Does the thought of visiting the dentist send you into a panic? You’re not alone. While it’s hard to get people to admit to it, some studies estimate that more than 70% of adults feel anxious about visiting the dentist. For some, this anxiety is much more pronounced; it manifests itself as an overwhelming fear, known as odontophobia.
Studies estimate that 1 in 10 adults experience a strong fear of dentists. Their fears are so strong that they actually avoid dentist visits. Dentist Dr. Jeremy Rourke, with over 25 years of experience, said in an interview: “Unfortunately, dental-phobia is something we see lead [to] thousands of dollars worth of care annually that could have been avoided if people came in more often.”
If you experience fear or anxiety when faced with the idea of going to the dentist, there’s good news for you. You can tackle the fear head-on for the benefit of your health. The following are some techniques and strategies to help you overcome your fear of the dentist:
The first step in overcoming your anxiety is accepting it as normal. There is no reason for you to feel embarrassed. There are millions of people who experience the same anxiety.
It is also important to accept the fact that dental visits are necessary for maintaining your dental and overall health. Routine visits to the dentist are necessary to avoid, detect, and treat tooth decay, gum disease, and other serious conditions such as oral cancer. You can avoid extensive and invasive dental procedures by ensuring that you visit the dentist regularly to make sure that your teeth and gums are healthy.
Thinking along these lines will help calm your fear of your dental visits.
Find a friendly dentist
Ensuring that you find the right dentist is a step in the right direction. Dentists are people, too. Visit the dentist and have a chat with them. Becoming familiar with your dentist will help you to develop trust, which in turn will help to reduce your levels of anxiety. It will also help you feel at ease with the dentist and make it easier to relax during the procedure.
Communicate your fears to your dentist. They will be better able to provide you with the care you require when they understand your anxieties.
Understand the Procedure
Knowledge is power. Understanding what the dental procedure involves will help you better prepare yourself for it. Many people experience fear of dentists because they do not know what to expect. Their anxieties are heightened by the fact that they are not in control of the procedure.
Knowing what will happen beforehand helps to keep the anxieties at bay. Understanding what is being done and why it is being done will help you prepare mentally for the procedure. Try researching things like “does a root canal hurt” to get a sense of what you’re in for. Often you’ll find that the procedure is not as scary as you thought. Finding testimonials from dentists can also help.
Talk to your dentist about the procedure. Ask them what you should expect and how long it will take. Ask if the procedure can be carried out gradually. Having the procedure carried out in shorter and more manageable units may help in overcoming your anxieties.
More patients are opting for sedation as a means to overcome their anxiety of dental procedures. Sedation is a great option for those who suffer from severe anxieties. Sedation allows you to relax during the procedure with the help of a sedative that is administered orally, intravenously or as a gas (nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas). You may also opt for a combination of these.
Sedation allows you to be awake but deeply relaxed. In many cases, you won’t have any memory of what happened during the procedure.
It is important to talk to your dentist and determine whether this is the best option for you. Ensure that you choose a dentist with experience in sedation dentistry if you’re thinking of this option.
You may need some support and help to quell your fears of the dentist. One way is to visit the dentist with a family member or friend you trust and who will give you emotional support. You’ll feel safer with someone you trust nearby. Having a familiar person nearby in an unfamiliar environment will go a long way in quelling your fears.
Your fears may also stem from something deeper. It’s therefore a good idea to seek some professional help as well. Seek a therapist or psychologist who is experienced in treating phobias and fears of different kinds. They will help you establish the source of your fears and provide you with methods of treatment that help you overcome them.
Ending Your Fear of the Dentist
Fear of the dentist is not unusual. It isn’t a laughing matter and you shouldn’t feel ashamed about it. It’s a real phobia that afflicts millions of people all over the world. However, avoiding the dentist is not the answer. Seek ways to face and overcome your fears for the sake of your health.