Fear of the dentist, also known as ‘dentophobia’, is more common than you would think. According to the Journal of Dental Hygiene (JDH), between 50 and 80 percent of adults in the U.S. have some degree of dental anxiety. Dental phobia can range from mild, which makes going to the dentist a minor inconvenience, to severe, making it nearly impossible for patients to get the services they need to maintain good oral health. If you suffer from dental anxiety or a fear of the dentist, know that there are things you can do to make these visits more tolerable.
Types of Dental Phobia
Dentophobia can be categorized into several types of oral fear elements, including:
Fear of the Dentist: In some cases, patients are afraid of dentists in general. This is often irrational and patients with this fear may see all dentists as cold or sadistic. It is especially common among patients who have had negative experiences with dentists in the past.
Fear of Pain: Some patients are not afraid of dentists themselves, but of the pain that certain dental procedures can cause. Even completely painless dental procedures can create feelings of uneasiness or fear.
Fear of Gagging or Numbness: Individuals may have a fear of gagging due to tools in the mouth or numbness associated with anesthetics used for fillings and other common dental procedures. These patients may fear that they will become unable to swallow or breathe, which can lead to fearfulness or anxiety.
Fear of Smells or Sounds: The smells and sounds in a dental office can sometimes be unappealing. This type of fear is especially common in patients who have little to no experience visiting dentists.
Fear of Needles: A fear of needles is fairly common in the dental and medical industries. Patients who have a fear of needles may experience extreme fearfulness or anxiety when getting injections in the mouth.
5 Coping Mechanisms For Going To The Dentist
If you are dealing with a fear of the dentist, it’s important to try different approaches to managing your fear. Here’s a look at some effective coping mechanisms for easing your fears and anxieties in the dental chair.
1. Communicate with Your Dentist
It’s important that your dentist knows from the start that you have fear or anxiety. Your Melbourne FL dentist will take the necessary steps to make the process easier for you by explaining what you can expect and recommending techniques to help you relax.
2. Practice Breathing Exercises
Many patients find that deep breathing exercises help them feel calmer. Try closing your eyes and inhaling slowly in and out through your nose. Stop for a few seconds, then slowly breathe in and out through your mouth. Repeat this pattern several times.
3. Try Music or Guided Imagery
Finding distractions may help you get through your dental appointment while keeping fear and anxiety to a minimum. Some patients may find it helpful to listen to music through earbuds during their teeth cleaning or other services. If music doesn’t help, try guided imagery which involves going to your “happy place” in your head.
4. Bring a Friend for Support
Having a close friend or family member by your side as you sit in the dental chair can often be beneficial. Your support person will talk to you and distract you through your appointment, helping you get your mind off the task at hand.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Fear and anxiety often build when patients don’t know what to expect. During your appointment, don’t be afraid to ask questions about what the dentist is doing, how it will feel, and how long the process will take. Reassurance from your dentist can help you get through the procedure.
Contact Artistic Touch Dentistry
While many people dread going to the dentist, you don’t need to let your anxiety run your life. There are many ways to manage dental phobias in a way that helps diminish your fears and allows you to get the dental services you need to maintain healthy teeth and gums. For more information about dealing with dental anxiety or to schedule an appointment, contact Artistic Touch Dentistry.