Dental Fear and Olympic Dreams

Truth be told I am sad to see 2012 ending. Maybe it is passing the age of 40 or just that I had 5 minutes to myself but I found myself reflecting back on the summer Olympics which already seems like a distant, but hugely pleasant memory. As a one time rower, and coach for many years myself I was lucky enough to get a ticket to see the last day of the Olympic regatta. Seeing team GB doing so well at the very highest level of competition is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

It also got me thinking of the similarities between embarking on a campaign to win an Olympic gold and the journey to beat dental fear. Both goals con seem utterly unachievable from a standing start. After all the guys and girls who won the medals had to be at their very peak on just one day out of four years and then, on that day they still had to beat the best in the world.

When you think about their actual statistical chances of winning a medal, it is incredible that anyone chooses to pursue Olympic Gold. You might feel the same way when you think about the journey to beat dental fear. So what can we learn from our Olympic Champions?

At some point every top athletes makes a decision and sets themselves a goal. At that moment they have no idea whether they will reach it or not. At the point of making the decision they must be thinking only of what they want to achieve, if they actually contemplated the journey and how the odds were against them I am sure most people would never start.

Do you think that an Olympian wakens up one morning and just becomes great at their sport? Not a chance, their improvement is based on thousands of small incremental improvements. Most athletes are happy so long as each day they are getting a little better. And without doubt the process is not a linear one, there are often setbacks along the way too, some big and some small. Onemember of Team GB this summer that used to share the Union Canal in Edinburgh with us lesser mortals took 3 attempts before finally sealing the seal and achieving her Olympic Gold in 2012

So where do these improvements come from? Some times it is just a case of getting better at something through repetition but more often than not great athletes have good coaches who make the difference. Many of the coaches have already made the journey several times and can help, guide and support them through the process.

Now thankfully beating your dental fear is much easier that winning an Olympic gold, and what’s more you are statistically very likely to beat your dental fear with some professional help. But when I compare the Olympic journey to what we recommend to our patients the similarities cant be missed.

Here are my top tips as a dental fear coach

1. Making a commitment to tackle your dental fear- no matter how tall an order it seems
2. Identifying and setting a series of small achievable goals – break the fear down into small bits
3. Getting professional help and coaching to make the journey easier at any or all of the stages
4. Don’t expect miracles overnight – one step at a time and you will be amazed where it leads
5. With time, patience and a bit of help the results can be remarkable.