Have you ever found yourself putting off a visit to the dentist’s office? Does the idea of sitting in the dentist’s chair make you nervous? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Current estimates reveal that between 5-8% of Americans avoid dentists out of fear. Meanwhile, 20% are anxious to the point that they will only seek dental treatment when necessary. At Scott Edward DDS, we want all of our patients to feel safe and secure whenever they visit our office. To help you out, let’s take a look at what causes dental fear and how you can overcome it.
What Causes Dental Fear?
It’s normal to feel a little apprehensive before going to any medical examination. However, if your anxiety prevents you from getting a checkup, this can lead to long-term oral health problems. You may be experiencing dental fear, anxiety, or phobia. These sensations are usually triggered by certain events or experiences. Some of these experiences can include:
- Pain—The common dentist fear is pain, especially for those who have a low pain threshold. The thought of sharp dentist’s tools or a dentist’s drill in their mouth is enough to make them avoid check-ups.
- Loss of Control—Some patients feel like they’re losing control when they lie on a dental chair. They can find it overwhelming when a dentist is hovering above their heads and probing inside their mouths. These feelings are associated with helplessness or being trapped.
- Past Experience—Most people develop dental fears due to a bad experience in the past. If a previous treatment was painful or resulted in complications, or if they had an incompatible dentist in the past, a patient may develop trepidations about visiting the office again.
- Embarrassment—Some patients feel ashamed or embarrassed when dentists look inside their mouths. This discomfort can also result from the little distance between a patient and dentist during treatment. This feeling could extend if the patient is told their oral health has not been maintained as well as it should.
Now that we’ve taken a look at why dental fear manifests, let’s look at five ways patients can combat this fear.
Tip #1: Choose the Right Dentist
If you experience dental fear, it’s helpful to find a dentist that knows what that means and how to properly prepare. There are even dentists who specialize in working with patients who are especially scared or anxious about treatment. Once you have a couple of options in mind, you could call or have a friend call to ask about this. Take note of how the staff treats you over the phone and how comfortable you feel.
The next step is to choose a dentist that you feel comfortable visiting in person. Even just going into the dentist’s office to make the appointment instead of doing it on the phone will help you get a better feel for their treatment environment. Your fear or anxiety is not something to ignore, so pay attention to how you’re feeling while you’re there. If a different dental office seems to dismiss it or says you should not be worried, they may not be the best choice for you. How you feel during treatment matters, the right office will make you feel safe.
Tip #2: Ask Yourself Why You’re Afraid
The first step to solving any problem is recognizing the problem in the first place. Ask yourself why you’re feeling the way you do. Is there anything specific about the visit you’re afraid of? What questions could you ask your dentist that would help you feel more assured? Talk about this with your dentist before you go in for treatment. When the dentist knows what is bothering you, they can help you come up with strategies that will make you more comfortable. You can check back at the list we made of common dental fears we discussed earlier.
Tip #3: Bring Someone With You
Having a friend with you can help in stressful situations. If you bring someone along with you to your appointment, you can feel more assured by their presence. In some offices, it’s appropriate to bring someone with you back into the actual dental treatment room. Since this is what most people have fear or anxiety about, look for an office that would allow this if you think it would help.
Tip #4: Start Using Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques are completely free and you can do them on your own! Doing these types of activities before or during your dental appointment can help you with your dental anxiety. When you’re calm during treatment, you won’t experience much anxiety because you’re focusing on other things. A simple technique that you can try is deep, measured breathing. Focusing on your body and how it feels helps you become more mindful and relaxed.
Tip #5: Distract Yourself
If relaxation techniques aren’t your thing, you can distract yourself. Bring something to do that will take your mind off of what is happening during the dental treatment! Ask your dentist if you can listen to music or a podcast on your phone. Bring something to occupy your hands like a stress ball or fidget spinner. Consider things you can engage with that won’t irritate you or disrupt the dentist’s work.
You’re in safe hands with Scott Edwards, DDS
Dr. Scott Edwards and Dr. Julia Prince have forty years of experience between them. They are committed to providing the highest caliber of dental care in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere for your entire family’s oral health. We treat you like you would treat you. We give you all the knowledge you need to make your best oral hygiene decisions. For any questions or more tips on helping you take care of your teeth, give us a call or schedule an appointment at our East Memphis or Midtown offices today!