Visiting a dentist should be no worse than going to your hairdresser but for some people the thought itself raises anxiety levels. Nearly 75% adults are apprehensive. Of these, about 10% have extreme fear of going to the dentist. The condition is known as dental phobia. They would gladly suffer the pain of decaying teeth than visit a dentist.
What is the fear of going to the dentist?
Fear of going to the dentist is also known as dental fear, dentist phobia or odontophobia. Such people may be simply averse to the very idea of visiting a dentist for a check at the least or even for times when their decaying teeth or gum disease require clinical attention. The fear may be rooted in childhood experience or because they have heard harrowing tales from others or because of a prior experience with a dentist. In most of these cases it is possible for people to overcome their phobia of going to the dentist. They can do so on their own. They can seek counseling and they can find a suitable, caring dentist who allays their apprehensions and uses techniques to diminish fear of treatments.
Signs of dental phobia
Just the thought of visiting a dentist and undergoing procedures could make you break out into a sweat. Your heartbeat could increase. Your blood pressure may fall. You may exhibit withdrawal symptoms such as aggression or shifting to another topic. These are signs of dental anxiety that you should take steps to remedy.
Why you need to overcome fear
Getting over dental anxiety is important and the sooner you do it the better. Dental hygiene is important. Regular visits to your dentists will help in keeping your teeth free of plaque that progresses to tartar that, in turn, causes bacteria to flourish. These bacteria can enter the blood stream and then cause cardiovascular and other systemic diseases. You pay a high price for fear.
- You may be scared of filling injection but there is nothing to worry about. If you have an abscessed tooth you need root canal or tooth extraction. Fear holds you back. In the process the situation worsens and the abscess could turn septic. You could lose a healthy tooth to ignorance, delay and fear.
- Similarly, the first sign of gum disease is gingivitis. Your dentist can help you if you overcome your fear and get treated. Otherwise, it progresses to periodontal disease that is difficult to get rid of and can result in teeth becoming loose.
- Worse, the above two conditions can cause bad breath that can result in social ostracization. The same thing happens with discolored teeth and teeth that are out of alignment. Your fear diminishes self-confidence and becomes a stumbling path on your path to career advancement or social engagement.
There is no need to stay stuck in the quicksand of dental phobia. Getting over dental anxiety is easy when you follow these steps.
What you can do on your own
Introspect. Look inside. Ask yourself what fills you with fear. Are you scared of filling injections? Does the vision of a dentist working away with drills on your teeth fill you with dread? Do you fear pain? Know fear. Then you can tackle it in various ways:
- Think of the outcome. It will surely be more positive than holding on to fear and tolerating an intolerable condition.
- Practice deep breathing exercises. Yoga helps you achieve inner balance and mental strength as well as determination.
- Talk with someone you trust and explain your condition. You will find that simply talking about a problem releases stress and makes you feel more positive about going to the dentist.
Now that you have come this far you can take the next decisive step and that is to fix an appointment with your dentist.
Your dentist allays dentophobia
Even before you start explaining your problems to the dentist tell him first about your dentophobia and what exactly bothers you. Your dentist will adopt a different approach towards getting over dental anxiety.
- Avoid anxiety inducing items like coffee and cola before you visit your dentist.
- He will explain what is involved in certain procedures, the extent of pain and steps that will mitigate pain. You agree upon hand signals you can use to indicate that you are feeling pain.
- If you are in for a root canal then, instead of using a local anesthetic your dentist may use extra precautions and give you a mild sedative pill to help you to relax.
- Your dentist may use relative analgesia which involves inhalation of nitrous oxide through a mask. It is a form of sedation.
- You could start with simple teeth cleaning that will instill some confidence in you before you go in for extended procedures like root canal.
- If, however, you do not choose to take a soporific pill you can practice deep breathing and keeping your eyes closed. Let your body go loose.
- Listen to calming music while the dentist does his work.
- Take someone with you when you visit your dentist. You will draw comfort from their presence.
Children’s fear of going to the dentist
Adults can make efforts and get over dentophobia but with children it is a different case. They may be simply overawed and scared by the sight of the equipment in the clinic and will be difficult to tackle. The right thing is for you to get your child habituated to dentist visits from an early age. Take your child with you whenever you go to your family dentist. Let your dentist talk with your child and carry out check ups. That way your child becomes familiar and trusts the dentist.
However, if that has not been done and your child throws a tantrum at the thought of visiting the dentist then you will need to be patient and gently persuasive in getting your child to agree. You can take your child to a child dentist and explain the situation. Children’s dentists have a knack of handling difficult cases.
Talk with your dentist. It could be the starting point to making dental anxiety vanish.