Do you suffer from a crippling fear of the dentist? You’re not alone! Dental anxiety and phobia are actually surprisingly common, with about 9-15 percent of Americans actually avoiding the dentist’s office entirely as a result.
Dental phobia is no small matter—those who suffer from it can become seriously panic-stricken and in a state of severe emotional distress. Unfortunately, this fear can have serious health repercussions, such as gum disease, infection, and damaged teeth due to lack of care. It can also lead to low self-esteem, as people with oral health issues may suffer from visibly noticeable dental decay, causing their personal and professional lives to suffer. It can even result in a lower life expectancy.
Thankfully, dental phobia is treatable, but first, you have to know the signs. Here are some symptoms you may exhibit that can cause or result from dental anxiety and phobia.
- Lower Pain Threshold: Those who are atypically tense at the dentist may also have a lower pain threshold, causing treatments to be more painful.
- Feelings of Helplessness: In many cases, those who have any phobia often also have a fear of loss of control, which can trigger anxiety. If you also have trouble breathing during the exam, this may result from dental phobia or anxiety.
- Trouble Sleeping: Often those who fear the dentist will likely not sleep before an impending dental exam.
- Increased Anxiety: Particularly in the waiting room, anxiety tends to build for those with dental phobia. The sight of dental instruments and dentists, in general, may pique this anxiety.
- Physical Illness: If the thought of seeing the dentist makes you feel physically ill, you may have dental phobia. This could be anything from feeling nauseous to having stress-induced headaches or muscle stiffness.
Ways to Help
Phobias in general—including dental phobia—should be treated by a mental health professional. They can help you to overcome these feelings of anxiety and make the stress of visiting the dentist less debilitating. In addition to receiving treatment, here are a couple of things you can do to help reduce the stress of your dental appointment:
- Find a Dentist You’re Comfortable With: Be sure to find a dentist that you get along with. You might even consider asking a friend to recommend someone that they like, especially if they, too, have dental anxiety. Read reviews to see if your dentist knows how to handle other patients with this issue.
- Tell your Dentist: Your dentist will be able to help you remedy these feelings of concern and fear by changing the way you are treated. In certain cases, you may also be able to receive anesthesia to make the pain of the treatment much more bearable.
- Find Distractions: You don’t have to listen to the sound of the drill throughout your appointment – that can be unnerving for anyone! Listening to music or wearing earplugs can help eliminate these sounds. Your dentist may also offer to show a movie or TV show. Ultimately, find a way to distract yourself from the setting to make the experience a bit less jarring.
- Practice Good Oral Hygiene: The best way to ensure that your dentist appointment is short and sweet is to be in good oral health. Without cavities or tooth decay, you may also be able to skip out on the drills and other more extensive dental work. To do this, brush your teeth at least twice daily, preferably after meals, and floss once a day.
Rest assured, dental anxiety and phobias are manageable. At TruBlu Dentistry, we can help you get through the appointment. Give our office a call to discuss your options and schedule your appointment today.