Let's talk: the dentist, anxiety and visiting the hygienist

Kat Clark, beauty blogger, smiling
Outside the Elleven Dental clinic
Inside the Elleven Dental clinic
I don’t think I’m alone when I say I really, really hate going to the dentist. For me, it’s not about the sounds or the smells, but it’s a total sense of anxiety that something might be wrong and I might have to have anything done other than the general checkup. It’s something that has gotten so much worse the older I’ve gotten, to the point where I have several sleepless nights in the run up to an appointment.

Anxiety issues aside, I do actually make myself go to the dentist for a check at least once a year. This is quite embarrassing to admit, but my teeth are a big area of stress for me. Not because they’re bad, or damaged or rotten – they’re actually in pretty good shape considering my childhood winegum addiction and the more adult love for chocolate. It’s because any time I get stressed out in general, all my worries seem to get fixated on my teeth and I become irrationally panicked that they’re all going to fall out or my gums are all suddenly going to recede and I’ll just be left with giant fang teeth. The rational side of me knows that this is stupid, but the anxious part of me can’t seem to realise that.

So, teeth stress confessions out of the way, a regular dentist’s appointment is a must-have for me, despite the fact I come out in a cold sweat thinking about it. One thing I’ve never really considered before is a trip to the hygienist, so when an invite popped up from Elleven Dental Practice I thought it’d be a great opportunity to get my head around why it’s so important and why it’s so different to seeing the dentist.

Elleven are a private dental clinic situated just around the corner from Harley Street in London and as you’d expect for something in that area, it has a very client-focused, relaxing atmosphere. It’s miles away from my usual dentist, which although very good, has magazines from 2007 and some very sexy 80s d├ęcor going on.

I saw one of their specialist hygienists for an in depth cleaning appointment. The hygienist tends to focus more on overall gum health and teeth cleaning – they won’t be looking for cavities or dental imperfections in the same way that a dentist does. That said, oral hygiene plays such an important part in the health of our teeth and gums, so it’s well worth investing in for the long term.

I had a chat with my hygienist about my dental anxiety and she really did her best to put me at ease while I was in the chair. You can choose your own music to listen to while there if you like – something that can definitely help make you feel calmer and in more familiar surroundings.

My appointment lasted about 40 minutes – there was a lot of deep cleaning, polishing and scraping going on. None of it was painful, just a bit uncomfortable and as it was my first proper cleaning appointment, it took my mouth a day or two to go back to feeling ‘normal’. I had a few little moments where I asked her to pause for a while as I was feeling quite anxious and then we were able to carry on again.

I left with the cleanest, whitest looking teeth I’ve had in a long time (they weren’t whitened, just super clean!) and was so pleased with the results. I’m now aiming to go back twice a year to visit the hygienist to help me maintain those results.

My dental anxiety hasn’t totally disappeared, but it definitely feels more under control and I’m determined to keep working on it. If you are worried about the dentist, why not take someone with you for comfort (yes, adults too!). Practice some calming breathing techniques and talk to your dentist beforehand to let them know you’re feeling anxious.

Appointments at Elleven start from £99 for a hygienist appointment.

*treatment provided free of charge, all views my own

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