Across the country, many people struggle when it comes to visiting the family dentist. Some people grow anxious when it is time for the annual checkup. Others have real fears surrounding the procedures, tools, and sounds of the dental office. Still others simply dread anything to do with the dentist, forgoing regular visits altogether. All of these people experience a phenomenon known as “dental anxiety”. The good news is that if you experience this fear of the dentist, you’re not alone. In this guide, we’ll provide tips on overcoming dental anxiety. With a little help and these tips, you can look forward to your next visit to the dentist!
You’re Not Alone
In the United States, it has been estimated that between five and eight percent of all Americans have such a fear of going to the dentist that they skip annual checkups completely. About 20% of all Americans experience some sort of dental anxiety, which causes many people to visit the dentist only when it is absolutely needed. So, if your friends and family make fun of you for being afraid of the dentist’s chair, take comfort that your anxiety is shared by many thousands of others, according to Thomas E Cooke.
Tips for Overcoming Dental Anxiety
Now that we have an understanding of dental anxiety and the numbers behind this phenomenon, let’s take a look at some tips for overcoming your fears.
Tip #1 — Admit it’s a problem: to overcome any fear, regardless of what it is, the first step is to admit that you have a fear in the first place. A great technique is to pinpoint the specific nature of your fear, such as fear of the needles or instruments, the potential for discomfort, or the noises of drills and suction devices. Some people who have developed dental anxiety had a less-than-fun experience at the dentist as a child. Whatever the reason, figuring out where the fear originates can put you on the road to overcoming that fear.
Tip #2 – Find a good dentist: dental professionals know that many patients have some sort of anxiety when it comes to the annual visits, cleanings, and procedures in the clinic. Some dentists even have special training designed to help patients feel more comfortable when visiting. Talk to friends and family and ask for recommendations on dentists they’ve visited. You may just discover a dentist who specializes in providing a calm, relaxing atmosphere to help you overcome your anxieties.
Tip #3 – Learning about the tools and procedures: much of the anxiety experienced at the dental office surrounds the scary-looking instruments dentists use to perform their duties. Scrapers, picks, needles, and drills are part of the arsenal of the modern dentist. Many dentists will be happy to allow you to take a look at these tools and explain their function. By removing some of the mystery behind the tools and their uses, they can begin to seem less scary.
Tip #4 – Take charge of your care: a good technique to use when visiting the dentist is to make your communication preferences known. Good dentists explain what they are doing and ask for permission each time they perform a specific task. It’s ok to pause during treatment to ask a question or to voice a concern. Taking charge in this way can help empower you to overcome your fears. It’s a good idea to come up with an agreed non-verbal signal with the dentist so that he or she understands when you need a break from the procedure as well.
Tip #5 – Bring a friend: many dentists will allow patients to bring a trusted friend or family member along for the visit. This is especially effective with children who have dental fears; having a parent nearby can allay the worst of the fears. That friend can also help you communicate with the dentist during procedures, such as asking for short breaks or alerting the dentist to any discomfort being experienced.
Dental anxiety is real and is experienced by thousands of people across the country. While going to the dentist is never considered truly fun, conquering your fears and visiting the dentist for routine care takes you one step closer to a healthy mouth and a brilliant smile.