Dental Anxiety & Phobia - How To Overcome Dentist Fears
Fear of the dentist keeps thousands of people from getting the dental care they need each year. Rest assured, if you have dental anxiety, you’re not alone. There are dozens of reasons why people avoid seeing the dentist or put off the dental treatment they need.
What Is Dental Anxiety
Sometimes called “white coat syndrome”, dental anxiety is when you experience symptoms like an increased heart rate, sweating, respiration, and elevated blood pressure. Even if your dentist is a person you’re friends with in normal day-to-day life, dental anxiety is that suffocating, panicky feeling you get when it’s time to walk into the dentist’s office or lay back in their dental chair.
Why Do I Have A Dental Phobia?
Dental anxiety, high blood pressure, and aversions to the dentist’s office can be brought on by things like:
- bad experiences with dentists in the past
- past painful dental treatments
- being afraid of the unknown
- a sensitive gag reflex
- feeling claustrophobic
- fear of things like shots, drills, or other instruments
- simply being embarrassed about the way your teeth look
- not going to the dentist for a long time
Fortunately, a lot has changed in the dental industry as a whole when it comes to dental anxiety treatment options. Most dentists are well aware that people don’t like coming to see them. After all, we hear “I hate the dentist” the moment someone sits down in our chair, day in and day out. (That’s where I chime in with, “Good thing I’m the hygienist and not the dentist, then!”)
But I digress. Since so many people are vocal about past bad experiences or fear of the dentist, more dentists than ever are working to provide gentle care that minimizes or totally eliminates the anxiety factor for their patients.
How To Overcome Dental Anxiety
There are a lot of different things you can try when it comes to managing dental anxiety. Dental treatment options might include:
1) Wear Earbuds During Your Dental Treatment
Listening to music is a great way to tune out what’s going on around you. Some dental offices provide headphones! If you need a simple distraction, try loading up your favorite playlist and popping in your headphones once your dental appointment gets started. A dark pair of sunglasses can also lower all of the stimuli you’re exposed to.
2) Asking Your Dentist About Sedation
3) Scheduling Fewer, Shorter Visits First Thing In The Morning
Going to the dentist first thing in the morning means you won’t have all day to sit and feel anxious about it. And if you know the visit is only going to run 30 minutes or so, you’ll be in and out before you have a lot of time for your blood pressure to get worked up.
4) Being Open With Your Dental Team
The better you communicate with your dentist and their staff about your concerns, the better they can work to help you feel comfortable. You don’t have to pretend like your dental anxiety doesn’t exist. If you know a specific issue is challenging for you (such as taking X-rays or having someone else’s hands in your mouth) just communicate those during your dental appointment.
5) Understand What Is Happening
The video below is a full cleaning from the patient's point of view. Many people experience a sense of relief when they know what to expect from a routine cleaning before they ever sit in the dental chair.
Overcoming Dental Anxiety
teethtalkgirl content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or medical doctor to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.Harvard Health. Dental fear? Our readers suggest coping techniques. Harvard Health. NaN Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/dental-fear-our-readers-suggest-coping-techniques-20100825327. March 12, 2020 Journal of Dental Hygiene. The Prevalence of Dental Anxiety in Dental Practice Settings. Journal of Dental Hygiene. NaN Available at: https://jdh.adha.org/content/91/1/30. March 12, 2020 Mouth Healthy. Anesthesia and Sedation. Mouth Healthy. NaN Available at: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/a/anesthesia-and-sedation. March 12, 2020 North American Journal of Medicine Sciences. Dental Anxiety Among Adults: An Epidemiological Study in South India. North American Journal of Medicine Sciences. NaN Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325391/. March 12, 2020