- Fear of dentist is common among people of all ages.
- There are several symptoms related to dental phobia.
- People are capable of getting over dental anxiety and fear.
In the US, an estimate of 5% to 8% adults avoids visiting the dentists out of fear.
By definition, a phobia is an intense and unreasonable fear. Now, a dental phobia involves a reaction to a known danger. Someone that suffers from this condition will avoid dental visits at all costs, causing serious harm to their oral health.
This turns out to be more than problematic since your mouth is at risk of getting serious gum infections or severe tooth damage for reckless care. Believe it or not, people rather have bad teeth than visiting a dentist.
There are several symptoms to identify dental phobia or dental anxiety, like feeling tense or having trouble sleeping the night before a dental visit, for example. Other symptoms include getting increasingly nervous while being in a waiting room, an increase of anxiety at the sight of dental instruments, feeling like crying when thinking of going to the dentist, panicking or having trouble breathing when objects get placed into someone’s mouth. Even worse, these symptoms can take a toll on your health, like feeling physically ill by the thought of a dental visit.
In the US, an estimate of 5% to 8% adults avoids visiting the dentists out of fear. This particular concern grows due to different experiences based on every individual. We can attribute many reasons as the root of this unusual type of fear, but the most common ones are:
Bad previous experiences. People become afraid of dentists, leading to developing dental phobia, because of negative past experiences. If someone has ever been in discomfort or pain during a dental visit, they are not going to be thrilled for the next visit. The fear of pain is common in most adults over 24 years old, and, let’s be honest… nobody wants to suffer.
Feeling helpless. People become afraid of situations that are not under their control, and sitting in a dentist’s chair is one of those. People have to put their trust in the hands of their dentist, and they don’t have control over the procedure while it’s happening, this leads to the patient to feel like then can’t predict what’s going to hurt.
Embarrassment. People who are highly self-conscious about how their teeth look are the most likely to avoid going to the dentists: they don’t want to get embarrassed. Since the mouth is such an intimate part of everyone’s body, a patient can feel ashamed or uneasy to have a stranger (the dentist) looking inside of it, or worse; they don’t want to get laughed at for the condition of their teeth.
It is usual to see people with dental phobias putting off routine care for extended periods of time. They rather endure being in pain and having broken teeth than paying a visit to fix these problems. The good thing is? As humans, we are capable of overcoming our fears. Sure, a person can have a phobia, but with help and, most of all, determination, this can be put in the past, so a phobia isn’t in the way of taking care of your dental health. Some tips for getting over dental phobia are:
Be an early bird. Set your next appointment to the dentist the earliest in the morning as you can. By doing so, you won’t spend all day dwelling on it and can move on with your daily activities as normal as you usually do.
Have company. It is easier for someone with a dental phobia to visit the dentist in the company of someone they highly trust: a familiar face will help you relax and make you more comfortable. If your dentist knows about your phobia, he might even encourage your companion to sit by your side during the treatment to reduce your anxiety. Just make sure this friend isn’t afraid of the dentist, either.
Distract yourself. When you’re in the dentist’s chair, look for a distraction. It could be a TV show, a magazine, or listening to your favorite music to soothe your mind. If your mind is focusing on the plot of a movie, the latest gossip, or the lyrics of a particular song it’s easier to forget that you’re waiting for dental treatment.
Relaxation techniques. We know it might sound easier than it is, but relaxation could be very useful to you. Controlled breathing can do wonders for you. Taking big breaths, holding, and letting them out in a slow way helps the heartbeat to slow down and also relaxes your muscles. Another technique that could be pretty useful to you is progressive muscle relaxation, in which a people tense and relax different muscles groups in turn.
Sedatives. When everything else fails, try to go for an easy fix like sedatives. Consult with your dentist which ones are available or appropriate for the dental treatment you are going to get. Some of the options include: local anesthesia, laughing gas (nitrous oxide), oral sedatives, to even intravenous sedation.
Seek for further help. It is highly encouraged for patients who can’t face a dentist to visit a psychologist first. This way, you can come to the root of the problem, and with proper therapy and various techniques established by a professional you can finally overcome this inconvenient. A common way to treat dental phobia is what psychologists call direct therapeutic exposure.