Fear of the dentist is a lot more common than you think. In fact, an estimated 13% to 24% of people around the world are affected by some form of dental anxiety. Fortunately for most people, dental anxiety is disturbing but not disabling. However, others are so terrified of going to the dentist that the mere thought can be crippling. Those who suffer from a more severe form of dental anxiety suffer from something called; dental phobia. Someone with dental phobia will avoid a visit to the dentist at all costs, even if that means ignoring an infection or a toothache that’s interfering with day-to-day activities.
If you find yourself so nervous about visiting the dentist that it is affecting your oral health and deterring you from going to your check-ups all together, you may be experiencing dental anxiety, fear or phobia.
Why Do People Fear the Dentist?
Dental anxiety, fear, or phobia is usually triggered by a specific event, experience or expectation. Many people who fear the dentist develop this fear after having a bad encounter, while others find the entire experience overwhelming or even embarrassing. Some people dread the dentist simply because they anticipate the visit to be painful – though many dentists offer sedatives to make patients feel more comfortable and at ease.
So what can you do if you, or someone you know, is allowing their fear of the dentist to compromise their health? Check out these 7 great tips to learn how to deal with dental anxiety:
Acknowledge and Communicate Your Fears
In order to come to terms with your feelings, you need to be able to address them. Acknowledging your fears is the first step to overcoming them. Write your fears down or speak openly about them to someone you trust. If you can’t admit to your fears you won’t be able to address them directly and ultimately, you will struggle to overcome them.
Once you’re able to recognize your fears you must communicate them to your dentist. Don’t worry, your dentist won’t take any offence. Dentists are used to dealing with hesitant patients. By explaining your fears to your dentist he or she will be able to work with you to help you find ways to get comfortable at their office
Take Small Steps
If you have dental anxiety, the last thing you should be doing is rushing in and out of the dentist’s office to get a major procedure. Instead, you should be taking small steps to acclimate to your dentist’s office in order to reduce your fear and create new and better experiences.
The right doctor will understand your fear and won’t schedule you for any major treatments until they know for certain you are comfortable. Start small with a check-up or a polish – even just sitting in the dental chair for a few minutes is a step in the right direction – then slowly progress into more advanced treatments if necessary.
Bring a Friend or a Family Member
Bring a companion to appointments for support and assurance. Depending on the nature of your procedure, your dentist might even allow your friend to join you and keep you company during the treatment itself.
Be sure to bring someone supportive who does not have any anxiety or phobia about visiting the dentist.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
There are several different relaxation techniques you can use to help relax while in the dental chair. For starters, you can distract yourself using your imagination. Close your eyes and think of something that makes you happy, think up some fun plans for your upcoming weekend, or solve a work issue in your head. No matter what you choose to daydream about it will take your mind off the issue at hand.
If you’re not able to allow your mind to wander, focus on your breathing. According to Harvard Medical School, deep breathing has the power to evoke the body’s natural relaxation response. If you feel your body tensing up, breathe slowly and deeply.
Consider Noise-Cancelling Headphones
If the mere sounds of a dental procedure is enough to make your stomach queasy, consider bringing noise-cancelling headphones and soothing music to your next appointment. If music isn’t your thing, bring a podcasts or read-aloud book to listen to while you’re in the waiting room or during your treatment.
Ask for Sedatives
A dentist can administer sedation to keep a patient calm and relaxed during their treatment. To administer sedation, a dentist will place a mask, similar to an oxygen mask over your face.
At Century Stone Dental we offer patients nitrous oxide (also known as “laughing gas”). You will receive an incremental dose of nitrous oxide until you begin to feel the full effects. The exact dose of gas varies from person to person, as some are more sensitive to it than others.
Find the Right Dentist
Finding the right dental practice can play a huge role in overcoming your dental fears. Ask friends and family for recommendations or look up local listings and read reviews.
Make a list of practices you think would be right for you then call each practice one by one. During each phone call, ask questions and pay attention to how the staff responds. Do they make you feel comfortable or do they sound dismissive? Are they helpful or are they meandering about? If you’re comfortable talking with them on the phone then schedule an appointment to meet the dentist in person!
On your visit, be aware of the atmosphere and take a look at your surroundings. If the office is clean and makes you feel relaxed, then that’s a good sign that it’s a practice that will be able to address both your oral health problems and your dental anxieties.
When it comes to the dentist themselves, the right dentist will offer assurance and will not just listen to your fears but will address them without making you feel judged.
Next time you’re due for a trip to the dentist, remember these 7 tips. In the end, it’s in everyone’s interest to overcome dental fear and make dental treatment a calm, comfortable, and safe experience.