A trip to the dentist’s office is essential for one’s oral health, but does the idea of sitting in the dentist’s chair make you nervous? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Current estimates reveal that between 5-8% of Americans avoid dentists out of fear. Meanwhile, 20% are anxious to the point that they will only seek dental treatment when necessary. At Charvet Dental, we want you to feel safe and comfortable whenever you come in for a check-up. Let’s take a look at what dental fear is, what causes it, and how you can combat it.
What Causes Dental Fear?
It’s normal to feel a little nervous before a dentist’s appointment, or any medical appointment for that matter. However, if your anxiety prevents you from going to the dentist, this can lead to long-term oral health issues. You may be experiencing dental fear, anxiety, or phobia. These sensations are usually triggered by certain events, stimuli, or experiences. Some of these experiences can include:
- Loss of Control—Some patients feel like they’re losing control when they lie on a dental chair. They can find it overwhelming when a dentist is hovering above their heads and probing inside their mouths. These feelings are associated with helplessness or being trapped.
- Pain—A common dentist fear is pain, especially for those who have a low pain tolerance. The thought of sharp dentist’s tools or a dentist’s drill in their mouth is enough to make them avoid check-ups.
- Past Experience—Most people develop dental fears due to a bad experience in the past. If a previous treatment was painful or resulted in complications, or if they had an incompatible dentist in the past, a patient may develop trepidations about visiting the office again.
- Embarrassment—Some patients feel ashamed or embarrassed when dentists examine the inside of their mouths. This discomfort can also result from the little distance between a patient and dentist during treatment. This feeling could extend if the patient is told their oral health has not been maintained as well as it should.
Now that we’ve taken a look at why dental fear manifests, let’s look at five ways patients can combat this fear.
Tip #1: Choose the Right Dentist
If you experience dental fear, you should find a dentist that knows what that means and how to respond. Some dentists even specialize in working with individuals that are anxious about treatment. Once you’ve decided on a few options, you could call or have a friend call to ask about this. Take note of how the staff treats you over the phone and how comfortable you feel.
Next, choose a dentist that you feel comfortable interacting with in person. Going into the dentist’s office to make the appointment instead of doing it on the phone will help you get a better feel for their staff and office environment. Your anxiety is not something to ignore, so pay attention to how you’re feeling the whole time. If a different dental office seems to dismiss it or says you should not be worried, they may not be the best option for you. How you feel during your visit matters, and the right office will make you feel safe.
Tip #2: Voice Your Fears
Communication is an important part of any relationship, and that includes the relationship you have with your dentist. Before you set an appointment, give a voice to your apprehensions, fears, and anxiety. This way, you’re giving the dentist a way to gauge your situation and make an action plan tailored to your needs. In most cases, dentists would devise cues and signals if you want to take breaks or stop the treatment if you get uncomfortable. You should also discuss your fears with family and friends so they know how to support you.
Tip #3: Start Using Relaxation Techniques
The wonderful thing about relaxation techniques is that they are completely free and you can do them on your own! Doing these types of activities before or during your dental appointment can help you with your anxious feelings. When you’re calm during treatment, you won’t experience as much anxiety because you’ll be focusing on other things. An easy technique that you can try is deep, measured breathing. Focus on your body and how it feels and you’ll become more relaxed and mindful.
Tip #4: Distract Yourself
If relaxation techniques aren’t your thing, you can distract yourself. Bring something to do that will take your mind off of what is happening during the dental treatment! Ask your dentist if you can listen to music or a podcast on your phone. Bring something to occupy your hands like a stress ball or fidget spinner. Consider things you can engage with that won’t irritate you or disrupt the dentist’s work.
Tip #5: Bring A Buddy
Having a friend can be helpful in stressful situations. If you bring someone with you to your appointment, you may feel more assured by their presence. In some offices, it’s appropriate to bring someone with you back into the actual dental treatment room. Since this is what most people have dental fear or anxiety about, look for an office that would allow this if you think it would help.
You’re in safe hands at the Charvet Dental Center
Our team is here to help you feel safe and secure every time you visit our office. We have the experience, expertise, and compassion to make sure you’re comfortable every step of the way! The Charvet Dental Center is dedicated to keeping you smiling. Schedule your first appointment with our doctors today to get the smile you deserve!