Many people fear going to their dentist. In fact, according to the Adult Dental Health Survey, 1 in 3 people have moderate dental anxiety, and 1 in 8 have extreme dental anxiety.
This fear can stem from different things. For some, it’s the strong scents and sounds. For others, fear of the dentist can be fueled by pain, invasiveness, and shame from a dentist’s judgemental gaze.
However, this behaviour can end up deteriorating your oral health. The longer you delay treatment, the worse your problem can become. That is why it’s important to let this fear go (which can be easier said than done).
And you don’t need to fear your dentist either because they’ll be ready to help you feel less nervous about your treatment. As technology has evolved, so have the styles of communication. So, you can feel more relaxed about your dental appointment.
Why Do You Have A Fear Of The Dentist?
Fear of the dentist can come from any of the following:
- Traumatic dental experience in the past
- Bad dental experience of friends and/or family
- Fear of injections
- Saw a bad dentist experience in the media
- Fear of pain
- Feel embarrassed about poor oral health
- Neurotic personality
- Feel a loss of control
- Invasion of personal space
Moreover, the invasion of personal space can be especially difficult for victims of sexual abuse.
One study published in the Journal of Dental Research also suggested that dental fear might even be inherited. And girls are more likely to inherit it than boys. Still, it can affect anyone of any age.
Here, it should also be noted that dental anxiety is different from dental phobia (dentophobia or odontophobia). The latter is an intense and irrational fear of dentists, while the former is the stress you experience when at the dentist.
If you have a phobia, you’re likely to avoid or delay getting dental treatment. But, even if you have dental anxiety, you’ll probably still end up getting help.
What to Do Not to Be Afraid of the Dentist
On your end, there are some things you can do to feel less anxious or fearful when you’re visiting your dentist. For instance, on how to overcome your fear of the dentist, you can:
- Try Deep Breathing – Slow and focused deep breathing can help reduce your anxiety. It can calm your mind, slow down your heart rate and reduce blood pressure.
- Try Muscle Relaxation – You can also bring down your stress levels by tensing and relaxing your muscles.
- Do Guided Imagery – You can try and calm your mind by imagining yourself in a calm, peaceful, happy place.
- Listen To Music – Music can also be quite effective in reducing stress. This will not only distract you but also lower your blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormone levels.
- Bring A Stress Ball – A stress ball can also help you provide an outlet for the tension you’re feeling.
- Bring A Book – A book can be a great distraction while you’re waiting for your turn in the reception area.
- Bring Someone With You – Having a friend or family member with you can provide you with much-needed support and relaxation if you’re feeling stressed.
- Talk To Your Dentist – If you have dental anxiety or phobia, make sure to inform your dentist about it so they can make necessary preparations for you.
Other than that, you can also consider getting help from a mental health professional. Cognitive behavioural therapy, like exposure therapy, can help you overcome your fear of dentists.
How Can Your Dentist Help You Overcome Fear of the Teeth?
If you’re experiencing anxiety about dentist appointments, there are different ways in which your dentist can help you.
If you’re feeling anxious about pain, to avoid that, your dentist can give you:
- Topical anaesthesia
- Local anaesthesia
- Sedation (inhalation, oral, or IV)
And to deal with pain after the treatment, your dentist is likely to prescribe you painkillers and recommend other remedies like icing.
Many people fear needles at the dentist’s office. But because of the advancement in technology, you won’t have to feel pain from them either (at least not significantly).
There’s now a device called “The Wand” that uses a computerised probe to numb the area under treatment. That can eliminate the need for a traditional injection.
Other than that, for anxiety, your dentist can help you feel more relaxed with laughing gas or Valium.
Additionally, one of the best things that your dentist can do for you is simply to talk to you.
Once you know what your dentist is going to do, it will help you feel more in control of what’s going to happen. You’re also less likely to feel anxious with someone you trust. And that can come from communicating with the patient.
How to Find the Right Dentist?
To find the right dentist, you can start by reading the reviews of that particular dentist online. Additionally, you should check for their licenses and certifications to make sure they’re experienced and qualified.
Finding the right dentist is one answer to how to get over your fear of the dentist. It’s important for your dentist to be empathic about your emotions.
If they’re dismissive about it from the start and aren’t as reassuring, it’ll make you feel more stressed.
For that, it’s important that you have a consultation with your dentist before the procedure. You can communicate your specific fears to them so they can take the necessary steps to help you.
Also, don’t only focus on the dentist. See how their clinic and the rest of the staff are because they can also help you feel less stressed.
If you know someone who also fears going to the dentist, you can ask for their recommendations as well to find the right dentist for yourself.
Dental technology has become quite advanced over the years. Additionally, dentists have become more aware of different patient concerns, so you can feel more comfortable during your appointments.
Keep in mind that fear of dentists is quite common. However, you should not let it come in the way of your oral health. So, what to do if you’re scared of the dentist? You can try guided imagery, deep breathing, listening to music, or bringing someone with you, among other things.
But most importantly, you need to talk to your doctor about it. Talk to a dentist about your fears, and they can help you overcome them.