic past dental experience:
Fear of Not Being in Control
Firstly, people get anxious when they lose control lying in the dental chair. They can’t anticipate what will happen next because they can’t see what we are doing to them. They also feel worried about not being listened to and are fearful of being disappointed with the dental work.
Fear of Embarrassment
Secondly, some patients feel so ashamed and self-conscious of their teeth they are embarrassed to even show us their teeth because they are worried we will humiliate or judge them for the way their teeth look.
Fear of Pain
And finally, fear of pain from needles or instruments is probably the most prevalent because often patients who are anxious pre-determine treatment to be painful associated from previous painful dental experience.
Question: What are the negative factors associated with dental fear?
Dr Reuben Sim: This anxiety causes many people to avoid or delay their visit to the dentist until bigger problems such as pain and infection occur. People fail to realise that their teeth and gums are connected with other parts of the body, and issues in the mouth can also have a negative long term impact on their general health.
Question: Can you share your tips for overcoming dental fear?
Dr Reuben Sim: There are four main tips I recommend that may help you or someone you know overcome dental fear:
1. Find a practice with a team of highly trained and qualified dentists who have a special interest in and have procedures in place to treat anxious patients.
2. Ask your dentist about sleep dentistry and other alternatives that might help with anxiety during treatment.
3. Use relaxation techniques to help calm nerves before treatment.
4. Build an open and honest rapport with your dentist.
Question: How do you treat patients with dental fear?
Dr Reuben Sim: At Dental Boutique, our passion is to empower people to overcome their dental fear in order for them to achieve the dental health and smile they deserve.
The comfort of our patients is our priority. With all patients we carry out five practice non-negotiables, as a standard of care:
We allow enough time to listen to our patients needs and desires and will never, never judge them.
Risks and benefits of treatment options are clearly explained so there are no -surprises’ during treatment.
We offer a number of sedation options and customise the sedation procedure to the patient’s anxiety level to reduce stress and pain.
We establish a fail-safe signal with our patients, such as a hand raise, that helps them maintain control during treatment and alerts us if they are feeling pain or discomfort.
We establish a mutual agreement with our patients of taking breaks at fixed intervals, e.g. five minutes. This method alleviates fear of interrupting the dentist or worry that they are disturbing them at an inconvenient moment.
We are also committed to ensuring our practice environment both inside and out helps to reduce anxiety levels. We ensure there is enough space for patients to park with no stress and maintain a comfortable and clean waiting room. We do this by warmly greeting our patients among arrival, avoiding clinical smells and by playing calming music.
Question: What is Sleep Dentistry?
Dr Reuben Sim: Sleep Dentistry allows patients to receive dental treatment while they are -asleep.’ It is ideal for longer dental treatments or for people who have severe dental anxiety or phobia. Undergoing a dental procedure with General Anaesthesia is the only way to experience completely pain-free dental treatments.
Alternatives to General Anaesthesia:
Anxiety tablets that help to remove anxiety of patients before treatment.
By inhaling Penthrox, this alleviates initial anxiety associated with needles patients may have before treatment. This allows the patient to be in a very relaxed state and remain awake during treatment. That way the patient is still in control.
IV sedation allows patients to remain conscious, however the feeling of relaxation is so intense that they are unlikely to remember much about treatment. The action time is very rapid, and the drug dosage and level of sedation can be tailored to meet the individual’s needs.
Question: Can you talk us through the relaxation techniques?
Dr Reuben Sim: Different relaxation techniques work for each individual, however these are two simple relaxation techniques that have helped many of our patients, that might work well for you or a friend as well: Controlled breathing
Controlled breathing is the most common relaxing technique used. It relaxes your body and shifts your focus to other things in order to preoccupy your mind. The simplest breathing techniques involve inhaling and exhaling through your nose to a slow count of up to three – so three seconds of breathing in, followed by three seconds breathing out.
Music during treatment
By listening to music during your appointment, it can help relax you and enable you to zone out. At Dental Boutique, a headset with music is given to all patients as a standard of care during dental treatment to act as a distraction.
Question: What is the technology associated with pain-free injections?
Dr Reuben Sim: Don’t like needles? Advancement in technology now allows dentists to provide patients an ideal alternative. The needleless solution is made of small, lightweight, spring-operated device that delivers anaesthetic into the gum in a fraction of a second. There are no needles and no part of the device that penetrates the skin, making it virtually pain free. Another technology we commonly use is a computer-controlled dental injection where the flow rate of the anaesthetic is controlled by the computer. This means that the injection is guaranteed to be steady and therefore, comfortable.
Question: Do you have anything else to share?
Dr Reuben Sim: It takes just one bad experience for dental fear to develop. This is why at Dental Boutique Melbourne, we pride ourselves on ensuring our patients not only achieve a great result, but have a comfortable, virtually pain-free and anxiety free journey.
For more information, it is important to book in an appointment with a dentist to talk about your fears. It is essential to find a dentist whom you trust and one that has the patience and knowledge to treat fearful patients, who will treat you with the care you deserve.
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