Conquering Your Fear of the Dentist
Do you fear dental appointments? Being nervous about going to the dentist is fairly common, but
some people are so anxious that they cancel appointments or avoid going altogether. Unfortunately,
this can lead to easily treatable problems becoming issues that are costly and painful to address.
Why do people develop dental phobias? They may have had a bad experience before, either with a
dentist who was insensitive, a procedure that caused pain, or complications after treatment. They
may simply be fearful of what might happen, or dislike the feeling of vulnerability that comes with
going in for dental treatment. Whatever the cause, it is important to try to reduce those fears.
Neglected oral health only makes it likely that someone will have to spend more time in a dentist’s
chair, not less. Here are 5 tips to help overcome your dread of going to the dentist:
1. Talk to your dental specialist
Always tell your dentist if you’re feeling anxious about treatment. While they might have already
noticed if you’re on edge, they’re not telepathic—they won’t know that you’re having a serious
problem unless you say so. When you communicate your qualms, your dentist has the opportunity
to modify their approach to put you at ease.
2. Decide on a “stop” sign together
One issue that causes dental phobia is the feeling of having a treatment be out of your control. If this
is an element of your fear, talk with your dental specialist and come up with a stop signal that will let
them know when you’re uncomfortable or simply need a break. Knowing that you have the ability to
stop at any moment may help you be more comfortable with the overall process, no matter how
long it takes.
3. Don’t hesitate to ask questions
Not knowing what to expect when you go in for treatment can amp up anxiety. Your dentist should
be willing and able to answer any question you have about the length, purpose, and steps involved
in any proposed procedure, whether it’s a simple cleaning or a full root canal. A good dentist will
take the time to ensure that you are comfortable and fully informed.
4. Visit your dentist regularly
Making sure you keep your regular dental appointments serves two important functions in fighting
dental phobia. First, getting regular cleanings helps to avert dental problems that lead to painful,
complicated procedures to address decay and neglect. Second, the repetition of short, positive
experiences at the dentist will help to combat previous negative impressions. Over time, it will
become easier to go to the dentist as you build up a history of good visits, and your teeth will be
better off for it!
5. Use mindful strategies to reduce stress
Anxiety causes a physical reaction, even when logically we know there is no reason to be afraid. You
can counteract this reaction with deep breathing or similar mindfulness techniques both before your
appointment and while you’re in the chair. Also, if the anticipation of a dental visit provokes stress,
make your appointments early in the day, so you don’t have time for pressure to build up.
Many dentists, both here in Northridge and elsewhere, know that fear of the dentist can pose a
significant obstacle to getting the dental care you need, and they want to help. Letting a prospective
dentist know about your anxiety can help you work toward overcoming your fear, so that you can
leave the office feeling wonderful instead of stressed.