December 6, 2018
Do you dread going to the dentist? Do you even avoid going to the dentist because of this fear? Well, you’re not alone. In fact, it is estimated that between 9 and 20% of Americans don’t visit the dentist because of dental anxiety or phobia. That means that at minimum, 30 million people don’t get the dental care they need—all because of their dental anxiety or phobia.
What is dental anxiety and phobia?
Simply put, dental anxiety is the fear of going to the dentist. People with mild dental anxiety feel uneasy when their appointment rolls around. But dental phobia, more severe than dental anxiety, can leave patients in a panic over dental visits or treatment. They might lose sleep the night before an appointment or cry or feel physically ill when just thinking about going to the dentist. Whether you have dental anxiety or phobia, the feelings are real, and you shouldn’t feel any shame in having them.
What causes dental anxiety?
Some of the most common reasons that people fear going to the dentist include the following:
- Bad previous dental experience.
- Fear of pain.
- Discomfort with the physical closeness of the dentist or hygienist.
- Fear of injections or fear that injection won’t work.
- Feeling of loss of control.
- Feeling vulnerable.
What can I do to ease my dental anxiety or phobia?
Regardless of the cause, there are lots of ways you can manage and even ease your dental anxiety or phobia.
- Choose a way to signal that you want the dentist to stop, such as raising your hand.
- Distract yourself by counting the tiles on the ceiling or listening to music.
- Bring something, like a stress ball, for you to fiddle with or squeeze.
- Visualize that you are in a relaxing environment, such as the beach.
- Count your breaths, breathing in and out slowly.
What can my dentist do to ease my dental anxiety or phobia?
One of the best things for you to do is talk to your dentist about your dental anxiety or phobia. That way, they will be aware your concerns and be able to adapt the treatment to your needs. Share any bad experiences in the past and ask them to explain each step of the treatment before they do it so you know what’s coming. Make sure to tell them your preferred stop signal to keep you both on the same page. If the dentist disregards your feelings, find a new dentist.
One way to make visits and dental treatment easier that many dentists offer is sedation. For example, nitrous oxide—or laughing gas—is a mild sedative that induces feelings of calmness and contentment within minutes. Completely awake during the entire appointment, you are aware of everything going on around you, but you feel more at ease. In contrast, oral conscious sedation uses oral medication to help you reach a deep state of relaxation. Although awake, many patients have only vague memories of the appointment, making it ideal for those with more severe dental anxiety or phobia.
Especially if your dental anxiety or phobia is severe, before you schedule an appointment anywhere, ask if your dental office has a sedation dentist to help you with your dental anxiety or phobia.
Although your feelings are real and fairly common, you don’t have to live in fear of going to the dentist. Your oral health is worth making the effort to overcome your dental anxiety and phobia. Take the first step by contacting your dentist in Bedford.
About the Author
At Maegan Elam, DDS & Associates, the dentists and staff are dedicated to their patients’ comfort. In addition to creating a comfortable and compassionate environment, sedation dentistry is available to patients in nitrous oxide and oral conscious sedation. To contact them, you can call (817) 283-2871 or click here.
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