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Dental Anxiety & Dental Phobia: Overcoming Your Fear of the Dentist

Why people are afraid of the dentist, and why they shouldn’t be.

Visiting the dentist regularly saves you from dental health problems. However, if you get scared at the mere thought of going to the dental clinic and seeing a dentist, you have an issue of dental anxiety. Here is a look on how you can cope and manage this phobia and overcome your fear.

Brushing and flossing isn’t just the way to look after for your teeth; a complete preventive care is by visiting your dentist every six months for a full mouth checkup and dental cleaning. But there are many people who quiver at the thought of visiting the dentist. Although the procedures at the dentist are normally not so painful, just being examined brings stress and anxiety to them. If you suffer from this form of anxiousness, you aren’t alone, as millions of the U.S. population avoids visiting the dentist due to their fears.

This form of fear from receiving dental care with a physician is termed as dental anxiety, and for worse scenarios, dental phobia. People suffering from this avoid the dentist at all costs, and they only seek dental treatment when they have a toothache or an abscess. They put up with gum diseases, and broken or unclean teeth for years due to their fear.

To understand your fears, first you should classify what form of dental distress you have. Dental anxiety is when you have a feeling of uneasiness when you visit the dental office, as exaggerated fears or worries flood your mind. On the other hand, dental phobia is more severe and serious, as the thought of the dentist will make a person panic stricken. Patients suffering from this phobia may actually feel like crying at the thought of doing to the dentist, and make them feel physically ill before their appoint. They are tense a night before the exam and have trouble sleeping. This leads to the degradation of their teeth, causing gum diseases, early tooth loss, and later, it will lead to poor health and lower life expectancy due to heart diseases, diabetes, and lung infections.

Overcoming dental anxiety is not as difficult as overcoming dental phobia, as patients. But both can be treated once their causes are figured. Some of the causes of these issues are:

  • Fear of pain: The main element behind all anxieties and phobias is fear. Fear from the dentist and their instruments usually are due to a bad dental experience in the past or from hearing dental pain stories by others. However, most of the dental procedures these days are pain-free because of the many advances in technology.
  • Fear of injections: Most people are scared of needles and the pain it inflicts when inserted in the gums.
  • Feeling of helplessness by the loss of control: Just like plane phobias, most people feel they have no control of a situation and begin fearing in that situation. Sitting in the dental chair means not being able to move, and they can’t see what’s happening, leading to helplessness and anxiousness.
  • Embarrassment and self-consciousness: Since all our body parts feel private and intimate to us, the mouth being examined closely may feel like the loss of personal space to them. This problem exists in most people who are self-conscious. Being too close to the dentist’s face may make them uncomfortable and anxious too.

The best way to cope with dental anxiety and dental phobia is by discussing your fears, concerns, and feelings with the dentist. The dentist and his staff will then adapt to a treatment that matches your need and your fear. Almost all dentists are trained in treating their fearful patients and they will go out of their way to help ease their patients discomfort. They do this by gently explaining their patients about the procedure that will be performed, and take permission on continuing a step. The patient is allowed to stop them if they feel uncomfortable, and they give breaks to them as well. Some other ways to overcome your fear are:

  • Make your appointment when you are less under pressure or feel rushed. This could be a day when you are off from work, or when your kids are at school.
  • Put on a song you like and wear headphones while the dentist observes your mouth. You can request your dentist to turn on the television if they have one in their office, so that you are distracted.
  • Visit the dentist with someone you are close to instead of going alone. Make them sit with you during the procedure.
  • Use relaxation techniques when you sit in the dentist’s chair, by take deep breaths slowly. This will slower your heartbeat and make your nerves relax.
  • If your fear has escalated too high to prevent you from going at all, you may need to make a visit to a psychologist first. Dental phobia may require therapeutic treatment where the patients will be introduced to the items they fear, such as an injection, in a controlled manner.

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