High Anxiety in the Dentist’s Chair: Is it All in Your Head?

Throw a rock into a crowd and you’re likely to hit someone who doesn’t enjoy going to the dentist. It’s one of those appointments we love to complain about, even though we appreciate how critical it is to our overall health to get regular check-ups of our teeth and gums.

You may not LIKE going to the dentist, but 5% to 8% of Americans avoid going to the dentist entirely due to actual fear. And up to 20% of potential dental patients only go if they consider it absolutely necessary – like when they are experiencing tooth pain or other mouth issues.

Where does that level of fear come from?  For many, it may stem from a scarring experience as a young child – perhaps an unfortunate accident or lack of proper levels of anesthesia during a procedure. One bad occurrence can set a would-be patient on a path of avoidance for the rest of his or her life.

For others, there’s no one incident to point to, but rather a general fear of sitting in the dentist’s chair. Studies point to fear of pain, fear of embarrassment and fear of loss of control as the top reasons patients prefer to take their chances outside the dental office.  Although pain can be a reality during certain procedures, developing a healthy mindset about visiting the dentist starts well before one steps through the office door.  If you or someone you know suffers from a fear of going to the dentist so intense it prevents them from getting regular oral care, try some of these tips for dealing with dental anxiety.

Tip 1: Don’t keep it to yourself

If you thought you were the only one with a major fear of the dentist before you started reading this blog post, you should know by this point that you’re not alone. It’s an extremely common issue – and one that every dentist is aware of.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your dentist about your anxiety. It’s nothing they haven’t heard before, and they might have ways to allay your concerns. Your dentist may have some ideas that have worked for other patients to calm them down. Together you can work on a strategy to create a more relaxing visit – whether that means music playing in the background or a step-by-step description of what’s happening inside your mouth.

Tip 2: Take your time

You might think that rushing through your dental appointment in order to get it done as quickly as possible would be a good idea, but in fact, you might need some extra time to get through it.

Talk to your dentist about going slow. Have a pre-agreed upon signal to use to communicate to your dentist that you need a break. You might want to hold something tightly in your hand, like a stress ball or a worry stone to re-focus your physical attention.

Tip 3: If all else fails, look into medication

Similar to taking something before flying if you have a phobia, fear of dental appointments might require a prescription for a mild sedative. Talking to your dentist or a psychiatrist will give you a better idea if that may be an option for you.

Depending on the procedure, anesthesia might be available, if you can’t even handle being conscious during your visit. But, such measures are really only appropriate for someone with a true phobia.

If your fear of dentists has prevented you from getting regular check-ups, remember how important maintaining your oral health is. Neglecting your teeth and gums can lead to serious conditions, including dental pain, tooth loss and gum disease, which has been linked to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It’s worth facing your fears to start back on the road to healthy teeth.

Healthy bodies start with healthy teeth. With locations in Alexandria, VA and Washington DC, DC Smiles provides a holistic approach to dental care that incorporates total-body health and wellness. Learn more at DCSmiles.com.





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