A trip to the dentist’s office is essential for one’s oral health, but have you ever found yourself putting it off? Does the idea of sitting in the dentist’s chair make you nervous? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Current estimates reveal that between 5-8% of Americans avoid dentists out of fear. Meanwhile, 20% are anxious to the point that they will only seek dental treatment when necessary. At Cashmere Family Dentistry, we want all of our patients to feel safe and comfortable whenever they come in for a check-up. To help you out, let’s take a look at how you can overcome dental fear to achieve a healthier smile.
What causes dental fear?
It’s normal to feel a little apprehensive before going to the dentist, or any doctor for that matter. However, if your anxiety prevents you from going to the dentist, this can lead to long-term oral health issues. You may be experiencing dental fear, anxiety, or phobia. These sensations are usually triggered by certain events, stimuli, or experiences. Some of these experiences can include:
- Pain—The most common dentist fear is pain, especially for those who have a low pain threshold. The thought of sharp dentist’s tools or a dentist’s drill in their mouth is enough to make them avoid check-ups.
- Loss of Control—Some patients feel like they’re losing control when they lie on a dental chair. They can find it overwhelming when a dentist is hovering above their heads and probing inside their mouths. These feelings are associated with helplessness or being trapped.
- Embarrassment—Some patients feel ashamed or embarrassed when dentists look inside their mouths. This discomfort can also result from the little distance between a patient and dentist during treatment. This feeling could extend if the patient is told their oral health has not been maintained as well as it should.
- Past Experience—Most people develop dental fears due to a bad experience in the past. If a previous treatment was painful or resulted in complications, or if they had an incompatible dentist in the past, a patient may develop trepidations about visiting the office again.
Now that we’ve taken a look at why dental fear manifests, let’s look at five ways patients can combat this fear.
Tip #1: Communicate Your Fears
Communication is an important part of any relationship, and that includes the relationship you have with a medical professional like your dentist. Before you set an appointment with a dentist, give a voice to your apprehensions, fears, and anxiety. This way, you’re giving the dentist a way to gauge your situation and make an action plan tailored to your needs. In most cases, dentists would devise cues and signals if you want to take breaks or stop the treatment if you get uncomfortable. You should also discuss your fears with family and friends so they can support you.
Tip #2: Choose the Right Dentist
If you experience dental fear, it’s good to find a dentist that knows what that means. There are even dentists who specialize in working with individuals that are scared or anxious about treatment. Once you have a couple of options in mind, you could call or have a friend call to ask about this. Take note of how the staff treats you over the phone and how comfortable you feel.
The next step is to choose a dentist that you feel comfortable visiting in person. Even just going into the dentist’s office to make the appointment instead of doing it on the phone will help you get a better feel for their treatment environment. Your fear or anxiety is not something to ignore, so pay attention to how you’re feeling the whole time. If a different dental office seems to dismiss it or says you should not be worried, they may not be the best option for you. How you feel during treatment matters, and the right office will make you feel safe.
Tip #3: Ask Yourself Why You’re Afraid
The first step to solving any problem is recognizing the problem in the first place. Ask yourself why you’re feeling the way you do, and try to understand where that fear stems from. Is there anything specific about the visit you’re afraid of? Talk about this with your dentist before you go in for treatment. When the dentist knows what is bothering you, they can help you come up with strategies that will make you more comfortable in the future. You can check back at the list we made of common dental fears we discussed earlier.
Tip #4: Bring Someone With You
Having a friend can help in stressful situations. If you bring someone with you to your appointment, you may feel more assured by their presence. In some offices, it’s appropriate to bring someone with you back into the actual dental treatment room. Since this is what most people have fear or anxiety about, look for an office that would allow this if you think it would help.
Tip #5: Use Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques are completely free and you can do them on your own! Doing these types of activities before or during your dental appointment can help you with your anxious feelings. A simple technique that you can try is deep breathing. Focusing on your body and how it feels helps you become more mindful and relaxed.
You’re in safe hands at Cashmere Family Dentistry
You deserve to feel safe, secure, and comfortable every time to visit the dentist’s chair. The expert team here at Cashmere Family Dentistry can help enhance your smile and restore your confidence in a friendly, professional environment. We have offices in Cashmere and Wenatchee, so get in touch today to find out more!