Anxious patient covering her mouth at the dentist

It happens to all of us: we have a dental appointment coming up and we start getting nervous even though it may just be for regular teeth cleaning. But there are some patients who have severe dental anxiety and dental fear. This is called Dentophobia or Odontophobia. There are also associated phobias such as Algophobia (fear of pain) and Trypanophobia (fear of needles), and even Aphenphosmphobia (fear of being touched). Below, we’ll discuss possible reasons these occur and what people can do to calm their nerves before going to the dentist.

You’re not going to overcome dental anxiety overnight, and that’s okay. But there are definitely things that both you and your dentist can do to work together to alleviate anxiety or dental fears.

What Is Dentophobia?

Simply put, Dentophobia is a fear of going to the dentist and it can affect people of all ages. This can be brought on by a few different things:

Uncertain patient with dental anxiety staring at dental tools
Having dental phobia may go beyond just feeling anxious. Other symptoms can include things like feeling a panic attack coming on, crying, shaking, sweating, fainting, or feeling nauseous. Some patients may just opt to avoid dental visits altogether, but unfortunately, doing so can lead to even more complicated and expensive dental procedures and negatively impact your life in many ways.

5 Dental Anxiety Tips

Every patient’s dental anxiety will be different and range in severity. Depending on the severity, there are some coping strategies you can try before your dental visit, and while you are at the dental office. But first thing’s first: you should feel proud of yourself for mustering up the courage to go in the first place or even booking an appointment. That is always a great first step!

1. Let Your Dentist Office Know

Dental offices fully understand your situation. They deal with many anxious patients, so know that you are not alone in your situation. That’s why you should let them know ahead of time that you have dental anxiety and may need help to calm down and support during your visit. They will be more than understanding and accommodating which is another great step towards building a trusting relationship.

2. Ask About Sedation Dentistry Options

Because dental offices are used to treating patients with dental anxiety, many now offer different sedation methods to help reduce anxiety and make patients feel more comfortable no matter the dental procedure they’re receiving. For example, nitrous oxide, also referred to as laughing gas, is a popular choice for both children and adult patients. The odorless gas will be supplied through a mask during your treatment, but you’ll still be awake and be able to answer questions and communicate your concerns. But, you’ll feel much more relaxed, less anxious, and even giddy.

Some dentists also use oral sedatives that are taken before your appointment is set to begin. Your dentist will give you a pill while you sit in the waiting room for it to kick in. You’ll still be awake and be able to answer questions but feel much more relaxed and ready to tackle your dental appointments with ease!

Both of these methods are referred to as conscious sedation, but there are sleep dentistry options available where you are completely asleep during your appointment, like general anesthesia. However, not all dental offices may offer this if they do not always have a dedicated anesthesiologist on their dental team.

Calm patient wearing sedation mask at dental office

3. Try Meditating

Deep breathing exercises can actually help with many things, including relaxing before your appointment and keeping you grounded. It can put you in a much calmer state, reduce stress and anxiety, redirect your thoughts, lower your blood pressure, and boost your mood. This is why many experts suggest taking part in relaxation techniques every day, even for just 10-20 minutes.

4. Bring Moral Support

No matter how old you are, sometimes having someone accompany you to the dentist is all you need to feel better, and that’s okay. For children and teens, their safe havens are often their parents so they can hold their hand. For adults, they either bring their older children, parents, or friends for support. Depending on the rules of the office and how small the space is, you may want to call them beforehand and let them know you’ll require your support to be in the room with you. If none of your friends or family can make it, someone on the dental team will be more than happy to stand in their place and offer their comforting support.

5. Ask To Take Breaks

During your dental treatment, let the dentist or hygienist know you need to take a break for a few minutes to regather your thoughts. This is where you can practice relaxation breathing techniques before they begin again.
Dental hygienist cleaning sedated patient's teeth

Don't Let Your Fear Of The Dentist Affect Your Oral Health

Your dental health is of utmost importance. Once you start avoiding the dentist, you are more prone to suffering from things like gum disease or tooth infections. Gum disease can cause tooth loss and, in turn, cause gaps in your teeth that can shift other teeth, cause eating issues, jawbone loss, facial structure changes, and affect your self-confidence. If tooth infections are left untreated, that can also lead to more dental problems that are painful and expensive. Infection can also spread through the rest of your bloodstream if not handled in a timely manner.

There Are Options Available For You Even If You Have Dental Anxiety

Your dentist has treated many patients with dental anxiety and they know how to handle your situation professionally and comfortably. Severe anxiety can obviously make it very hard to even make a dental appointment in the first place, but just know that there are various treatment options available to experience less anxiety and stress during your appointment. Your dentist likely offers sedation dentistry and can alter your treatment plan to include ways to help you feel more confident and stress-free for future dental visits.

How To Help Dental Anxiety 1
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