You have an upcoming appointment to your dentist. But days before the session you already feel nervous. Your hands start to sweat, you can’t sleep at night… you make a thousand excuses just so you can avoid meeting with your dentist – wishing your tooth will magically heal itself.
Dental anxiety is a common fear shared by 75% of the US population. Such fears are often rooted from childhood experiences caused by painful cavities, tooth decays, and tooth loss. While some children grow out of these fears, many more carry it until they’re adult.
It is not surprising that dental examination causes a lot of stress. Stress results to anxiety that can range from slight nervousness to severe phobia. Though these kinds of anxiety may seem impossible to overcome, a lot of people actually succeeded and grow out of their dental fears.
Can it be Dental Phobia?
Phobia is an irrational fear to something. It could be anything, from closed spaces, to darkness, cockroaches or ducks. Dental phobia (also referred as odontophobia) on the other hand, is the irrational fear of receiving any form of dental care.
How Dental Anxiety Destroys You
People who fear going to the dentists are susceptible to diseases in the gums and teeth. This often causes difficulty in chewing; eating and in extreme cases speech problems. Research also found that people with dental anxieties have generally low life expectancy, poor heart health, and lung infections.
Signs of Dental Anxiety
How do you know you have dental anxiety?
Tensed, Nervous Behavior Prior Dental Appointment
People with dental anxiety feel tense if they have an impending dental examination. They become so anxious that they’d start to look as white as paper, feeling like they want to cry, or sometimes becoming physical ill. Just the thought causes them to have trouble sleeping before a dental exam. Some patients with dental phobia avoid the dental office like plague. They would avoid driving near a dental office, and tolerate tooth aches no matter how painful it is.
Cause of Dental Anxiety and Phobia
The causes of dental anxiety are but not limited to fear of pain, feeling of helplessness, and embarrassment.
Fear of Pain
Usual stories of painful toothaches, horrible trips to the dentists, and the horrors of getting a tooth extraction are a shared family experience. This is why a family’s behavior towards dentist is important for the child’s perception towards dentists.
Feeling of Helplessness
When you are laid out in a dentist chair, unconsciously you feel helpless and at the mercy of your dentist. Patients often fear being out of control. When the dentist inspects your mouth, a feeling of anxiety washes over you as you wonder how he’d be using those formidable looking dental tools.
Feeling of Embarrassment
So maybe you have bad breath caused by tooth decay or extremely unappealing mouth interior. These may cause embarrassment and anxiousness that will result in avoiding dental care. Remember, that dentists are not your usual flock of judgmental people. They are there to help you take good care of your teeth.
Tips on How to Overcome Your Fear of Dentists
Voice out Your Fears
Discussing your fears with your dentist will help you feel at ease and make the examination easier. Also, allowing yourself to know what the reason for your fear might help in acknowledging and overcoming it. A good dentist will hear you out and assure you that everything will be alright.
A moral support from your trusted friend or family member might give you the courage to continue with the dental examination. A person feeling alone and full of anxiety might despair and run from the dental office. But knowing that someone is right beside you might give you the push to get the work done.
One Step At A Time
Just like overcoming a phobia, one should start with small easy steps to overcome your fear. You can make your first visit just about telling the dentist your fear, the second visit for a painless check-up. Do these until you feel that you could undergo the tooth removal. Don’t be afraid to tell your dentist everything, from your fears, to what makes you feel uncomfortable.
Find Ways to Soothe Yourself
There are many ways to keep yourself calm when you are suffering from dental anxiety. You can calm yourself by listening to music, watching videos or simple breathing exercises that works best for your stressed heart.
For patients beyond therapy, your dentist might refer you to a sedation clinic. Nervous dental patients are approached through a different method in sedation clinics. In most sedation clinics, patients are given inhalation sedation, oral sedation or intravenous sedation. None of these methods involve being injected with a tranquilizer. Rather, these treatments offer drugs that help patients get rid of their fear and anxiety.
Finding the Right Dentist
A good dentist will always give his patient the opportunity to voice out his fears. Find a dentist that will let you talk about your fears and will help you address them. He will explain to you the whole procedure. Educating you of how he is going to treat your oral problem. A good dentist will know when to stop the procedure if his patient is feeling distressed or having panic attacks. Don’ take your oral health for granted. Just like any other doctor, dentists are important to help us maintain overall good oral health.