Drills, needles, and pain, oh my! Coping with dental anxiety
For many people, going to the dentist is an unpleasant but manageable experience. For others, just the thought of going to the dentist causes severe anxiety, leading them to delay or avoid dental treatment. Unfortunately, this behavior can spiral into a vicious cycle of dental pain, health problems, worse anxiety, and more complex and costly dental procedures.
Dental anxiety and phobia
It’s very common for people to fear going to the dentist. When dental fear is severe and leads people to delay or cancel treatment, these individuals may meet criteria for dental phobia or odontophobia, which is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition as a type of phobia. There are many different reasons for and triggers of dental anxiety. For some, they have had a previous traumatic experience; for others, they are extremely afraid of needles. Because the origin of fear can vary from patient to patient, it is critical that you identify your fears and share this with your dentist or another health care professional.
If you experience dental anxiety or phobia, here are some tips to ensure you maintain your oral health and receive comfortable dental care.
Prevention and the mouth-body connection
The best way to avoid complex dental procedures and pain is to regularly visit your dentist. Not only will your dentist diagnose problems and help you prevent future issues, but he or she will also help manage your oral health as part of your general health. Your mouth is the gateway to your body. For example, people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to have periodontitis, a type of bone and gum disease, which could lead to tooth loss. In fact, studies have shown that controlling diabetes can help control gum and bone health, and vice versa.
Reasons You Shouldn’t Dread Going To The Dentist
I used to be so afraid of going to the dentist that I put off going for a couple years. It wasn’t until my gums were inflamed and causing me pain that I actually went to go see the dentist. I am not alone. In fact, an estimated 75% of Americans experience fear or anxiety when going to the dentist. 10% of those people have dental phobia. Those with dental phobia don’t seek dental treatment unless an emergency arises. Yet, regular dentist visits are essential for maintaining a healthy and beautiful smile. Here’s why you shouldn’t avoid going to the dentist:
IT’S THEIR JOB TO HELP
Dentists don’t get any special joy out of causing you pain. It’s their job is to keep your mouth healthy, and they will do what they can to make sure you are comfortable during any treatment or procedure (hint: they want you to actually come back). Many dentists offices offer forms of sedation to make treatments are more comfortable.
THE LONGER YOU WAIT THE WORSE IT WILL GET
If you don’t floss regularly, plaque can harden to a point where it’s impossible for you to remove it by simply brushing or flossing. You need a professional to remove the tartar before it builds up and causes cavities. The more you visit the dentist – the easier time you will have each visit, especially if you are taking care of your teeth in between.
IT COULD COST YOU MORE MONEY
Patients who avoid the dentists because of fear or anxiety often end up needing more restorative work done. The extra work being done will cost you more time and money. If left untreated, small problems will grow into bigger ones and cause infections and tooth decay. With regular check ups, you can avoid these problems from the start.
ONE BAD DENTIST SHOULDN’T RUIN THEM ALL
Many people find themselves dreading the dentist after a bad experience with one office. Not all dentists are the same. There are dentists that do a great job of making their patients feel comfortable. Finding the right match for your mouth could make all the difference in your experience.
Tips to Overcome the Fear of Dentists:
Because avoiding the dentist is not the solution, we bring you some tips that can help alleviate your phobia of the dentists. Make sure to use these the next time your dentist appointment is round the corner!
* Introspect and try to reason with yourself as to what it is that makes you scared of the dentist. Pinpointing the reason will help you rationalize your worries.
* Ask a family member or friend to accompany you to the dentist. Having a loved one by side can boost your emotional strength.
* Try to distract yourself during the procedures. Listening to music, hanging on to a stress ball, counting numbers to yourself in mind are some good distraction techniques.
* Inform your dentist about your fears. Request them to keep the procedure as communicative as possible, meaning throughout the procedure they should keep you in the loop about what exactly they are doing and how that will feel.
* Don’t feel shy asking for breaks in between the procedure if you need some time to recompose yourself.
The best dentists use simple methods to enhance that feeling of control
- They gently explain what the patient will soon feel, and for about how long.
- They frequently ask the patient for permission to continue.
- They give the patient the opportunity to stop the procedure at any time the patient feels uncomfortable
- They make time for breaks as requested.
Do You Have a Dental Phobia?
The first step to getting over any phobia or anxiety is to acknowledge that it exists in the first place. If you are avoiding the dentist there’s a good chance you have some level of dental anxiety.
Here are some of the most common reasons for dental phobias:
- Childhood dental experience: the most formative dental memories are created during childhood years.
- Painful dental experience: The mouth is one of the most heavily nervous areas in the body.
- Dental related poor self-esteem: Some people fear going to the dentist because they feel embarrassed due to their mouth. This may be due to aesthetic problems and embarrassment with teeth, bad breath, gag reflexes, or chronic pain.
All of these conditions can cause a general fear of people looking at or being close to your mouth, which of course, is the very nature of dental treatment it self.