If going to the dentist causes you dental anxiety, you’re not alone. As many as eight in 10 of us in the U.S. admit to dental treatment anxiety, and up to six percent forego getting necessary dental treatment because of intense anxiety.
Maybe you’re afraid the visit may be painful, or you are worried about what the dentist will find. Don’t worry — you’re not the only one who is afraid of seeing the dentist.
Dental Phobia, Dental Fear and Dental Anxiety
Dental anxiety comes in various degrees, ranging from mild dental anxiety to dental fear to dental phobia. The symptoms of dental phobia are more severe than dental fear or dental anxiety.
If you have dental phobia, it can leave you terrified and panic-stricken. You also might realize your fear is completely irrational, but you can’t do much about it. You may show classic avoidance behavior and will do whatever you can to not go to the dentist. Pathologic phobia might, in some case, require psychiatric consultation.
On the other hand, if you have a fear of the dentist, you may only go to the dentist when you have to because of intense pain or an emergency dental situation. If you have mild dental anxiety, you still go to the dentist but may procrastinate scheduling your appointment and become anxious in the days and hours leading up to your appointment.
Signs you may be experiencing dental anxiety include:
- Feeling nervousness that escalates while you’re in the waiting room of the dental office.
- Having difficulty sleeping the night before your dental appointment.
- Feeling physically ill or crying at the thought of having to go to the dentist.
- Feeling extreme uneasiness just thinking of objects in your mouth during dental treatment.
- Having sudden breathing difficulty.
Fortunately, there are tips to prevent dental anxiety.
Causes of Dental Anxiety
Feeling anxious about going to the dentist is common. You may feel anxious about going to the dentist even if all your past experiences have been good ones. This is because your anxiousness is typically only fear about what’s to come. You might be worried about what “could” happen.
There are numerous reasons why you might have a fear of the dentist or dental anxiety. Some common reasons are:
- Fear of pain: This is one of the most common reasons for dental avoidance. The fear often stems from an earlier unpleasant or painful dental experience or other people’s dental stories. Fortunately, because of many advances over the years in dentistry, most dental procedures today are significantly less painful or even free of pain.
- Fear of anesthetic side effects: In some cases, you fear you may have side effects from anesthesia like feeling faint, dizziness or nausea. You might not like the “fat lip” or numbness that comes with local anesthetics.
- Fear of injections or that they won’t work: You might be scared of needles, particularly when the dental professional inserts them into your mouth. You might be worried the anesthesia won’t take effect in time or you didn’t get a big enough dose to get rid of any pain the dental procedure may cause.
- Feelings of loss of control and helplessness: You might feel these emotions given the circumstances — sitting in the dental chair, mouth wide open and not being able to see what the dentist is doing.
- Loss of personal space and embarrassment: You might feel uncomfortable with the dentist being so close to their face. You might feel self-conscious about how your teeth look or the odor of your mouth.
Tips to Prevent Dental Anxiety
Below are some tips on overcoming dental anxiety:
1. Admit It’s a Problem
When you’re scared of going to the dentist, you might make excuses to both yourself and other people about the reason why you don’t go. You might say things like you’re too busy, you don’t like their dentist, or you don’t have enough money to go. Admitting you have a problem and figuring out the reason behind it is your first step in getting over your fear.
2. Say Something
If you’re experiencing anxiety, know it can make a world of difference just by sharing your feelings. If you’re anxious or tense, speak up and let your concerns be known. The dental team and dentist will have a better chance of making your experience more comfortable and less intimidating if they know your concerns.
Let your dentist know about your dental anxiety. Tell the receptionist about your anxiety when you schedule your appointment. Remind the dental staff and dentist about your fear when you arrive. Let them know of any bad experiences you might have had in the past and ask for suggestions on how you can better cope.
3. Ask Questions
Many times just knowing what to expect can alleviate any anxiety of the unknown. Ask questions about what will go on during the appointment.
4. Take Precautions
Work with your dentist to come up with some signal like raising your hand if you’re uncomfortable or need to take a break. Let your dentist know if you’re experiencing any pain after you’ve received a local anesthetic. Don’t be embarrassed about your tolerance for pain. Don’t feel as though you can’t interrupt your dentist during the procedure. If you’re experiencing any pain before the procedure, let your dentist know so they can make your visit more comfortable.
5. Choose a Dentist Wisely
If you’re concerned about how to stay calm at the dentist and are experiencing dental phobia or anxiety, it’s imperative you find a dentist who will be empathic and will acknowledge your fears. If they aren’t empathetic when you’re telling them you’re concerned, chances are they won’t be during your treatment either. Ask friends and family if they can recommend a good dentist. Do your research. If you have a child who’s anxious about going to the dentist, choose a pediatric dentist who has more experience working with children and easing their fears.
6. Become Familiar With the Dental Tools
A tray filled up with sharp, unfamiliar-looking tools can be intimidating. Ask your dentist to explain each tool so you know how they work. Ask them if you can hold each one while they’re explaining its job. This could help make them less intimidating.
7. Distract Yourself
Sometimes just hearing the sound of the suction tubes and drills can be unnerving to patients. Wear noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to eliminate or at least reduce the frightening sounds.
Many dentists provide television or on-demand movies to their patients on ceiling-mounted or portable TV screens. You can also bring your iPad or smartphone and earbuds with you to listen to music. These make great distractions to help keep your mind off what the dentist is doing and keep the setting less clinical.
8. Don’t Let Your Teeth Embarrass You
Dentists work on damaged teeth every day. Chances are good they’ve seen teeth and other dental problems worse than yours. So, don’t be embarrassed about your teeth. A dentist’s job is to fix damaged teeth and make them as healthy as possible, not just prevent dental problems.
It may be a good idea to call the dentist before your appointment and let them know the state of your teeth is embarrassing you, but you still need them to fix them. Doing this can help make the situation better and will let your dentist know you’re bothered by this. Just knowing your dentist knows about the “poor state of your teeth” and that you’re embarrassed by them could help you relax more during your appointment.
9. Try Mindfulness Strategies
Relaxation begins in the mind. Help relax your mind with deep breathing exercises. Count your breaths. Slowly inhale and exhale the same number of times. Try this a few times in the waiting room or during a break when you’re already in the dental chair. Relax your muscles one body area at a time. Begin at your head and concentrate on relaxing it and then relax all other muscles in your body like your cheeks, neck, shoulders and so forth as you work your way to your toes.
10. Get a Feel for Your Dentist’s Demeanor
If the chemistry’s not there, it’s not there no matter how experienced your dentist is. Go with your gut instinct. If it doesn’t feel like a good match, you may want to find a different dentist. Overcoming your dental fear starts with having a positive relationship with the dentist. If the dentist isn’t willing to slow things down, is impatient or seems agitated with your anxiousness, it’s time to move on.
Many dentists go out of their way to help ease their patients’ dental phobia. For instance, they may remove their lab coats or any visual cues that may provoke fear. Before you sit down in the dental chair, have a conversation with the dentist. Let them know about your anxiety and see how they react. If they seem to shrug your concerns off, that’s probably a good sign they’ll do the same when you’re in the chair.
11. Take Precautions to Decrease Discomfort
If the dental chair makes you uncomfortable, ask the dentist if they’d be willing to examine your mouth in a seated position instead of a reclining position. In most cases, being in a reclining position helps the dentist see what they’re working on so this might not be an option. If not, perhaps the dentist can provide you with something to take the edge off, such as nitrous oxide which is also good for pain.
If you’re scared of dental injections, talk with the dentist about a topical anesthetic before you receive the shot to help make the injection less painful. Nitrous oxide will work well for this too.
If you tend to breathe through your mouth and are concerned about struggling for air, bring along nasal strips to help keep your nasal passages open. If you have sensitive gag reflexes and are afraid of being choked by the X-rays, ask the dentist if they have panoramic X-rays instead which are noninvasive. To make your visit as comfortable as possible, be upfront and honest with the dentist about your concerns.
12. Take Breaks
An empathetic dentist will allow you to take breaks to compose yourself if needed.
13. Bring Somebody With You
Bring a person you trust along with you to sit with you during your visit which can help put you at ease. They can also speak for you if needed in times you can’t.
Hopefully, these dental anxiety tips will help make your dental visit much more comfortable and pleasant.
About Anderson Dental
If you’re in the process of looking for an experienced, yet empathetic dentist, look no further than Anderson Dental Group. We do our very best to ensure all our patients experience a relaxed and comfortable dental visit while providing them with the best quality dental care.
Our full-service dental office provides an array of different dental services for both children and adults, including:
- X-rays: We use the latest, innovative technology to ensure we miss nothing.
- Preventive check-ups: We offer our patients a comprehensive dental exam and cleaning.
- Cosmetic services: We offer teeth bleaching and whitening, full mouth reconstruction and veneers as part of our cosmetic dental services.
- Restoration: We offer cavity fillings, bridges and crowns, dental implants, root canals, full mouth restoration and more.
- Emergency dental services: Whether you have a toothache, knocked out tooth or lost filling or crown, we provide emergency dental services.
We provide numerous other dental services. During your first visit, after your exam, we’ll sit down with you and go over our findings and which treatment option is best for you.
Our main goal is to help you keep attractive, healthy gums and teeth by offering a variety of dental services. Whether you have damaged teeth or stained teeth, our experienced dentists are highly skilled at replacing missing teeth with implants, dentures or bridges and fixing dental problems.
We use cutting edge cosmetic dental treatments to help get rid of just about any flaw that will affect the aesthetics of your teeth, turning flawed teeth into a beautiful smile.
Here in our Payson, Ariz., dental office, we help eliminate missing teeth, gaps between teeth and serious tooth stains without having to use invasive treatments that often require long and painful recovery times. Missing teeth can lead to jawbone density loss and low self-esteem and can affect your overall oral health. We offer dental implants we attach to your jawbone securely for a permanent teeth replacement. Or, you can opt for dental bridges, crowns or other less-invasive cosmetic dental options.
We use tooth-colored fillings instead of silver amalgams to fill your cavities to improve your smile, making it look as natural as possible. We can prepare tooth-colored fillings to match any shade of tooth color, making the fillings nearly invisible.
Contact Anderson Dental Group Today
If you’re in the Payson, Ariz., area or live close by and are looking for friendly, experienced dentists, call our office at 928-474-4581. We treat all our patients like family so that you won’t find another dentist like us. We’re empathetic to dental anxiety or dental phobia and take the best measures to ensure you’re comfortable and less intimidated during your visit with us.
Professionally repaired, cleaned and whitened teeth drastically improve oral hygiene by decreasing the bacteria in the mouth that leads to gum disease, cavities and periodontitis. Treat yourself to a healthy, beautiful mouth.
Our friendly dental staff will help you schedule your appointment for your comprehensive dental exam and cleaning. We proudly serve Payson residents and those who live in surrounding areas, including Star Valley, Forest Lakes, Pine and Heber-Overgaard, Ariz. Payson Dental office to book your appointment.