Fear of the dentist (or dental phobia, or odontophobia, or dental anxiety or whatever else you’d like to call it) is a very real thing that keeps both adults and children from receiving the care they need. Some estimates say that as many of 75% of US adults experience some amount of dental anxiety – so remember that you’re not alone if you feel this way – but there are some people who have a serious dread (phobia) of visiting the dentist’s office.
Maybe you’re telling yourself that it is just a little anxiety that stops you from making that appointment. Maybe you’re thinking that you’ll definitely take care of that cavity next week. It may seem like perfectly innocent and perfectly reasonable excuses to put off your inevitable appointment, but it doesn’t take much to turn those simple excuses into something more. Between 5 and 8% of Americans avoid dentists out of fear, but that doesn’t have to be you.
Understand the Source of the Fear
The first step to overcoming your fear is to really analyze where, exactly it comes from. What is it you are really afraid of?
Once you can determine this, it will be much easier for us to work with you and provide a more comfortable experience. Some of the most common fears include:
- Fear of pain – This is by far the most common reason people avoid the dentist. Whether it’s a memory of a bad experience in their youth or a comparatively low pain threshold, this keeps a lot of people from healthier teeth and brighter smiles.
- Fear of needles – Sometimes the needle is worse than the drill. The fear of needles is bad enough, but the thought of those needles going in the mouth is even worse.
- Fear of anesthetic – Many people don’t like the numbness and lack of control that comes with anesthetics. Other people feel sick after even a little anesthetic.
- Need for personal space – A dentist or hygienist has to get really close to your face to complete the procedure. This can be a very uncomfortable situation for many people.
- Embarrassment – Often, people let their teeth get so bad that they’re embarrassed to let anyone, even a pro, see into their mouths.
Is This You?
So where do you fall on the anxiety/phobia scale? Consider these questions:
- Are you having trouble sleeping the night before your appointment?
- Do you feel nervous in the waiting room? Do you catch yourself sweating, bouncing your legs up and down, or clenching your jaw?
- Do you feel physically ill at the thought of a drill aimed at your mouth?
- Do you have trouble breathing when dental tools are being used in your mouth?
Simple and Effective Ways to Deal with Dental Anxiety
If you are dealing with a real phobia, you will probably need more than these few simple tips. However, if you are experiencing some persistent anxiety – enough to keep you from coming in and getting the treatment you need – consider trying some of these:
- Talk to us about your concerns. We want to understand what is causing your anxieties so we can address them.
- Make an appointment to have a look around the office. This way you can meet us and see the environment without actually having a procedure done.
- Get it over with by setting your appointment for the earliest one possible.
- Bring some moral support (who can also serve as your ride home).
- Try some relaxation techniques. Things like deep breathing and progressive relaxation can be very effective and easy to learn (though they may take some time to really get good at them).
- Look around and see what other people do to relax before an appointment. Remember, you’re not the only one experiencing this kind of anxiety
The best thing you can do for your smile and your health is to speak openly with us about your fears and concerns. We’ll do what it takes to make you feel more comfortable as you start to improve your oral health.