Have you been stopping yourself from visiting the dentist because the only thought of it causes you distress?
If this pretty much describes your relationship with the dental office, then you’re probably dealing with dental anxiety.
Before we continue, please know that this phobia or fear is far more common than you think, so there’s no need to feel isolated on this.
In fact, about 36% of the population struggles with this issue, and it is quite a concern.
The more you avoid the dentist, the bigger chances your oral health has to deteriorate. And even more, if you just don’t go at all.
But we’re in this together, so here I’ll give you some useful tips on how to deal with dental anxiety and help you understand it a little bit better, so let’s get started.
What is Dental Anxiety?
Dental anxiety is when you feel uneasy or nervous about visiting the dentist for something as simple as a dental cleaning.
It’s normal to be a little anxious when you get major dental work done, but if you feel fear with even the simplest procedures, you might be dealing with a phobia.
Those who struggle with a dental phobia do their very best to avoid going to the dentist. They tend to only go at the last minute when they can’t stand the pain any longer.
Some other things that might be signs of dental anxiety are:
- Severe nervousness when waiting for your dentist to see you.
- Not sleeping well the night before the appointment.
- Thinking about going to the dentist makes you feel really bad, anxious, and fearful.
What Causes Dental Anxiety?
Most causes originate from interpersonal issues, but they can go as far as abuse. Let’s explore some of the most common things that might be causing you anxiety:
This is probably the most common cause among patients who haven’t seen a dentist in a long time. You might feel embarrassed about your teeth’ condition, allowing things to get really bad or being criticized.
Fear of pain:
Fear of pain at the dentist commonly is because of a negative or traumatic dental experience when you were a kid or from hearing other people’s horror dental stories. Also, the negative image that movies and the media portrays about the dentist doesn’t really help.
Some aspects of the dentist may trigger those who have gone through negative experiences in the past that have made them feel powerless. This can be due to a dentist not listening to you and causing you distress or being a victim of mental/physical abuse.
Even the look of the syringes might scare you to death. This is something that lots of patients struggle with. Some people are so afraid of injections that they avoid them at all costs, even when their life depends on them.
If you have had a bad experience in the past where the anesthetic didn’t work while they were using the drill on your teeth, you might associate this tool with pain. Up to the point where even the sound of it can make you extremely nervous.
How to Cope With Dental Anxiety?
Depending on what triggers your dental anxiety, you can try and explore some tips that might help you get over it and have a better time in the dental chair.
Remember that for the sake of your oral and general health, keeping your teeth in shape is super important.
Otherwise, you could develop deeper dental issues in the future, which will require more invasive dental work and potentially be harder to endure.
Check out some of the ways that can help you deal with dental fear:
1) Choose your dentist carefully
Even though it might not feel like it, you are the one in control when it comes to your dentist. Make sure that your first visit is with someone who can put you at ease.
Ask friends or loved ones for recommendations, read all the reviews you can find, aim for a dentist that treats especially nervous patients and what they do to help them cope.
If you live in San Diego, contact Serena Famly & Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Serena Kurt is a compassionate dentist in Claremont Mesa Blvd who takes a kind and friendly approach, especially with patients who struggle with dental fear.
2) Have an honest chat with your dentist
Let them know your fears and concerns. They can’t read your mind to specifically know what bothers you, so if you make it clear to them before starting any procedure, they can ensure your comfort by taking all the necessary considerations and measures.
3) Stop signal
Come up and agree to a stop signal with your dentist. It can be raising one of your hands every time you feel pain or uncomfortable. Then, when you begin the treatment, put it to the test! This should help your dentist know when to stop if it’s necessary.
4) Ask for sedation
Sedation can make the entire experience a lot easier, so it’s good to talk about it with your dentist and know if they offer it and which one is better for you. There are three types of sedation:
- Oral sedation
- Nitrous oxide
- IV sedation
Sedatives will help you feel calm and relaxed during the procedure. It will also make your dentist’s job a lot easier and faster.
5) Pick the best time slot
Strategically choosing the time slot can help you avoid unnecessary anxiety. For instance, the best is to be the first or last appointment of the day. You can also pick a time slot right after the lunch break.
This will reduce the waiting time and feelings of uneasiness.
6) Watch or listen to your favorite stuff
Make a playlist of your favorite songs and bring it to your appointment to listen to it. You can also ask your dentist if they can play music for you or bring your earbuds to listen to podcasts on your phone.
7) Breathe in and breathe out
The best way to help your heart slow down a bit is to practice breathing techniques. Inhale deeply for about 5 seconds and breathe out for 5 seconds. And don’t forget to try to relax your muscles while you do it.
8) Comfort objects
Is there a blanket, a stuffed bear, or a lucky charm that never fails to give you comfort and calm you down? Bring it to the dental office! Having something that reminds you of home or a safe place will make you feel more confident and protected.
9) Request what you need
Setting your boundaries and making special requests are fundamental for those who have gone through abuse or trauma. The dental chair might be triggering in different ways, so besides the tips above, you should also ask for some things that might help, such as: leaving the door open, ask permission to touch you, check on you frequently, etc.
10) Before the appointment
Don’t suppress feelings of concern. It’s part of your coping mechanism, instead, go out and do things you enjoy before seeing your dentist. You can go shopping, watch a movie, play a game, or whatever keeps you entertained.
If you need more resources on overcoming dental fear, you can visit the website on Dental Fear Central.
You can also talk to our Clairemont dentist, Dr. Serena Kurt, to address any more questions or concerns. We want to help you achieve the healthiest smile possible, and we’ll do everything in our power to make it happen. Contact us today!