If you are someone who is afraid or worried about going to the dentist, rest assured you are definitely not alone. As many as 20% of adults avoid the dentist due to anxiety, fear, or a dental phobia. A dental phobia is a more serious and debilitating condition than anxiety related to dental visits. Often, a dental phobia causes people to feel panic-stricken or terrified when it comes to dental visits. In most cases, those with a dental phobia are aware that the fear is irrational, but still, struggle to overcome it. Often a dental phobia manifests itself in classic avoidance behavior; meaning they will do whatever it takes to avoid visiting the dentist. Many people who are affected by a dental phobia will only go to the dentist when extreme pain or discomfort forces the issue. Whether it is a case of anxiety related to the dentist or a more severe phobia, there are a few main reasons why this is a common problem.
What Causes Anxiety and Fear Related to Dentist Visits?
There are several reasons that result in dental anxiety or phobia. The most common of these are:
Fear Related to Pain
A fear of pain is one of the most common reasons for avoiding trips to the dentist. This fear can sometimes be related to a previous dental experience that was painful or uncomfortable. In other cases, fear related to pain is caused by “horror” stories told by others. The good news is that significant advances have been made in the dentist industry over the years, and the majority of dental procedures are completed pain-free.
Fear of Injections/Needles/Anesthetic
A fear of needles is something that many people experience, especially when the injection is to be placed inside the mouth. Other people may also fear that the anesthesia won’t be effective enough to eliminate pain once the dental procedure begins. It is also common for some people to be afraid of the possible side effects of anesthesia such as feeling faint, dizzy, or nauseous.
Feelings of Vulnerability, Embarrassment, and Loss of Control
It’s common for people to feel such emotions related to embarrassment or a loss of control and personal space. And when you consider the situation — sitting in a reclined dental chair with your mouth wide open, unable to see what’s going on and putting complete trust in someone else.
Feeling uncomfortable about the physical closeness of the dentist or hygienist to your face is also common. In some cases, people feel self-conscious about their breath, the appearance of their teeth, or how long it’s been between dental visits.
How Can I Get Rid of My Fear of the Dentist?
The best way to cope with dental anxiety or phobia is to be upfront with your dentist and discuss your fears. Once your dentist is aware that you are anxious or afraid, they will be more equipped to work with you and identify and determine the best ways to make your dental visits more relaxing and worry-free. If you find that your dentist doesn’t take your feelings seriously and with compassion, it’s time to find another dentist.
If a lack of control is the main source of your anxiety, having a thorough conversation with your dentist about the process and steps of the procedure can be very helpful. Your dentist can explain what’s happening during every step of the procedure. This can help you to mentally prepare for what’s coming next and feel like you have some control over what is happening.
Another helpful strategy you could try is to establish a hand signal with your dentist — such as a thumbs up — which you can use when you need the dentist to stop right away. This signal can be used whenever you are uncomfortable, experiencing pain, need to rinse your mouth, or simply need to take a break and catch your breath.
Experiencing anxiety related to dental visits is very common, and nothing to be ashamed of. Dentists are very used to working with people who are nervous or unsure, and it is their job to help you feel comfortable and relaxed. You should not let your fear keep you from necessary routine cleanings and checkups, as the longer you avoid the dentist, the more likely that you will have to deal with multiple issues and potential pain or discomfort.
If you want to learn more about how we can make your dental visits enjoyable and stress-free, contact our Guelph Dentist’s office today!