In fact, there’s even a Wiki page about it! It’s estimated that up to 75% of adults in the USA experience some degree of dental fear, while 5 – 10% experience dental phobia (severe fear resulting in avoidance of the dentist).
What are the Most Common Dental Fears?
Embarrassment. Many of us are afraid that our dentist will be disgusted by our dental health or oral hygiene. Many think their teeth or gums are the “worst” the dentist has seen, and they fear embarrassment and humiliation when visiting the dentist.
Pain. The fear of pain is very common. The fear of pain encompasses everything from a general cleaning (“Will the cleaning hurt?”) to filling cavities (injections) and complex procedures (“What if I don’t get numb?”). This also includes the fear that the dentist will not stop the procedure even if the patient feels pain.
Gagging or Choking. Another common fear is that a person will gag or choke while in the dental chair. This fear includes embarrassment as well as getting sick. Some are afraid of dental instruments near or in their mouths or being unable to breathe.
The Dentist. Many are afraid of the dentist specifically, including the dentist’s actions, communications, and thoughts regarding the patient. Some of us are afraid that the dentist will not be gentle, will not acknowledge pain, will carry out unnecessary procedures, won’t tell us what she is doing or will tell us in too much detail, or will hurt us on purpose.
Overcome Your Fears
So the question is, how do you overcome your fear or phobia of the dentist? Here are a few tips – read them and see what makes sense to you.
Communication. Tell your dentist about your fears. Be specific. A professional and compassionate dentist will listen to you and work with you to make your visit as comfortable as possible.
If your dentist doesn’t listen to you, ignores your fears, or seems cold and uncaring, find another dentist with whom you can communicate. Keep communicating throughout the entire procedure. Let your dentist know if you’re uncomfortable at any time.
Relaxation. Try to breathe deeply and relax. Try to practice before your visit and keep it up during the visit. If soothing music helps you relax, bring music with you to the appointment. Some find it easiest to schedule a visit first thing in the morning, so they don’t have to anticipate it throughout the day. If you have others methods to help you relax, like squeezing a stress ball or snuggling with a stuffed animal, don’t be afraid to use those methods too!
Medication. For those interested, there are sedation medications available to help you relax. Options include nitrous oxide, or anti-anxiety medications. This option is not for everyone. Be sure to speak to your dentist to decide if medication is the right decision for you.
A Partnership with Your Dentist
Remember, your dentist should make you feel safe and comfortable. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact Walbridge Dental (http://www.walbridgedental.com), your dentist in Toledo. We’re here to help!