How to Ease Your Dental Fear Or Anxiety

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It’s all too familiar. At the mention of a dentist, your heart starts racing. You avoid making dentist appointments until you absolutely have to, or don’t go at all. The sound of dental drills is the soundtrack of your nightmares. Maybe your level of dental fear or anxiety isn’t that high, but it still exists. Fear of the dentist is so common that between 9% and 20% of Americans completely avoid going to the dentist because of their fear or anxiety. For more severe cases there’s even a name for it– dentophobia.

Dentophobia and dental anxiety

Ever had a root canal? Did you get teeth pulled as a kid? It’s no wonder so many of us dread the dentist.

Dentophobia is the name for intense dental anxiety that results in irrational fear and complete avoidance of going to the dentist. Dental anxiety or fear is less severe than dentophobia, but can make a dentist visit extremely distressing for a patient.

Causes

It’s common for people that have dentophobia or dental anxiety to have had past traumatic or negative experiences at the dentist that triggers their anxiety. People with mental illnesses such as generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia are at a higher risk of experiencing dental anxiety. History of head and neck trauma can also increase the risk of dentophobia or dental anxiety.

Some people may associate the dentist with negative portrayals found on TV or experiences they hear from other people. For others, the anxiety can stem from fear of medical procedures, needles, loss of control, loss of personal space, or pain.

Signs of dental anxiety

Some signs that you may have dental anxiety include
-avoidance behaviors
-trouble sleeping the night or nights before a dental exam
-feelings of nervousness that escalate once in a dental office
-crying or feeling ill at the mention of going to the dentist or prior to dental appointments
-uneasiness/difficulty breathing when dental objects are placed in your mouth during treatment
-sweating
-racing heartbeat
-low blood pressure and possible fainting
-withdrawal, or using humor or aggression to mask anxiety

Effects on health

Avoiding the dentist altogether can pose a risk to your health, so it’s important to acknowledge that even though your fear is valid, those dental appointments still need to be put on your calendar. You are at a higher risk of dental diseases and needing more complex treatments down the road if you don’t take preventative measures like going to regular cleanings, x-rays, and check ups.

The good news? There are ways to help relieve some of the anxiety associated with going to the dentist. Below, you’ll find out how to change your experience next time you’re in the dental chair.

Ways to ease your dental fear

  1. Communicate: Sometimes the scariest part about a fear is letting people know about it. By telling your dentist about your fear and explaining your triggers however, you may relieve some of your anxieties. You can also ask your dentist to explain every part of your dental procedure. This informs you of what exactly is going to happen so there are no surprises, and it can be helpful in alleviating your fear.
  2. Distract: Another way to ease your fears and anxieties during your dental appointment is to bring something to distract you from the procedure. This can be a stress ball to squeeze during moments of high anxiety in the examination room or a game on your phone to play while you’re in the waiting room. A really helpful tool that you can use during your visit is headphones. That way, you can listen to soothing music or a podcast to get your mind off of what’s happening. These days, most offices have TVs that you can watch and focus on during your visit as well.
  3. Relax: Relaxation techniques can be beneficial in alleviating some dental fear and anxiety. Methods like deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and meditation are helpful when trying to relax. Doing these activities before an appointment may help decrease tension prior to the visit.

Other methods to ease fear

For some people, it may be beneficial to try other methods of treatment for easing dental fear and anxiety. Dentists may use laughing gas, general anesthesia or prescribe anti-anxiety medications to use during a visit, which can be a short-term solution for relief.

Working with a dentist who is caring, kind, and non-judgmental of your fear is an important step in alleviating dentophobia. By talking to a dentist before a visit, you can get a sense of who they are. Your dentist should be empathetic and understanding of your needs. Once you find someone you are comfortable with, you can start combating your dental anxiety and in return, your teeth will thank you.

Find a dentist near me.

Sources


  1. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/dental-anxiety-and-phobia
  2. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/easing-dental-fear-adults#1
  3. https://www.gentledental-mi.com/overcoming-dentophobia-a-fear-of-the-dentist/

Kristen Luft is a digital marketer working on health-centered blog posts for Wellistic. When she's not writing, you can find her reading, snuggling her greyhound or chihuahua, or following the latest trends on Instagram.

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