DON'T FEAR THE DENTAL CHAIR
Most of us look forward to visiting the dentist just as much as we look forward to visiting the car dealership for an oil change. We know it’s a task that needs to be done, but sometimes we just don’t care to do it. For others, however, there is a serious phobia associated with visiting the dentist’s office. In fact, they may be so frightened, that they’ll do just about anything to avoid a dental appointment. Research shows that between 5% and 8% of Americans avoid dentists out of fear, while 20% experience enough anxiety to where they will only visit the dentist when absolutely necessary. People may develop dental anxieties for different reasons, but if you fall into this category, it’s important to understand that you are not alone.
Downfalls of Dental Fear
Those who suffer from dental anxiety and dental fear tend to put off appointments for years. While these traits can result in stress and lack of oral care, it can also have additional consequences. These can range anywhere from developing periodontal disease, tooth decay, tooth infections and potential early tooth loss. Dental fear can also have a serious effect on self-esteem. Some people can become so embarrassed by their poor smile that their personal and professional lives may begin to suffer.
Understanding the Problem
Before you can overcome your fear, you have to understand what causes it in the first place. Some folks may find it helpful to write a list of specific fears. In order to overcome your fear of the dentist, write a list of what is causing your anxiety. Perhaps it’s a cavity filling gone wrong, or maybe you’ve been poked with a dental scaler one too many times. Be sure to take this list to your dentist and discuss your fears with him or her so he or she can offer rational explanations for whatever is causing the problem.
What the Dentist Can Do
No matter how severe dental fear may be, many dentists are specially trained in handling patients with dental phobia and dental anxiety because they are committed to building confidence and trust. Frequently used techniques include psychological approaches such as:
- Tell-show-do – This involves the dentist explaining to you what they are going to do during the procedure, showing you what is involved, and performing the procedure.
- Structured time – where the dentist will break up a procedure into manageable chunks, and/or take frequent breaks to assure you aren’t overwhelmed.
- Positive reinforcement – this one sort of speaks for itself as the dentist will tell you how great you are doing during the dental procedure.
In addition to these psychological approaches, a dentist may suggest sedation dentistry. This involves the dentist administering a sedative such as nitrous oxide or light oral sedation, while the patient is alert and awake to reach a state of relaxation.