Did you know that about 75 percent of American adults experience mild to severe fear when visiting the dentist? Some individuals are so afraid that they avoid getting essential preventive care, such as regular cleanings and x-rays. Unfortunately, skipping preventive care can make hidden dental problems much more serious and painful. The good news is that there are several techniques you can use to overcome dental fear and enjoy a healthy, beautiful smile.
The first step towards overcoming phobia of the dentist is to find a provider who specializes in gentle patient care. Instead of scheduling an appointment through the yellow pages or the web, get a recommendation from a friend and call the practice to explain your situation. Many dentists use sedation dentistry to improve relaxation — which also allows them to get down to business.
During your visit, ask your dentist if you can give them a cue — such as a raised hand — should the visit become uncomfortable. Ask for a break if necessary, and remember that most dental patients who undergo notorious procedures such as root canal often report they felt much more comfortable than anticipated, according to WebMD.
Visiting the dentist with someone you trust can help you feel more comfortable and may be necessary if you opt for sedation dentistry. Your friend may even be able to sit with you during the procedure — but always ask for permission first. When you’re in the chair, pop on some headphones and listen to soothing music — not only will music distract you from the dentist’s activities, but you also won’t have to listen to the sound of the tools on your teeth. Breathing in and out slowly relaxes your muscles and calms an anxious heart, too.
There are a variety of reasons people fear the dentist. Many developed a phobia after a bad experience, while some became afraid after years of exposure to dental office horror stories! If you’ve tried to overcome your phobia but nothing seems to work, behavioral and cognitive therapies may help. The important thing to remember is that going to the dentist is much easier when you schedule regular preventive care appointments. Annual x-rays detect otherwise unnoticeable soft spots that can become cavities later on — and treating cavities before you feel pain is faster, easier and doesn’t even require anesthetic in many cases.
Once you’ve visited the dentist for your inaugural visit, you’ll be surprised by how much easier future appointments will be. Just remember, when it comes to the dentist, more preventive visits will save pain and anxiety later.