Feeling fearful about visiting a dentist? You’re not alone. About 40 million Americans do their best to postpone or avoid their dental visits because of dental anxiety and dental phobia. Unfortunately, when fear prevents you from regularly seeing a dentist, it also increases your chance for gum disease, early tooth loss, and can negatively impact your overall health.
Staying on top of your annual preventative care, like check-ups and cleanings, will help lower your chances of encountering more serious dental conditions, and more costly dental treatments, down the road. But what can you do if your fear is stopping you from seeing a dentist? The first step is to determine whether you suffer from dental anxiety or dental phobia. While these two terms are often used interchangeably, they are actually quite different.
Dental Anxiety vs Dental Phobia
Not all dental fears are the same. When you have dental anxiety, you may feel uneasy about an upcoming appointment. You experience a heightened worry, or fear about something that may happen.
When you have dental phobia, you experience an acute fear or dread; you’re not merely anxious, you’re terrified. The spectrum of anxiety and phobia can run from feeling tense, or unable to sleep before an appointment, to refusing to go to a dentist for any reason. While most patients with dental anxiety experience a temporary period of stress that goes away once their dental procedure begins, patients with dental phobia may require more intense intervention.
What Causes Your Fear?
If you believe you may have a dental anxiety or phobia, it will help you to better understand what it is that’s making you afraid. While each of us is unique, with different experiences, there are some common causes of dental fear. If you can pinpoint your fear, you’ll have a better chance of overcoming it.
- Unpleasant dental experience during childhood.
- Fear of pain or injections.
- Dislike of feeling helpless, and not in control.
- Feeling embarrassment about teeth.
- Discomfort with the loss of personal space boundaries.
Overcoming Dental Fears & Anxiety
The best way to help you through your dental anxiety or phobia is to talk about it with our dental care team at the time you make your appointment. When your dentist is aware of your fears, they can work with you to create an experience that will make you feel less anxious and more comfortable. This may include a combination of tips to reduce anxiety, sedation dentistry, as well as a clear understanding of all the steps involved in your dental procedure.
Depending on your level of anxiousness, your dentist may suggest some form of sedation dentistry to help enhance your dental experience. If you suffer from mild dental anxiety, your dentist may recommend nitrous oxide, which may be enough to lower your stress. And if your anxiety is more severe, other dental sedation options will be discussed. Should your fear of dentists be serious enough to prevent you from coming in for routine dental visits, or should it create panic attacks, your dentist can help you find a licensed therapist to talk about it and to help you find treatment. Dental phobia, as with any mental disorder, can be treated.
When you are better aware of your dental fears, and are able to express these fears to us, we can provide you with a positive, friendlier, dental experience. Thanks to advancements in dental care procedures, as well as ways to help you cope during dental visits, your fears don’t need to prevent you from having a healthy, beautiful smile.
P.S. Need dental anxiety relief? If you do suffer from any dental anxiety or phobia, please do let us know when you schedule your appointment.