Dental anxiety and phobias are real. They’re often rooted in real-life experience and amplified by portrayals in film and television. If you have dental anxiety, it’s essential to acknowledge and address it. But problems arise when folks let their fear keep them away from needed routine care. When we avoid preventive treatment, it creates a vicious cycle of shame and painful oral health problems. Finding a dentist you trust is the first step in overcoming anxiety.
What Causes Dental Anxiety?
A 2008 study identified several causes of dental anxiety. They include:
- Previous painful treatments.
- Fear that pain is an automatic and unavoidable part of a dental visit.
- Lack of control and concerns about the inability to stop a procedure if it becomes unpleasant.
- Exposure to negative portrayals of dentists in the media and frightening stories from people in their lives.
- Fear of experiencing ridicule by office staff because of their reactions during a visit.
- Fear of choking or gagging.
What Strategies Can Help Me Overcome Dental Anxiety?
The nonprofit Dental Fear Central helps patients and dentists deal with dental phobias. Their tips and our own experiences as longtime providers have helped us develop a list to help patients manage dental anxiety.
- Find the right dentist. Building a relationship with your dentist is one of the most vital steps for overcoming anxiety. Look for a warm and caring staff and a dentist who will spend time with you and listen to your concerns and goals.
- Share your concerns with your dentist so they can address them and help you move forward.
- Start your visit with a conversation with your dentist outside of the dental chair. Getting things rolling in a low-stress setting humanizes your dentist and makes you more comfortable.
- Work to overcome your embarrassment about discolored teeth or other visible oral health problems. Your dentist’s mission is to help patients improve oral health. She won’t ridicule or judge you.
- Set up a stop signal in advance in case of discomfort or panic. It helps put you in control as a patient.
- Set up treatments in short segments if you have multiple or extensive procedures that will take hours. If you need longer treatment, set up breaks during the appointment. Or consider sedation dentistry to get it all done with no worries.
- Wear comfortable clothing to help put yourself at ease. You can also bring a blanket or comforting object.
- Make plans to celebrate or reward yourself after a successful visit.
- Don’t hesitate to ask questions and ask your dentist to walk you through procedures step by step. It mitigates feelings of uncertainty and loss of control.
- Many patients with dental phobias prefer morning appointments to get it over with so they don’t spend the day dwelling on their fears.
- Establish a routine. It helps you get used to your dental practice and become comfortable. Routine dental care is also the best way to avoid prolonged or painful procedures.
- Do your research about different procedures before you have one so you know what to expect.
- Practice meditation and mindfulness techniques before visits can help. Other therapies include aromatherapy, breathing techniques, and hypnosis.
- In cases of severe anxiety or when multiple treatments or procedures are needed,, sedation dentistry is an option. Nitrous oxide is a safe, non-invasive sedation technique that helps patients of all ages relax and overcome fear in the dentist’s chair.
Taking the Fear Out of Dentistry at Greenhill Family Dental Care
At Greenhill Family Dental Care, we offer top-notch dental care incorporating the latest technology. But relationships are at the heart of what we do. Creating a warm, friendly, and welcoming environment is an essential part of our practice, from our front office staff to our dentists. We pride ourselves on providing personalized care, taking the time to listen to your concerns, and adapt our practice to meet your needs. We understand that numerous factors create dental anxiety, and we’ll put our energy into helping each patient work through them. Our staff is trained in sedation dentistry to help anxious patients of all ages get through visits in a healthy and productive way. There’s never judgment and no need to fear. Instead, we strive for an atmosphere of compassion, caring, and trust.