How to Overcome Dental Anxiety
Putting off scheduling a dentist appointment due to fear or anxiety? You are not alone! We encounter many patients who’ve avoided going to the dentist for years due to dental anxiety or dental phobia. Unfortunately, this fear creates a vicious cycle that gets worse and worse as time goes on.
In this month’s post, we’ll outline strategies to help you overcome your dental anxiety so you can get your oral health back on track.
Common dental fears
The first step in overcoming your fear of the dentist is finding the root of the issue.
It’s important to remember that any fear you have is okay. An experienced and empathetic dentist will be understanding of your fears and accommodating in their treatment.
Many patients believe going to the dentist is a painful experience. In the past, this fear may have been warranted. Invasive procedures, unreliable sedation, and unsympathetic dentists caused uncomfortable experiences that drove patients away.
Fortunately, modern dental treatments aren’t nearly as invasive as they used to be. The tools are less scary and the procedures are more comfortable.
Make sure to talk with your dentist or hygienist about what you foresee as being uncomfortable. They will fill you in on what you’ll feel and offer specialized relaxation options such as IV sedation that can help you get through any procedure you’re apprehensive of.
Embarrassment over bad teeth
The fear of an uncomfortable experience keeps many patients away from the dentist’s chair for years at a time. This fear is than compounded by the fear that they’ve done something wrong. They’re then afraid to go back out of fear of being “shamed” by a disappointed dentist.
While some dentists you’ve had in the past may have had a bad attitude, when you work with friendly dentists you don’t have to worry about them being rude or judging you. They’ll be happy you’ve made a proactive decision about your health and will solely be there to help you reach your oral health goals.
Remember, it’s better late than never! This cycle will go on and on the longer you wait, and your fear will only get worse as time goes on.
A good dentist will never judge you on the decisions you made in the past, and will only want to help you make the right decision for the future.
For those that like to do things themselves, the dentist’s chair can cause feelings of claustrophobia. This fear over loss of control is also common with people who are nervous airplane fliers. This fear might be caused by a previous dentists who kept you in the dark on decisions made about your own dental health.
Dentists not filling you in on the course of your dental treatment is unacceptable. You are in control of your dental health and should always be afforded the right to make decisions regarding your dental health.
Any of our dentists are more than happy to talk with you about the decisions they make and why they are important to your dental health. If you feel like they are not explaining enough, let them know.
How to overcome these fears
We discussed in the previous section strategies on how to combat specific dental anxiety issues. However, we know dental anxiety isn’t always easy to pinpoint. Below, we’ve listed some general strategies for overcoming your dental anxiety.
The night before and day leading up to your appointment
Prior to coming into the dentist office, there are some things you can do to get yourself ready, including:
- Getting plenty of sleep: Sleep is always a good idea, but getting plenty of sleep the night before your appointment will reduce anxiety and allow you to think clearly when coming in.
- Eating healthy: Some patients have trouble eating when nervous about coming into their appointment. While this is understandable, we always recommend keeping a regular eating schedule (as long as treatment requires a specific diet prior) to ensure you have energy and don’t make your anxiety worse.
- Writing down or speaking about your anxieties: Writing or talking things out can help put fears in perspective and help you come to terms with them.
- Giving yourself a laugh: Many patients are helped by watching a funny movie or tv show prior to coming in. This acts as a comfort food of sorts to help put them into a good mood.
Do what you can to relax before your appointment
Putting yourself in the right mindset prior to or during your appointment can help reduce anxiety. While sometimes it can be hard to relax while suffering anxiety, some strategies to help you relax include:
- Take deep breaths: Taking time to focus on your breathing has been proven to help reduce anxiety in some people.
- Listen to music: Listening to music before heading into the office helps some get into the right mindset and feel relaxed.
- Ask questions: When you’re in your appointment and feel uncomfortable, ask questions about what is happening and whether there is anything that can be done to reduce what’s making you uncomfortable.
- Get to the dentist early: Rushing to your appointment can be anxiety inducing. Getting there early and acclimating is helpful.
Let the dentist know about your anxiety
Your dentist will be able to speak to your concerns and work with you to develop a plan to combat your anxiety.
They likely have experience with other patients who suffer from dental anxiety, and in addition to providing sedation options like IV sedation they’ll likely have strategies they’ve found helpful.
IV sedation dentistry
One of the best ways to overcome dental anxiety is through sedation dentistry. The best form of sedation dentistry? IV sedation.
While not all dentist offices offer this as an option, IV sedation dentistry is one of the safest and most effective ways to administer sedation solutions.
IV sedation is a blend of the two ends of the sedation spectrum: it keeps you conscious while making you less aware of what’s going on.
The treatment can be calibrated to your exact needs and acts quickly, making it ideal for all dental procedures.
Other benefits of IV sedation dentistry include:
- Allows for multiple treatments at once, meaning one appointment instead of multiple trips to the dentist
- No memory of the procedure afterwards
- Safer than general anesthesia
- Less postoperative discomfort
- Eliminates anxiety
Find the dentist who is right for you
Finding a dentist that’s right for you is the final step in overcoming dental anxiety. Any dentist office you choose should first and foremost be understanding of your dental anxiety. In order for you to have a successful trip to the dentist, you must be comfortable.
Any dentist office you partner with should also have…
- A friendly and caring staff
- Simple answers to your questions
- Personalized care, with calming amenities such as heated and cozy blankets
- Sedation treatments you are comfortable with
Ericson Dental: a different sort of dental care
Ericson Dental places a high priority on helping patients with dental anxiety. We realize that dental anxiety is an impediment to many patients not receiving the care they need. We want to do everything in our power to make sure you are comfortable in the dentist’s chair so you can receive the care you need.
Contact us today to learn more on how we can help you receive the care you need to have the smile you’ve always dreamed of.
Since graduating from the USC School of Dentistry with academic honors, Dr. Ericson has been dedicated to furthering his scope of practice and helping patients feel anxiety-free through every treatment. He has completed extensive training and continuing education, excelling at two residencies in implant surgery and multiple residencies in advanced bone grafting, gum grafting, oral surgery, and surgical orthodontics. Dr. Ericson is also a graduate of the advanced prosthodontics program at the prestigious Kois Center in Seattle, WA.