Conquering Your Fear of the Dentist

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.