How to Get Over a Fear of the Dentist

A phobia is an extreme and possibly unreasonable fear. About 9% of adults experience specific phobias that impact their lives. Maybe it’s a fear of flying or a type of social anxiety. Maybe you have a form of claustrophobia that prevents you from using an lift. Or how about a fear of going to the dentist?

More people than you might think experience an intense fear of the dentist. Here’s how it affects their lives — and what they can do to manage the condition.

What is dentophobia?

Dentophobia is exaggerated fear or anxiety about going to the dentist. Many people avoid seeing a dentist because of this phobia. And others might need to practice coping methods to make it through their dental appointments.

Some people with this fear might have had a past experience that triggered it, while others can’t pinpoint when exactly it started. People with dental phobia have an awareness that the fear is totally irrational but are unable to do much to change it.

Common symptoms

Many people don’t exactly love going to the dentist. But when does that cross the line into phobia? Here are some common symptoms of dental phobia:

  • Missing dental appointments or only going when forced
  • Trouble sleeping before a dental appointment
  • Getting to your appointment but being unable to enter or feeling progressively more nervous in the waiting room
  • Feeling physically ill at the thought of the dentist
  • Intense unease — sometimes to the point where it’s difficult to breathe — from the dentist or hygienist working on your mouth

Of course, everyone reacts personally to a phobia, so symptoms may vary. The bottom line is whether the fear and anxiety make it difficult for you to take care of your teeth as you should.

Why do people develop a fear of the dentist?

Often the fear of pain is a common reason people develop dental phobia. This might have stemmed from a past dental experience that went wrong. Or it simply could be the knowledge that there’s potential for a procedure to hurt, based on other people’s “horror stories.”

Furthermore, over time a mild phobia might compound, especially if you continue to miss dental appointments. Some people might be embarrassed by the condition of their teeth, while others fear the cost of dental work. But, according to the Oral Health Foundation, that concern might be unfounded thanks to improvements in oral hygiene we practice at home. You may be surprised at how little treatment you need.

How to manage your fear

It’s never easy to overcome anxiety, but it can be done. First and foremost, be honest with your dentist. Chris and Stephen, our lead dentists, are experienced in treating anxious patients so you will be in safe hands. Once your dentist knows what your fears are, they will be better able to work with you to determine the best ways to make you less anxious and more comfortable.

At Dental Logic Truro, we can help you by:

  • Before any appointment, we explain the entire procedure to you, so you know what’s coming.
  • We make sure you are warned before injections or anything else that might be painful or surprising whilst in the chair.
  • Tension balls to squeeze and hand raise, to tell the dentist or hygienist you’re uncomfortable and need a break.

Additionally, practice some of your own self-calming techniques, starting hours or even days before your appointment. Distract yourself by listening to music or watching a video if you’re able. We also recommend scheduling your appointment on a day and time when you don’t have any other commitments and won’t be stressed. Bringing a reassuring friend with you might be comforting.

We work at your pace and make sure we’re doing everything we can at each visit to ease your nerves. And for many people, the more times you go and build trust with the dental practice, the easier it gets.

Why dental visits matter

Oral health is indicative of overall health — and that’s a great motivator to work on your dental phobia. Without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

But there are even more serious conditions associated with poor oral health, including cardiovascular disease, premature birth, diabetes, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and even cancer have links to oral health. Thus, practicing good oral hygiene including regular dental visits, is essential in maintaining your overall health.  See you soon!