Experiencing a little anxiety before a visit to your local dentist is not unusual, but when that nervousness turns into a phobia—an intense, unreasonable fear—it becomes a real problem. Dentophobia, or fear of the dentist, keeps people from receiving necessary oral health care, which in turn can lead to much more serious health issues. Read on for more information about dentophobia and how you can overcome your fear of the dentist.
The Prevalence of Dentophobia
If you experience dentophobia, you’re not alone: 5-8% of Americans are afraid of the dentist, and 20% of people experience so much anxiety that they will only go when it is absolutely necessary. Those who suffer from dentophobia will wait until the pain is intolerable, or even until a tooth is broken or falls out.
This fear usually stems from a bad experience as a child, and it may not have even been their own dental experience. If they witnessed a parent in the dental chair, just seeing the instruments, lights, and perhaps some bleeding may have been an eye-widening horror. Many people are also resistant to the lack of control they feel being in the chair, on their back and unable to move, but there are techniques to help.
The anticipation of a pending appointment is usually much worse than the appointment itself. The reality is that most of the time you will feel so much better after a visit relieves the pain and irritation you may be experiencing.
Overcome Your Fear of the Dentist
Dentistry has improved drastically in the last decade or so, and this includes techniques that help with patient care. Dentists today are receiving training on how to help patients with anxiety or dentophobia. As with so many things in life, communication is the key. Some dentists are now scheduling initial appointments in their office, rather than the exam room, so they can discuss the patient’s concerns and fears, and, hopefully, put them at ease. Some things your dentist can do to help lessen your anxiety and fear are:
- Explaining everything that is going to occur and as it happens
- Taking breaks if needed
- Asking how you are doing
- Asking for permission to continue
In addition to improved communication, other things that may help you overcome your fear of the dentist include:
- Distractions such as TV or music
- Dentists who specialize in pain-free dentistry
- Dentists who specialize with fearful patients
- Having a calming person with you during the appointment
- Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or muscle concentration/relaxation
- Sedatives such as laughing gas or oral sedation
You can also consider joining a support group or an online forum to help discuss your fears with others who share your dentophobia and get tips on how others in the group have overcome their fear of the dentist. A great way to keep your dental visits as easy and pain-free as possible is to practice good oral health care. Brush regularly with a quality periodontal bacteria-fighting tooth liquid like OraMD, floss regularly, and rinse with OraMD mouthwash for a clean, healthy smile.