Many people have a fear of going to the dentist. In fact, a large percentage of the population is apprehensive about even making dental appointments. Others simply grit their teeth as they enter the office. Dental phobia can cause the average person to delay making their appointment or skip out on it all together. Identifying your fears and building positive experiences with the dentist can help you overcome your dental fears.
Being fearful of the dentist is totally normal. However, a lack of checkups and cleanings can cause decay and gum disease which can lead to other health risks. Furthermore, avoiding dental care can have a negative effect on a person’s sociability. In general:
- Guidelines advocate that you should visit the dentist twice a year to maintain good oral health
- Avoiding the dentist can lead to abscesses, bad breath, cavities, broken or missing teeth
- Poor oral hygiene can lead to low self-esteem, depression and other mental health issues
Some people are embarrassed to admit that they have dental phobias. One of the best ways to overcome a fear is to make a list of what is causing the anxiety in the first place. As strange as it may seem, you may not be aware of your specific fears until you stop to think about them. It’s possible that the dental procedure is not the cause of the fear but the dentist is the issue. While some dentists can make you feel more at ease, others are simply straightforward or clinical. This fear can be overcome by seeking a new dentist who is warm, inviting and will take the time to make you feel more comfortable.
Discuss your fears with your dentist. Sometimes it is easier to take your “fear list” with you so you don’t forget your concerns. When searching for a new dentist, be sure to schedule a consultation first in order to discuss your worries. During the consultation:
- Be sure the dentist acknowledges your fears
- Don’t accept a dentist who brushes off your concerns because this may indicate someone who isn’t gentle or considerate to your needs
- The dentist should go over the procedure beforehand as well as keep you informed during the actual treatment
Many times, fear is a learned behavior by way of experience or memory. Identifying the root of the fear can help you overcome your dental phobia. As you begin to sort out the specific experiences which may have contributed to your fear of the dentist, counter those memories with positive experiences to get you in the proper mindset to overcome your fears:
- For example, a painful cavity can be “covered” by the thought of a pain free cleaning
- Recalling dental cleanings which had positive feedback about maintaining good oral care can provide good thoughts
- Simply writing down the source of your fears might be the only thing you need to do to gradually overcome your phobias
Understanding that dental procedures have improved over the years is another step towards overcoming dental phobias. With changing times, there are also many new techniques for treating dental problems such as cavities. Drills are now equipped with a stop button in case the patient needs a break and laser methods can be used to remove infected areas.
After you have found a dentist who makes you feel comfortable, set up a series of gradual visits. The first visit should always be a cleaning and then move on to fillings and more serious procedures such as root canals. Gradual appointments will help you build a relationship with your dentist. When you visit the dentist regularly, you are more likely to have positive experiences because you are maintaining your oral health. Therefore, you will be able to get over your dental phobias as time passes.