Although oral health is a vital part of general health, dental fear and anxiety remain a significant phobia affecting a large number of people. Dentophobia or odontophobia (severe dental anxiety) is the irrational fear of a dentist or visiting a dental office. It also includes the fear of dental equipment, settings, procedures and even the dentist as a person.
People who suffer from dentophobia are usually determined to delay or avoid dental visits and treatments. So if you’re one of those people who fear the dentist, below are some helpful tips to help you overcome your fears.
Some fears associated with dental visits
Pain – dental procedures are usually accompanied by slight pains/discomforts. People with dentophobia may feel even more excruciating pain due to fear as opposed to the slight discomforts associated with these procedures in reality. Another fear is of the anaesthesia failing to work during procedures, and its after-effects such as numbness and other physical abnormalities.
Blood – a good number of people have hemophobia (fear of blood) and tend to panic at the thought of even the slightest amount of bleeding during dental procedures.
Loss of control – the idea of having someone hover above your head and probe the inside of your mouth may seem very overwhelming. Some people might get the feeling of being trapped or helpless.
Past Experiences – many people also tend to develop a fear of the dentist due to a previous bad experience with the dentist. Either the procedure was; too painful, resulted in complications, or the environment wasn’t welcoming or friendly.
Embarrassment – some patients may feel some level of shame knowing that their dentist is going to look into their mouth and find out that they have let their oral health go.
Tips for overcoming the fear of the dentist
Choose the right dentist for you
This plays a huge role in helping you overcome the fear of the dentist. Find a dental practice with a team that understands your fears and can find helpful ways to alleviate those fears. It can also be helpful to ask for recommendations for a caring dentist from friends and family.
Another way is to do your research and find dental practices that specialise in working with patients who have dentophobia. Sherwood Park Dental Practice has a friendly team of experts who understand the importance of giving clients a calming atmosphere that will have them feeling right at home.
See if medication will work
Your dentists can prescribe anti-anxiety drugs or conscious sedatives like nitrous oxide to reduce panic and calm your nerves during dental procedures. These medications should, however, be only administered after a discussion with your dentist and an extensive review of your medical history has been carried out.
Communicate your fears
Communication is vital for building trust between patient and dentist. Communicate your fears to your dentist even before you schedule a dental procedure. When your dentist is aware of all your fears and apprehensions, they can devise an action plan to mitigate those fears. For example, your dentist might decide to explain every step in the procedure beforehand or devise a signal you can use whenever you start to feel uncomfortable and need to take a break.
Try out relaxation or distraction techniques
Practising relaxation exercises like controlled breathing can help you stay calm during dental treatment. You can also distract yourself by counting or squeezing on a stress ball to help you relax.
Bring a companion to your visits
Knowing that someone is right there with you may be the extra layer of support you need. Talk to your dentist about the possibility of having that person (friend, partner or family) with you during your procedure.
For every dental appointment, you complete successfully, reward yourself with something nice. This can be a way for you to start associating the dental office with something positive instead of fear.
Visiting a dentist’s office can be scary, but you should keep in mind that with advancements in technology, dentists continue to find new and less painful ways (anaesthesia/sedatives) to do things, including methods to reassure and keep people with dental anxiety/fear comfortable. Just remember to communicate your fears, as chances are, your dentist already has a technique to alleviate those fears.