Are you afraid of going to the dentist? If so you are not alone; it is estimated that 75% of Americans experience some degree of anxiety or fear over going to the dentist.
Most people can manage their dental anxiety and it doesn’t cause them to avoid the dentist for regular care or treatment for problems, even though it can be a source of stress or uneasiness.
For those who have a dental phobia, however, the thought of going to the dentist is terrifying. Some who suffer from it are able to force themselves to go, while others avoid it at all costs. People with dental phobias experience intense panic or dread, they will often put up with gum infections, daily pain, or unsightly teeth rather than go to the dentist; they may even suffer from poorer overall health because of the link between dental health and overall health. Fortunately, there are ways to help people who experience dental anxiety or phobia.
Here are some of the main fears that people have, as well as some strategies for managing them:
Pain- This common reason for avoiding the dentist, usually stems from an early dental experience that was painful or unpleasant. Fortunately, there have been many advances made in dentistry and most of today’s procedures are much more comfortable than they were in the past.
Feelings of helplessness or loss of control- Many fears stem from situations where the individual feels like they have no control. When in the dental chair, they feel like they have to sit still and don’t know what is happening or when they might experience pain. If this is one of your main sources of fear, talk with the dentist about what will happen in your treatment. You can also agree on a signal with the dentist, such as raising your hand or tapping on the chair so that they know you are uncomfortable and need a break. Another strategy is to bring a mirror so that you can see what is happening.
Embarrassment- An individual may be self-conscious about how their teeth look or mouth odor and afraid what the dentists will think of them. Dental treatments also require a close degree of physical proximity, which causes some people anxiety. If you are afraid of embarrassment, know that the dentist is there to help you,
Needles- Many are afraid terrified of needles, and having a needle inserted into their mouth magnifies this fear. Beyond the fear caused by the needle itself, many patients fear that the anesthesia won’t work properly and that they will be in pain. To help a patient with a fear of needles, a dentist can use a topical analgesic before injecting a longer lasting anesthetic. If a dentist knows that you are afraid that you will still be in pain, he can demonstrate to you the numbness in the area that is going to be worked on.
Negative past experiences– Those who have had a bad experience at the dentist in the past are more likely to be afraid of dental procedures. Communication with your dental care provider is key. Tell them what went wrong last time, they can help present you options so that you have a better experience this time around.
If there is no other way to cope, sedation offers an excellent option for many people. There are several types of sedation, but the general premise behind them is the same: the patient regains their faculties after treatment is complete.
The key to managing dental anxiety is to have an open discussion about it with your dentist.
Your dentist needs to know what your fears are and then together you can work to develop a plan of how to reduce your anxiety and make you more comfortable. There have been many advances in technology, such as the use of lasers instead of drills in some cases. If your dentist doesn’t take your fear seriously, find another dentist.
If you have questions or concerns about how the dentist can help you overcome anxiety and fear, please contact us to schedule an appointment or a consultation with Dr. Byers or Dr. Sartelle.