Fear of visiting the dentist affects around 75% of Americans to some degree. Somewhere between 5 and 10 percent suffer from dentophobia to the point where they will avoid dental care at any cost!
The fact of the matter is that, as adults, we only get one set of teeth, so it’s important to make sure we look after them. Visiting the dentist regularly is a crucial part of our dental hygiene. So how do stop our dentist visits from feeling like such a traumatic experience?
If you have dentophobia, then you’re not alone. Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways you can overcome your dental fear and start focus on good dental hygiene.
What Causes Dentophobia?
Dentophobia actually makes a lot of sense! Looking at it from a survival point of view, it’s natural for us to be uneasy about someone we barely know sticking their fingers in our mouths. Not to mention the collection of tools that are often depicted negatively in horror movies! Our mouths are crucial to our survival, so it makes sense for us to be protective of them.
Other causes of dentophobia can be linked to bad experiences with a dentist or hearing about someone else traumatic experience. We build images in our brains based on what we see and hear. If you or someone you know has had a negative experience with a dentist in the past, then it’s likely to affect how you portray them.
Fears and anxieties around pain are a common root cause of dentophobia. If you’re concerned about physical discomfort, then the idea of a filling or a root canal probably doesn’t sit high on your priority list! Other reasons can be linked more generally to medical environments such as medical practitioners and the sterile odors associated with them.
Whatever the reason is behind your fear, there are several ways to rewire your thinking around visits to the dentist.
How to Overcome Your Fear of the Dentist
First of all, regular visits to the dentist are a crucial part of your dental hygiene. Sure, you can cut down on sugary foods and brush your teeth three times a day, but if a cavity makes it through the outer tooth enamel to the inner dentine, there’s nothing you can do without a dentist.
Visiting the dentist regularly is essential to make sure you’re not developing irreparable holes in your teeth. Visiting the dentist regularly is also the first coping technique on our list!
At first, this might sound counter-intuitive to your desire to stay well away, but regular exposure to something that frightens you is one of the main principles behind cognitive-behavioral therapy. The more times you visit the dentist, the more you’re going to get used to it. Even going to your dental surgery just to sit in the waiting room or have a quick chat with the receptionist can help to ease your phobia.
Regular check-ups are a great way to get into the habit of visiting the dentist and minimizing the chances of your experience being an unpleasant one.
Speak to Your Dentist About Your Fear
If there’s one person who knows all about coping with dentophobia, it’s going to be your dentist. Before you even sit in the dentist’s chair, have an open conversation with your dentist about your concerns.
Most of our fears are worsened when we allow our imagination to run away with them. Simply having a conversation about them with someone who understands can help inject some reality into your concerns.
Choose the Right Dentist
Don’t think that you have to use the first dentist you see. If you are uncomfortable with dentists in general, then you are going to want to be as comfortable as possible with your dentist. There’s nothing wrong with ‘screening’ your dentist with a quick conversation before you agree to treatment.
A good dentist should be personable and spend some time helping you to relax before any treatment.
If you’re trying your best, but you’re finding the anxiety around visiting the dentist too much then several medications are used to treat anxiety that could help you. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used to treat the symptoms of phobias. They increase the level of serotonin in our brains which in turn can lower your blood pressure and will ease the symptoms of fear.
They can be a great tool for getting your foot through the door for the first few times if you’re struggling with exposing yourself to the dentist.
Before you try medication, you might want to try some natural calming techniques. When we’re stressed, it’s easy for us to let our worries take the steering wheel, but several techniques can help to retain control.
Having some form of distraction with you, such as your favorite music and a pair of headphones or even taking a friend or family member with you can help by giving you something else to focus on.
Practicing deep breathing and other meditation techniques such as visualization can be a great way to calm your nerves.
Look After Your Teeth!
It might go without saying, but taking good care of your teeth is a great step towards overcoming your fears. If you don’t practice good dental hygiene and consume a lot of sugary foods, then you have good reason to be worried about your next visit to the dentist.
What you eat and what you don’t eat can play a huge part in your dental hygiene. Be sure to brush and floss regularly and cut down on sugary food and drink. This way, you know that you’ve done all you can to minimize the chances of needing any dental treatment.
Get Over Your Dentophobia Today
Being uneasy about visiting the dentist is completely understandable. By following the advice given in this article, you can begin tackling your dentophobia right away.
If you’re still feeling nervous about visiting the dentist, then we welcome you to contact one of our team. We pride ourselves on offering a calm and understanding environment to help make your visit to the dentist as pleasant as possible.