How to Conquer Your Fear of the Dentist

Whether you are a little bit behind on your dental checkup or you haven’t been to a dentist in years, you may be surprised to know that having fear or anxiety over visiting the dentist is a genuine medical condition. By some estimates, Dentophobia (also called “ondontophobia”) may affect up to 10 percent of the population.

Although studies show that 75 percent of adults experience some degree of fear or discomfort when faced with a dental appointment, true dentophobics tend to avoid dentist visit at all costs, often suffering excruciating tooth pain for some time before finally caving and making an appointment. And by then, invasive treatment is usually necessary, further cementing the patient’s fear.

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Overcoming dentophobia is not only essential for your comfort, but also for helping to save you thousands of dollars in dental care. The team at Flordia Dental Implants and Oral Surgery in Lakeland, FL understands dentophobia, but they point out that annual preventive checkups go a long way toward preventing expensive restorative procedures later on. Thankfully, there are a number of proven strategies that can be employed to help alleviate your fear of visiting the dentist.

  1. Talk to your dentist! If anyone understands dentophobia, it’s dentists! But if you don’t let your dentist know you’re uncomfortable, they won’t be able to assist you in alleviating your fears.

According to the National Institutes of Health, dentophobia can result from a fear of pain or needles, embarrassment about the condition of the teeth, past traumatic experiences, a general fear of the unknown, and any number of other reasons. Identifying where the roots of your fear lie can help your dentist work with you to come up with an effective plan for making your appointment as anxiety-free as possible.

Dentists have a number of ways in which they help their fearful patients. Your dentist will be happy to discuss various treatment options with you and help you choose the least invasive and gentlest procedures possible, and they’re always willing to help you relax and assist you through the appointment by either giving you a play-by-play of what’s happening or by not giving you a play-by-play.

  1. Distract yourself. Take along your iPod and listen to some relaxing tunes during your appointment, or download a soothing meditation. Practice deep breathing before and during your appointment to help decrease your anxiety, and visualize calmness. Also consider bringing along an eye mask to wear so that you won’t see any instruments heading towards your mouth.
  1. Ask about pain control and sedation. Depending on which aspect of dental care triggers your dentophobia, you can talk to your dentist about medicinal strategies for reducing pain and anxiety during your appointment. If it’s needles that have you quaking in your boots, your dentist can apply a topical anesthetic before inserting the needle. Laser drills are less painful than mechanical models, and they don’t make the terrifying sounds that often trigger severe anxiety among those with dentophobia. Nitrous oxide administered before the action starts will relax you and bring on a sense of euphoria and well-being, and when it’s appropriate (such as for oral surgery), your dentist may be able to provide you with an intravenous sedative that will deeply relax you without putting you asleep.
  1. Bring along some moral support. If you think it’s something that would help alleviate your anxiety, ask your dentist if you can bring along a friend or family member to offer support and help distract you from the goings on in and around your mouth.
  1. Consider therapy. Fears have a way of growing out of control, and there are numerous strategies that are used by mental health professionals to help people overcome them. Hypnosis and behavioral therapy are two of the most common and have been very successful for many people with dentophobia.

 

George Abbot

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