Going to the dentist’s office, or even just the thought of the dentist, can cause some people to experience anxiety, fear, and nervousness. It varies in severity from person to person, but fortunately, like all phobias, dental phobia can be overcome.
If you have experienced symptoms of dental phobia or dental anxiety, and it has made your experiences with the dentist unpleasant, consider taking these steps towards overcoming the fear:
- Know that you’re not alone. Dental phobia is one of the most common phobias among adults. It doesn’t make you wrong or weird; it gives you the chance to become stronger.
- Pinpoint the root of your fears. There are many things about the dentist or the dentist’s office that trigger anxiety and phobia in people. Examples include pain, the noises, the loss of control, etc. Pinpoint what exactly it is that causes your phobia or anxiety, and you’ll be able to more directly address it.
- Find the right dentist. Visit the dentist just to chat in his office (no procedures) to see if she/he makes you comfortable. Find one that makes you feel safest and is willing to have a conversation about how to address your anxieties.
- “Tell, Show, Do.” Ask your dentist to explain what you are going to feel and for how long before performing the action.
- Establish a cue with your dentist, such as raising the left hand, for when you are feeling uncomfortable and would like a break from the procedure.
- Take it slow. Don’t dive into your first appointment with a root canal. Try driving by the dentist’s office a couple of times to ease your anxiety of being in the proximity. Then, go inside and talk to the receptionist or the dentist in his/her office. Make an appointment for something simple like cleaning or a check up. Build up your comfort and tolerance level at a steady pace, and you’ll be impressed with your progress in no time.
- Bring someone you trust. Make sure your companion is comfortable with being at the dentist, and his/her presence may help to reassure you and make you feel less alone. They can sit with you during the treatment and support you throughout the procedure.
- Use a distraction. Listen to music or read a book when waiting in the waiting room so that your anxiety and nerves don’t build in there. Some dentists have TVs in the treatment room, and most allow you to listen to your own music during the procedure.
- Know your sedative options. There are many varieties of sedations available; for some procedures it is possible for you to be unconscious throughout the entire treatment. In less serious procedures, localized anaesthesia is available to eliminate any pain or discomfort.
- Consider visiting a psychologist. If you have made efforts on your own to face the phobia, but still struggle with going to the dentist, a psychologist is another avenue of help. If you are looking for a non-judgemental, empathetic, result-focused space to discuss and resolve your fears, a psychologist is able to provide that for you.
It is seen in many phobic patients that the phobia can make their experience with the dentist worse; because they avoid the dentist out of fear, their teeth tend to be in poor shape and thus require more intense procedures once they are forced to the dentist out of pain or complication. Visiting the dentist is essential to your oral and general health. Overcoming the phobia can be difficult, but ultimately rewarding.