As we enter week seven of lockdown there has been plenty of time to contemplate how different life is at the moment and it’s difficult not to worry about the future. There is much speculation on the television and social media, the uncertainty can be overwhelming especially if like me you find it difficult to detach from your device. 
Whilst as professionals we are working hard to put plans in place for our return to work, on a personal level, for me anyway, it’s each day at a time. And in the words of Captain/Colonel Tom “tomorrow will be a good day”. What an amazing and inspirational man he is, it’s been so uplifting watching him on the news last week. 
Last week was a good week. Sadly, not so good for the dandelions on my lawn. I was shamed into killing them even though they did me no wrong. I love yellow flowers, however the pressure became unbearable as I looked around at the perfectly manicured lawns around be. I even borrowed an edging tool and used it! The lawn looks shockingly bad at the moment but it will return to health very soon, I hope! 
I have painted the conservatory. Yes, I know it’s mainly glass, however it took me three days to finish it. I’m slightly ashamed to say I’ve never actually picked up a paintbrush before and the likelihood is I probably won’t again! 
The rest of the week has been interspersed with my new found love of webinars… a cursory glance I thought it said wine bars which drew my attention, I have realised just like wine bars they can help while away a good few hours but that’s where the similarities end. 
The majority I have watched have been focused on dental issues during the pandemic, others on techniques used in dental procedures, the one that caught my eye was presented by Ruby Wax specifically for the dental team. Many of you will know Ruby Wax as an American actress, comedienne, and author. However, in 2013 she gained a masters degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. 
I found it interesting and having read a little about mindfulness in the past it has made me want to learn more. 
Mindfulness and cognitive behaviour therapy have been used as personal coping strategies for anxious dental patients for some time. Whilst I dont claim to have a deep understanding of this type of therapy, I do know simple techniques can help anxious patients cope with dental treatment. 
Anxiety is a type of fear usually associated with the thought of a threat or something going wrong in the future, but can also arise from something happening right now. This can be related to the Coronavirus pandemic or maybe a visit to the dentist. Over 50% of adults in the UK have fear of going to the dentist and between 12 and 27% are highly anxious. 
During my entire career I have been treating some of the most anxious dental patients with techniques such as inhalation or intravenous sedation, but not all patients need this. Some just need some TLC and a bit of time. 
Most anxious patients are almost forced to seek dental care when they start to experience pain that they cannot control with pain killers, which leads to a sleepless night which ultimately leads to increased anxiety. 
What are you afraid of? 
Hopefully not me! In our practice we dentists are kind and want to look after you. Don’t listen to the horror stories other people tell you, they are often embellished or have a basis in movies not reality. Modern dentistry should be pain free. 
Determine what makes you anxious, is it the drill, the noises, the water, the needle…If you discuss the fears you have then there maybe techniques or treatment options which can avoid them, or you maybe able to work out a coping strategy to help you deal with the fears. Simple things such as agreeing a sign with your dentist to signal that you need a break and want to stop, can help alleviate anxiety as it allows you to gain some control over the situation. 
Start slowly 
If it has been a while since you have been to the dentist it maybe a good idea to start with a simple check up, moving onto treatment such as a scale and polish, to help build up your confidence. Try and choose an early appointment time so you don’t have time to dwell on it all day. Attending regularly will also help as you will build a relationship up with dental team, you may then feel able to cope with more complex treatment. 
Bring a friend 
Normally we would be encouraging if you wanted to bring a friend or relative for some moral support, however during this pandemic we would need to consider whether it is appropriate. Speak to the team and discuss it. 
When it comes to taking your mind off treatment, distraction is a great tool. We find patients like to wear headphones and listen to their own music, a podcast, anything that helps to relax them. Using a stress ball is another good distraction, and if you simply want your hand holding we can do that too. 
I have been providing dental treatment with the use of sedation for 25 years. We have a highly skilled team at the practice and we pride ourselves in providing excellent quality care, if you feel this is an option for you it can be discussed at a consultation appointment. There is more information on our website 
Counselling and CBT 
It may be that none of the options above are the right ones for you. Counselling and/or cognitive behavioural therapy may help you get past your fears and anxiety, and a GP referral may be advisable. 
Finally meditation, mindfulness and calming breathing exercises can work wonders, not only in the dental chair but in this strange world we are living in at the moment. 
Some links I found useful for mindfulness and looking after your mental health during the pandemic are listed below. 
Thank you for reading. 
Spring is such a beautiful time of year, my favourite season. The wild garlic and bluebells amongst the trees help me with my mindfulness. I hope you are all keeping your minds healthy and managing to find some peace. 
Stay safe, stay smiling. 
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