Experts estimate that roughly three-quarters of patients experience some level of fear or anxiety before and during their dental appointments. However, the truth is the longer you go between appointments, the more work you may need and the more invasive the procedures. For this reason, it’s imperative to seek routine dental care to prevent issues from getting worse. By overcoming your fears and using tactics to alleviate your anxiety, you’ll find that visiting the dentist doesn’t have to be a panic-inducing endeavor.
What Are the Biggest Fears Adults Have Regarding the Dentist?
Adults have different fears and anxieties regarding the dentist. These include:
- Fear of pain
- Fear of needles
- Sensitivity to drilling or scraping sounds
- Fear of the unknown
- Feelings of panic induced by claustrophobia
Most often, the thought of experiencing pain, especially caused by needles, is enough for people to avoid the dentist. Others may find the noise of the drills and tooth scraping to be unnerving. Some adults fear the unknown and are wary of unfamiliar procedures. It’s also common for patients to be afraid of feeling trapped and may experience panic attacks because of claustrophobia. Here are seven tips on how to overcome these fears.
1. Find the Right Dentist
First and foremost, it’s essential that you find a good dentist, preferably one that specializes in treating patients with anxiety and dental-related fears. If your current dentist causes you to feel panicked and afraid at each visit, it’s important to know that this is not normal. A good dentist will take the time to explain each procedure to you and offer options to reduce pain, anxiety, and discomfort before, during and after each appointment is complete.
Dentistry has also changed quite a bit in recent years, so if you’ve been avoiding the dentist because of a bad experience you had, it’s time to reach out for care with the help of new technologies and options.
2. Communicate with the Dental Team
Each person within the dental office is there to create a relaxing, caring atmosphere for your dental needs. You will most likely be greeted by the dental assistant, who will bring you into the office to be seated and prepared for your upcoming appointment. You will probably also spend time with the hygienist for routine cleanings and other treatments. The dentist is the one who will perform examinations and do critical procedures for better oral health.
If you have anxiety over the dental office, you should always communicate with your dentist and let your dental team know how you feel. They will be able to avoid triggers or help you work through your fears to make your appointment as comfortable as possible. Never feel ashamed to let the dental team know that you are nervous, afraid or panicked since they deal with dental-phobic patients all the time.
3. Bring Along Support
Bring along a support person who is someone that makes you feel safe during stressful times. This might be a spouse, friend, parent, or even a child. This person is there to offer support when you’re feeling anxious and panicked. It might help to have the person in the room with you while work is being done if the practice allows that. Even if others are not allowed in the room, it can be helpful for anxious patients to know they have that person waiting for them when they’re done.
4. Try to Use Distractions During Your Appointment
Many dental offices have televisions that you can watch while having work done. If you aren’t able to watch TV on a bigger screen, utilize your smartphone or tablet so you can watch shows, movies or videos to relax while in the dental chair. If you’re in an uncomfortable position to watch TV or movies, consider listening to a podcast, audiobook or your favorite music. For people with anxiety, diverting the anxious thoughts and feelings often helps to get their mind off the situation.
5. Try Relaxation Techniques
Deep breathing and meditation before your appointment can help a lot when you’re feeling quite anxious. If you’re finding yourself getting worked up before leaving the house, take five minutes to sit and meditate by practicing controlled breathing. Deep breathing naturally lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, which can be crucial when avoiding or coming down from a panic attack.
Visualization techniques can also work well where you close your eyes and imagine yourself in a calm and relaxing environment. You can practice visualization techniques both before and during your dental appointment.
6. Choose Your Appointment Time Carefully
If you’re naturally afraid to go to the dentist, it’s detrimental to schedule dental appointments during busy or stressful times. Trying to cram in a procedure or dental cleaning during your lunch hour might cause you undue stress and anxiety. Instead, give yourself more than enough time to prepare for the visit as well as on a day where you’re not burdened with other activities and engagements.
7. Avoid Dwelling on Upcoming Appointments
One problem that many anxious adults have is they do too much research on procedures and dwell on the “what ifs” for too long. Doing too much research and panicking over the situation isn’t going to help you in any way. While it’s always a good idea to be educated and understand what to expect, if you have anxiety problems, it’s probably best to avoid knowing the fine details of a procedure the night before. Spend the time before an appointment doing things that take your mind off your fears, like catching a movie with friends or working out at the gym.
Dentists, as well as the entire dental team, are completely supportive of each patient because they know how important dental care is to overall health. It is their mission to provide personalized care to each individual. Because of this, it’s important to be transparent about your anxiety and to utilize support methods that work best for you.