Going to the dentist may not be what anyone would call “fun.” Often, it is uncomfortable to have someone’s hands and tools in your mouth. No one finds drilling and suctioning an enjoyable experience. There’s the cold spray of water, the chapped lips, the sharp hook used to scrape tartar away from your teeth and the heavy protective bib designed to shield you from radiation during x-rays. To top it off, trying to answer questions while the dentist has their hands in your mouth, really? It is what it is, going to the dentist for our annual visits isn’t typically that bad and it helps you keep your teeth healthy.
If you are one of the 5 to 8 percent of Americans that are so truly afraid of going to the dentist, they avoid it completely, there are ways that you can help reduce your anxiety. We realize that many people only go when they absolutely have to, but if you implement some of the things below, and go more often, you will be grateful in the end, because you have healthier teeth.
- Start by admitting it’s a problem: Many people who are afraid of going to the dentist make excuses about why they don’t go. They complain that they don’t like their dentists, they are too busy, or they don’t have insurance or the money to go. The best thing to do is admit you have a problem and try to understand where the fear stems from. Are you afraid of needles, did you have an unpleasant experience at the dentist when you were young? No matter what the fear is, you need to identify it in order to start to get past it.
- Try techniques for relaxation: Meditation, prayer, visualizations and controlled breathing techniques can make a big difference in helping you to relax. Try slowing your heartbeat by taking deep breaths, holding them and slowing releasing them.
- Take good care of your teeth: This is the best tip of all for overcoming dental anxiety. While you would expect those with dental anxiety to work hard to protect their teeth in order to avoid going to the dentist, sometimes that’s not the case. Brush well, eat right and floss daily, and it’s likely that your next dental visit won’t be nearly as scary.
- Slow dental work is better than none: It may take you a period of weeks or months to complete the dental work you need. Take as long as you need while you work toward overcoming your fear and getting treatment, don’t let this stop you from getting started. Doing a little bit at a time is better than doing nothing at all.
For people with severe dentophobia (fear of dental work), the fright of going to the dentist provokes a fight-or-flight response. In essence, this person responds as if their life is in danger. While not all people who experience anxiety over going to the dentist are at this extreme end of the spectrum, their anxiety is serious enough that they will avoid going at all. This allows problems such as decay, gum disease or tooth damage to continue unchecked. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as their long-overdue dental visits reveal serious problems and a need for frightening or potentially painful procedures. The anxiety grows, and the problems persist without a dentist’s intervention.
The bottom line? Be sure to see a dentist who knows how to treat patients with dental anxiety. Here at Emergency Dental Services, in Fairfax, VA, you can feel free to contact us at any time to schedule a first consultation and discuss your fears about dental work. We strive to ensure that you’re absolutely comfortable before having any exams or procedures done.