It’s no surprise that many people get a little anxious when they step into the dentist’s office, especially in scenarios involving a big procedure. But some people struggle with their fear more than others and that’s not only ok, but it’s actually very common.
Believe it or not some studies are showing as much as 60% of Americans have anxiety about going to the dentist. And if that isn’t enough, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders suggests that 5-10% of people have actual cases of “Dental Phobia”.
These fears and episodes of anxiety are often unhealthy because they make going to the dentist a dreaded experience. Many people’s fear of going to the dentist is so large that it prevents them from getting the proper dental care that they need.
So to say that you aren’t alone in your fear of the dentist is an understatement. It’s actually quite rare to find a person who genuinely looks forward to stepping through those office doors time and time again.
But no matter what the reason may be, avoiding the dentist is never a wise path to go down. Regardless of how hard it may be, the fact is that you need dental care or you’ll have to face a much scarier reality in your future.
Why Are We Scared of the Dentist?
In order to address these fears of the dentist, we must first understand where this fear comes from and how it came to be. In the same way that everyone has different levels of fear towards the dentists, different people also have different reasons for their fear. Below we’ve listed four of the most common reasons people fear the dentist.
- Traumatic experience in the past: Many patients have been conditioned to fear the dentist because of a poor experience in the past. Maybe when they were younger they had a panic attack or maybe something in the past was uncomfortable or painful, whatever it was, a past experience can often shift our view towards the dentist.
- Pain: Nobody likes a painful experience. Even if they’ve never had a painful encounter often times people are intimidated by all the sharp tools and complex procedures and are afraid of getting hurt.
- Embarrassment: Many people don’t like someone closely analyzing their hygiene, especially those people that know the condition of their teeth and gums aren’t that great. Unfortunately this makes things exponentially worse because lack of going to the dentist will only worsen the condition of your oral hygiene.
- Lack of Control: No matter what the situation is, it’s often difficult to accept things where you are not in control especially if risk is involved. Many people fear the dentist because they aren’t in control of the things being done to them and this sense of helplessness can create anxiety.
There are several reasons as to why someone might fear the dentist and in many cases it’s a mixture of all of these factors. Nonetheless it’s important to look at yourself and maybe reflect on what exactly it is you are afraid and where the nature of your fear stems from.
Accept Your Fears
A common misconception for a lot of people trying to overcome fear in any situation is that you have to convince yourself that your fears aren’t justifiable or aren’t real. This may help some people but it’s often more beneficial to just sit back and accept your fears, accept that they came from somewhere and accept that it’s perfectly normal and that you aren’t by yourself.
Be open about it, don’t be ashamed to talk about it with your dentist. Dentists understand more than anybody that these fears are real and they will never judge you or look at you negatively because of it. After all you’re only human!
By openly talking about it with your dentist, they can make note of it, adjust accordingly, and can help come up with a plan to help you feel more relaxed during your dental experiences.
Lucky for you, recent advancements over the past couple decades have allowed for dentists to appeal to a more convenient form of procedures for those who suffer from anxiety known as sedation dentistry. Typically used for more severe procedures, sedation dentistry involves the usage of anesthesia or other medications to help relax a patient and lessen the amount of pain they experience.Although it’s typically used for bigger oral procedures, if anxiety is a huge problem for you, talk to your dentist for they might be able to work something out and give you sedatives to help with your anxiety.
Another simple and easy thing you can do, is to distract yourself as much as you can. The less you think about your situation and your anxiety, the less it will affect you because often times it’s only when you get in your head that you become afraid.
Many dentists have televisions in their rooms which is an easy way to escape your thoughts, you can also consider bringing a friend with you, bringing some headphones and listening to music, or perhaps all you need is something as simple as a stress ball or reciting the alphabet in your head. Certain things work better for certain people so you can experiment and discover what will work best for you.
Consider Therapeutic Alternatives
For some, their fear is so intense and persistent that even after trying many of these solutions they still have a hard time going to the dentist on a regular basis. If this is you, you might want to consider consulting with a professional or psychologist to help you. As mentioned earlier “dental phobia” is a real condition and those who suffer from it find relief through certain medications and therapeutic exercises.
All in all, it’s important to experiment and find whatever techniques work best for you, maybe the answer to your anxiety issues lie beyond these suggestions. But what’s important is that you take care of yourself and even if it brings anxiety every time you schedule an appointment, you can still find relief in the fact that you’re taking care of yourself and are maintaining a healthier, safer, lifestyle by going to your dentist regularly.