“Oh no! My tooth is bothering me, hopefully it will stop! I don’t want to see a dentist!”
You feel heat rising to your cheeks, your stomach tying into knots, a fear rising in your mind. Is this you? Dental anxiety is a very common phobia for many people. Not only can this fear be debilitating for a person’s mental well-being, but it can prevent people from receiving cleanings and other necessary dental services, compromising the person’s oral health!
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) describes dental phobia as a “marked and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable.” However, there are varying degrees of dental anxiety, from a slight hesitation to full-on fear and loathing. The most common causes of dental anxiety include bad experiences in the past with uncaring dentists, a history of physical abuse (either as a child or as an adult) or a fear of humiliation of the condition of a person’s teeth before visiting the dentist. This anxiety can affect not only a person’s preparedness to visit the dentist but daily life, sparked by even routine brushing and flossing, being reminded of an upcoming dental appointment (or fear to make a future appointment). It is equally important to understand that if you do suffer from dental anxiety, you are not alone! It is estimated that up to 75% of Americans experience some sort of dental fear or anxiety before visiting the dentist. This common anxiety is something that can be cured!
Finding the right dentist is key the key to the cure! Search for a dentist with a caring spirit who is in touch with and understands your fear, who is committed to using the latest pain-free technologies. When choosing a dentist, speak to friends and family in your area. Find out which dental offices can provide spa dentistry, a relaxing and soothing environment, and which dentists in your city are known for quality, pain-free treatment. There are also exercises a person can undertake themselves, on their own time, to help combat dental anxiety; behavioral treatments like breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and cognative thought-based techniques may help your anxiety greatly. By empowering yourself with the right dental practice to service your dental needs, you can stomp out dental anxiety.
You can also try baby steps to be completely comfortable with your dental professional: start off with a consultation and check-up visit, get a feel of the person, communicate and get to know the dental professional. Ask questions as well – lots of fears could come from unknown and uncontrollable situations. Equip yourself with knowledge and trust of your dental professional to relieve some anxiety.