Climbing into the dental chair can be an unnerving experience for some. It is estimated that nearly 40 million Americans avoid visiting the dentist every year because of dental phobia or fear. Unfortunately, when patients do not receive needed treatments and preventive care, serious oral health consequences often result.
Dental phobia or anxiety may stem from a previous unpleasant experience with a dentist, a fear of needles, or an aversion to perceived potential pain. Additionally, patients may struggle with feeling a lack of control or with shame about the condition of their teeth. The willingness to face these fears and anxieties head-on is an important step in overcoming dental phobia.
Signs of Dental Phobia
People with dental phobia are often panic-stricken and terrified at the thought of going to the dentist. It is a more severe reaction than simple fear or anxiety. Patients with this kind of phobia only visit the dentist when they can no longer bear extreme pain associated with a dental ailment, if they go at all.
Here are some other common signs of dental phobia:
- Inability to sleep the night before a dental exam
- Nervousness, especially when waiting for the dentist
- Feeling of physical illness before visiting the dentist
- Uneasiness at the thought of objects being placed in your mouth
Patients with severe dental phobia may need to seek help from a mental health professional.
Managing Dental Phobia and Dental Anxiety
Patients can ease their fear and anxiety by using one or a combination of the following strategies.
- Be open about your fears.
Being honest and open about your fears is the most effective and easiest way to manage your anxieties. Once your dentist is aware of your anxiety, he or she can work with you to calm your fears. It is important to trust that your dentist has your best interests in mind when performing a dental exam or procedure.
- Have someone you trust at your side.
During your dental exam, consider bringing someone you trust along with you. This strategy is especially effective with children who may be nervous at the dentist. It can also help many anxious adults who need to be reassured that the dental exam is for their own good.
- Practice self-care before your visit to the dentist.
Drinking too much caffeine or not getting enough sleep the night before your appointment will make it more difficult to feel at ease in the dentist’s chair. Restful sleep before your dental procedure goes a long way in helping you feel at ease and relaxed. Avoid consuming too much caffeine, as it only exacerbates feelings of anxiety. Sugary foods should also be avoided. Try protein-rich foods, such as plain yogurt, which are known to have a calming effect.
- Get distracted.
Embracing distraction is a strategy that works well for both children and adults. Distraction may be in the form of watching an interesting TV program or listening to some relaxing music through earbuds. They not only drown out any unpleasant sounds but can also help you feel more at ease.
Prevention is key.
Annual or biannual dental care is important to ensure optimal oral health. Regular professional dental check-ups will help prevent cavities, as dentists have advanced equipment that can remove plaque more effectively than your ordinary electric or manual toothbrush. Dentists can also remove calcified plaque or tartar, which is difficult to remove even with the best oral care routine. Tartar can cause gum disease and may eventually lead to tooth loss if not checked.
These regular appointments can help dentists identify early signs of gum disease, cavities, and other common dental problems. Your dentist will be able to provide the right treatment before these problems become more serious. Prevention is often much less invasive than correcting issues that have compounded while avoiding dental care.
Dr. Mott proudly serves the greater Shreveport & Bossier area. His dental practice has the best in modern dental technology, and their highly trained staff is ready to assist you. Dr. Mott is one of the best, most highly rated Bossier dentists. Stop in and see what everyone is talking about. Make your appointment with Dr. Mott today.