Afraid of the Dentist? Here’s How to Beat Dental Fear
If you’re afraid of the dentist, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to do to conquer your dental fear and get the smile you deserve.
Afraid of the dentist? The good news is you are not alone.
Although it’s difficult to put a precise figure on it, millions of people in every corner of the globe have some fear of going to the dentist.
It is estimated that anywhere up to 40 percent of the western population is affected by dental fear. While, in America alone, 30 million to 40 million people avoid seeing the dentist because of anxiety and fear.
But you don’t need to be a scientist, researcher or a statistician to know that people fear the dentist. Just ask your nearest and dearest how they feel about a trip to the local dental surgery. The results may not surprise you all that much.
People are Afraid of the Dentist
Ask some people what their greatest fears are and the chances are that some people will put ‘going to the dentist’ on the top of their list.
And that fear can range from a small anxiety that they can push through, all the way up to a crippling fear preventing them from going within a 10-mile radius of a dental practice.
We get it. We really do.
Here at Manalese Dental, we see patients with a fear of the dentist every single day. And we know that your feelings are real. And we know that they can be terrifying too.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Not anymore.
Help is at hand.
It’s time to sit back and relax. We’re going to show you how to conquer your dental fear. Let’s take a deeper dive.
Different Degrees of Fear
Fear of the dentist is extremely common. The vast majority of people have some sort of anxiety at the thought of the dentist’s chair. But, the degrees of fear are different depending on the individual.
So, what’s the difference between a mild fear of the dentist and an outright phobia?
Many people have a sense of uneasiness when they take a trip to the dentist. These people, however, find a way to cope with that anxiety. They see it as a part of the process and it doesn’t become a ‘make or break,’ situation for them.
For people with a dental phobia, a visit to the dentist is a terrifying ordeal. It is an experience loaded with intense feelings of terror and dread. In this kind of fear, we see the ‘fight or flight’ response take hold.
Common Themes in People who are Afraid of the Dentist
Whether the fear comes in a mild form or whether it takes the stance of a traumatizing phobia, there are some common themes that run through most peoples’ fear.
You might recognize your own fear in some of the following:
- Fear of pain
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of feeling helpless
- Fear of not being in control
- Fear of loud noises
- Fear of the equipment – the needle, the drill, etc
- Previous negative experience or bad memory
- Fear of the invasiveness
- Pre-existing anxiety disorder
Consequences of that Fear
For people with an overpowering fear of the dentist, the consequences can be huge.
This is because some people will avoid going to the dentist at all costs.
As a result, people with dental phobia have a higher risk of gum disease and tooth loss and they may suffer from poorer health in general.
Fearing the dentist can even lead to a lower life expectancy.
This may be scary but it’s true.
Poor oral health has been strongly linked to overall health. Scientists continue to discover that some chronic diseases like diabetes and other serious conditions like heart disease actually originate in the mouth.
So, having a fear of the dentist can have wide-ranging, far-reaching consequences that many of us have never even contemplated.
Solutions – Question Your Fear
Committing to tackling a problem is one of the most powerful steps you can take towards solving it. If you have a fear of the dentist, decide today that you are going to take charge of the problem.
After committing, follow these three first steps:
- Acknowledge that you have a fear. Admit to yourself that there is an issue. This can be as simple as saying, “I’m afraid.”
- Question that fear. Why exactly are you afraid? What is it specifically that is causing you anxiety? Oftentimes, the anticipation of something can be more stressful than the actual experience. Narrow down the fear.
- Ask yourself what you can do about the problem. Can you manage your fear? Is there a strategy that you can put in place?
Solutions – 11 Strategies for your Fear
Here are some strategies that you can adopt to handle your fear. Pick the ones that suit you the best.
1. Find an understanding dentist.
You need someone who will address your fears and make you feel at ease. Visit the practice ahead of time and have look around.
2. Meet the dentist beforehand.
Preferably when he or she isn’t wearing scrubs. This will help you to see that your dentist is just a normal person and nothing to be afraid of!
3. Arrange an early morning appointment.
The last thing you want to be doing is dwelling on your appointment for the entire day.
4. Tell your dentist you’re afraid.
You might want to go into specifics here about the things you are especially afraid of. If you’re afraid of the equipment, for example, the dentist can keep these from your view.
5. Have a signal that you and your dentist agree on.
Use this signal if things become too much. This signal will also allow you to feel a greater sense of control.
6. Bring a person you trust with you.
Make sure this person isn’t afraid of the dentist and get them to come in with you during your treatment. Moral support is important!
7. Distraction is the name of the game.
Distraction is a powerful technique that you can use in any situation where fear is present. You can bring headphones and listen to music or meditate and go to your happy place.
8. Distancing is another proven technique to control fear.
This is where you tell yourself that the pain feels like something else. When you do this, you can distance yourself from the experience and things won’t seem so bad.
9. Optimism can be effective.
When you’re in the dentist chair you can tell yourself positive things: This will be over soon and I will have a lovely set of pearly whites!
10. Nasal Strips
If you feel that breathing through your mouth is stifled, wearing a nasal strip can help you to breathe through your nose more effectively.
11. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
If your fear is a greater phobia, consider undergoing some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It teaches you a different way of thinking and has been proven effective in an impressive number of cases.
Fear of the Dentist – Begone!
So, perhaps your next trip to the dentist doesn’t have to hold the same level of fear and trepidation?
You don’t have to be afraid of the dentist anymore. Dare we say it, you might even enjoy it!