10 ways to deal with dental anxieties and overcome your dental treatment phobia

We often ignore dental health because of our fear of going to the dentist. We take dental treatment for granted and it is this fear and anxiety that makes us seek dental care only when it's extremely necessary.

Dental fear and anxiety often develop after traumatic experiences. Some of the factors that may cause dental fear are:

1) The feeling of being trapped

Patients can feel like they are not in control when they visit a dentist.  A feeling of claustrophobia in the chair is not uncommon.  Having a dentist stand over you and work in your mouth can bet extremely scary for some. Patients associate this experience with the feeling of being helpless and thus fear the dental experience.

2) Low pain threshold

Some people fear going to the dentist simply because of the pain.  People who have a low threshold for pain find it extremely dreadful to visit a dentist.  This anxiety can make it more difficult to be comfortable.

3) Feeling of embarrassment

Patients sometimes feel extremely embarrassed and ashamed when the dentist examines their mouth. This shame often leads to delayed treatment while the conditions get worse.  The fear of being judged in the dental chair can prevent patients from even making the call to schedule an appointment.

4) Experiences from the past

We often associate our present with our past and a lot of people are bound to develop dental phobia due to bad experiences. If past dentist appointments were accompanied by a feeling of immense pain or emotional trauma, the patient is bound to develop a sense of terror towards dentistry.

Overcoming Dental Anxieties

There are various ways in which you can ensure that you visit the dentist regularly and overcome the fear of dental treatment.

Here are 10 ways that are going to help you do so:

  1. Understand and recognize your fear

It's very important to acknowledge anxiety. Make notes about the things that worry you.  Discuss these with your dentist.  Listing all your fears will not just help you recognize them but will also help your dentist to manage the environment to lessen anxiety and create a place where you feel safe enough to proceed with treatment.

  1. Finding the right office

Finding the right dentist can greatly reduce your fears and anxieties. Ask for recommendations from people you trust and look for a dentist who not only specializes in treating teeth but is also known for his demeanor with patients.

Ask around and do your research.  Find out what others are saying about the office by reading internet reviews.  Ask the office if they have patients who, like you, who once feared the dentist to whom you might speak.  Ask if the office has received training in fear management.  When you narrow your search, be sure to check out their website.  Ask if you can come for a ‘site visit’ to check out the place and determine if the team can make you feel comfortable.  Taking the time to do the research, can make walking through the door, much easier.

  1. Communicate with your dentist

Don’t be afraid to share your concerns with your dentist and the team.  Communication will help you get the care you want.  Be open and honest about your past experiences, your fear, and anxiety as well as what you hope to experience there. This lays the foundation for a great relationship and a great dental visit.

  1. Find gradual steps to reduce your fears

Be patient with yourself.  Proceed at your own pace and when you are comfortable.  Some offices allow for a test visit.  Come to the office, meet the team and take a look at the way dentistry looks today!  When you are ready come in for an initial exam.  This is usually a very non-invasive visit.  There may be x-rays.  If this is too much, ask to have the full exam while sedated.  You can return later to find out what treatment is recommended and know that the whole thing can be accomplished while you are completely comfortable because you were on that first short visit.

  1. Bring a friend along to the appointment

There is no way around it.  You are walking into a stressful situation.  Wouldn’t you like a little support and encouragement?  Bringing a companion to the appointment can be a great deal of help. Not only can they support you emotionally, they can help you remember all of the treatment facts the doctor will share.  In the best of situations, most people remember about 10%.  Get better results with a friend or loved one along.  You’ll need a companion to bring you to sedated treatment visits and to take you home and stay with you.  It’s smart to have them with you to hear what to expect.   

  1. Relaxation techniques during the treatment

There are a variety of personal relaxation techniques that people use when visiting the dentist.  Deep breathing and self-hypnosis have been successful for some patients.  Depending on your level of anxiety, you may find that once you have a trusting relationship built, you enjoy the social points of the visit.  But don’t forget to ask for what you need to be comfortable.

  1. Using external distractions

Distractions are an easy way to help to divert your mind during treatment. You can listen to music, fiddle with a stress ball or count to yourself during the procedure. You may also distract yourself by watching funny videos or clips that make you feel good and relaxed before your appointment.  Some offices provide virtual glasses and others will provide premedication.  Again, don’t forget to ask for what you need to be comfortable.

  1. Do not hesitate in meeting a psychologist

If your fears are very intense and none of the above-mentioned tips help you overcome your anxiety then there should be no harm in seeking a psychologist. Visit someone who specializes in phobias related to dental fear.

  1. Know about sedation dentistry

Safe Sedition is something that can be used for minor procedures to extremely complicated or lengthy ones. It helps the patient relax during dental treatment. The level of sedation depends on the procedure and ranges from the patient being awake and relaxed to the patient being more deeply sedated.

Minimal sedation is given in the form of nitrous oxide which is also known as “laughing gas”. It may also include a single oral sedative.  This helps the patient relax and wears off quickly.

Oral sedation is given in a pill form and may use medications from the “Valium” family.  These will make the patient drowsy but responsive.  This often referred to as moderate sedation.  The effects last longer and the patient requires a companion to go with them to the appointment.

Discuss these options with your dentists and together you can decide if sedation dentistry is right for you.

10) Reward yourself for your achievement

It is no small feat to overcome fears that may have been with you a lifetime.  Getting to that first appointment is a real milestone.  Reward yourself with a new smile!

These 10 tips can take you calmly and relaxed into a perspective on dental care.