Overcoming Fear and Anxiety At the Dentist's Office

By Dental Haven

Phobia vs. Anxiety

Suppose you feel some nervousness or stress before a dental appointment. In that case, you are grappling with a type of anxiety that is relatively common. But someone with a dental phobia has such intense fear, just the thought of going to the dentist can cause them to panic. Those with dental phobia are encouraged to seek professional help from licensed therapists or counselors for coping mechanisms before their appointment.

Causes of Fear

Someone with an intense fear of the dentist is usually reacting to memories of an unpleasant experience in the past, whether it’s the result of a painful incident or a similarly upsetting life event. Those who experience mild anxiety before a dental appointment; on the other hand, may just be nervous about a procedure they have yet to experience. Still, others equate a dental visit with pain because their prior experience wasn’t as pleasant as today’s pain-free dentistry allows.

Facing It

If you haven’t been to a dentist for over a year because of fear, your teeth and gums may be paying the price. The good news is dentists today understand these fears and are doing what they can to make dental appointments more comfortable for their patients. For example, dental offices now take on friendlier environments than in the past, with cozy waiting rooms, soothing music, and staff who know how to make the appointment feel less like a formal event. So don’t be embarrassed to discuss your concerns and fears with your dentist. Together you can customize solutions to reduce your stress level during future treatment.

Your dentist may ease you into dental treatment by scheduling simple procedures like exams or cleaning before starting more complicated procedures. They may even suggest some form of dental anesthesia or sedation to eliminate pain and anxiety during this treatment stage. Dentists often use distraction to calm fears, too – headphones for music or goggles for watching videos, both of which can divert your attention away from the process itself. Of course, nervous patients should consider using their own relaxation techniques as well.

Tips for Easing Dental Fears

  1. Ask friends and family. If you don’t already have a dentist, ask people you trust about their own dentist and be happy with their provider. Word of mouth is a great way to find a good dentist.
  2. Search for a dentist online. Many dental offices have web sites where you can learn about their practices and become familiar with the staff. If you have found a few dental practices that look promising, ask friends and neighbors if they are patients or know anything about them.
  3. Talk about your feelings. Once you choose a dentist, make sure you communicate with the dentist and staff. Don’t be shy! You are not the first patient who ever felt nervous or anxious. Talking will make your dental experience more relaxed and pleasant.
  4. Ask questions. Ask your dental team to inform you about the type of dental treatment they recommend based upon your unique oral health needs. Once a treatment plan has been developed, ask your dentist to explain the procedures in detail. Knowing what to expect before it happens can help put your mind at ease.
  5. Try to relax. If you are nervous before going to a professional cleaning or dental procedure, talk to the dentist about making the experience more comfortable. The dentist and staff should make every effort to make your visit comforting and less stressful.

Overcoming Fear with Prevention

Regular dental checkups and cleanings are always essential to keep your mouth healthy. But it’s the oral care at home that can keep you from needing more complicated dental procedures down the line. Whether or not you have a fear of the dentist, brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss at least once daily, and limit sugary snacks between your main courses.

As you and your dentist work to make your visits more relaxed, it won’t take long for fears and stress start to weaken. And as each dental appointment becomes more comfortable, your teeth and gums will become healthier and your smile more confident.