Did you know that nearly 8% of Americans are so afraid of visiting the dentist that they avoid it altogether? According to recent studies, as many as 20% of U.S. adults experience some level of anxiety about an upcoming dental appointment.
For most people who experience dentophobia, this fear stems from either a traumatic experience in the past or a preconceived notion about dentistry. Oftentimes, fear of the dentist can be easily managed with the right dentist-patient relationship, environment, communication, education and precautions.
If you experience anxiety about visiting your dentist, don’t worry! You are not alone. This is a very common problem, and one that we’d like to help you overcome. Here are a few ways you can ease any fears about your next dental appointment.
Be Honest About Your Fear
The first and best thing you can do with any phobia is to be honest with yourself and admit that it’s a problem. Many patients make excuses to their friends, family members and even themselves about why they don’t schedule appointments, citing “being too busy” or “it’s too expensive” as reasons for avoiding visits.
Before you make an appointment, ask yourself: what are you most afraid of? Is it a fear of needles? A lack of control? Do you have a bad memory from childhood? Just like many other things in life, you can’t fix it unless you know it exists.
Find the Right Dentist
Oftentimes, overcoming a fear of the dentist comes down to the actual dentist themself. Do your research, read reviews, ask for recommendations, and narrow your search down before you jump right into treatment options. Dentophobia is such a common issue that more and more high-quality dental practices are focusing on it, and they’re taking steps to help patients manage their dental fears. Dentistry is an intimate field, so make sure you choose a dentist that you feel comfortable with, who respects your boundaries, and who listens to you. It’s all about trust, comfort, and safety.
Communicate Early and Often
Dentophobia isn’t something to be ashamed of or that you should hide from your dentist. From the very beginning of your relationship with your dentist, it’s important to be upfront about your anxiety and to get any and all fears out on the table for discussion. The more transparent and open you can be with your dentist, the more they can help create a comfortable, safe environment for all future visits and treatments.
Start by meeting with your dentist to talk through your concerns and set the tone early. As you progress along your treatment journey, it’s important to establish non-verbal communication processes (such as raising a hand when in pain or uncomfortable) between you and your dentist. An experienced dentist will be empathetic to your comfort level and adjust accordingly. Baby steps!
Sometimes the largest barrier to overcoming a phobia is the unknown. Many patients are unaware of the tools and techniques that go into dentistry, so when they see a mysterious tray of metal equipment, it triggers a fight-or-flight response.
Ask your dentist to explain what each piece of equipment does, which steps are involved, how everything works and why they matter to your oral health. The more you can familiarize yourself with and demystify the tools of the trade, the less scary they become. Knowledge is power!
Dentophobia can be detrimental to a person’s overall health, since our oral health plays a critical role in whole-body health. Over time, skipping out on routine dental appointments can lead to a vicious cycle of perpetuating health risks such as decay, gum disease or tooth damage. Address your concerns head-on, and don’t let the fear control you.
At Dental Arts, we take dental anxiety seriously and work hard to offset any potential uneasiness our patients may have about visiting the dentist. We offer pillows, blankets, noise-cancelling headphones, ear plugs and can even provide nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to help make the entire experience more comfortable. From the moment you walk in, the Dental Arts office presents a calm, quiet and inviting atmosphere for our patients.
If you are experiencing dental anxiety and would like to learn more about how to combat it, we encourage you to contact us or schedule some time to speak with one of our dental team members. Our team is standing by to answer your questions and make sure you receive the best care in the most comfortable environment possible.
Dental Arts is a full-service general dentistry and orthodontic practice for the entire family. For more than three decades, we have been providing the highest quality dental and orthodontic care available to the residents of New Orleans. Explore the Dental Arts difference today.